Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Herald for the Unheralded

During last night's game, I mean during today's early morning game, Jose Valverde had finished his warmups and was kind of just standing around, warming his hands, waiting for the top of the ninth to end. The camera zeroed in on Papa Grande several times, and each time, standing next to him in his gear, was bullpen catcher Scott Pickens. You may have missed this because it was after 1:30 am Eastern Time. I am currently evaluating my own sanity after staying up. It was worth it, don't get me wrong, but today I am like the walking undead.

I have always been intrigued by the bullpen catcher. When I first became aware of the existence of the position, I had many questions I needed answered. Is this person on the roster? (No.) Is he on the coaching staff? (No.) How is his position defined? (Non-roster personnel.) How much does he make? (The Wall Street Journal states that most make less than $60,000 per year, and many much less. Many supplement their incomes with other jobs in the off-season, and the Diamondback's bp catcher Jeff Motuzas does many strange feats for money--like eating contests and Jackass-style stunts.)

Also, I kept thinking, this must be one of the coolest jobs on the planet! You get to be at the ball park at all times. (I must ask you, is there anything better than being at the ball park? Many of my waking hours are spent scheming up ways to be at the ball park more often.) You are working with the players. You are seeing every game up close and personal. You are important. You throw batting practice. You get to play catch with pitchers. You tell them if their arm slots are consistent.

Detroit bullpen catcher Scott Pickens was personally selected by Magglio Ordóñez and Brandon Inge to pitch to them during their respective appearances in the All Star Game's Home Run Derby. Is this not all kinds of awesome?

Now, I may well be romanticizing this position, and the bullpen catchers may feel underpaid and unsung, and they may tell us it's a whole lot of grunt work for minor ducats. They may be afflicted by the unflinching reality that they weren't good enough to make the major leagues as a "real" catcher. I don't know. But I do know that I find bullpen catchers supremely cool.

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