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Gottschalk playing well in new position

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

It's not easy playing catcher.

Baseball catchers are involved in every play, more so than any other player on the field. One passed ball out of 150 pitches could lead to a loss.

Many catchers have practiced the position since childhood, but not Thomas More Prep-Marian junior Jordan Gottschalk. He just recently stepped into the position.

As a sophomore, Gottschalk watched then-senior Taylor Pfeifer handle the catching duties on varsity, but realized there would be a void once he graduated. The junior varsity had only one player with catching experience, classmate Cameron Brin, and he also was one of the JV's top pitchers and infielders.

Gottschalk, who played first base most of his life, thought he could handle the catching duties and began learning the position last summer with a local team, the Hays Drive.

"I told Coach I want (Brin) to pitch, so I'll catch," Gottschalk said, recalling his conversation with his summer league coach. "I know I've never done it before but I'll try, and I loved it."

This spring, it's difficult to tell Gottschalk has less than a year of catching experience. On Friday against Goodland, Gottschalk had just one passed ball, and this season, he has no errors.

"A lot of people take that for granted when he blocks pitches in the dirt, but really, when we look at what's happened, there's hardly been any passed balls," TMP coach Brian Schumacher said.

Gottschalk said it was tricky at first, especially blocking fastballs. The only area he said he's still struggling with is his throw to second.

"I can be a little wild," Gottschalk said.

Still, Schumacher said it is an impressive transition to make.

"It takes a special breed to catch," Schumacher said.

"That's the thing. A lot of guys aren't comfortable behind the plate.

"Kids are swinging. There's foul balls coming off the bat and hitting you. He's just relaxed back there and does a really nice job."

The position switch isn't new at TMP, though. Pfeifer also had switched positions to behind the plate heading into his sophomore year when he saw an upcoming void.

"There's a lot of similarities to what Jordan's doing," Schumacher said.

Gottschalk not only has played well on defense, but he's also the team's top power hitter.

Gottschalk is hitting .278 with a .417 slugging percentage, the best on the team for the 4-4 Monarchs. He leads his squad with five doubles and is tied for a team-high six RBIs. However, he's had his struggles as well. He leads the squad in strikeouts with 11 in 36 at bats.

"I try too hard sometimes," said Gottschalk, who is in uncharted territory. He's never been a regular varsity player, and he's never played a full spring as catcher, either.

"He's picked up the little quirks of the game," said second baseman Grant Romme, Gottschalk's classmate, "and he's gotten quite a bit better at it since the first time he started catching."