What are the defining characteristics of great catchers?
Anyone that has watched, played, or coached baseball knows a great catcher at any level when they see one. They have “it”. They are game-changers that have a strong impact on the outcome of the game and their team’s performance.
But what is “it”?
The Catcher’s Creed is a blog post series aimed at exploring exactly what “it” is that defines great catchers.
The first defining characteristic of great catchers is that they have good character. All nine characteristics are essential components of The Catcher’s Creed, but we are starting with character for a reason… character is the glue that holds everything else together.
Before we go any further, though, let’s define what we mean by character. Character is one of those words that everybody knows but few stop to define it specifically. What’s more, character is also one of those words that means different things to different people. So let’s start with what we mean by character:
Character is who you are as a person (1).
More specifically, great catchers have good character and display who they are as people in three big ways:
- Great catchers prove their good character with integrity
- Great catchers prove their good character with morality
- Great catchers prove their good character with unselfishness
GREAT CATCHERS PROVE THEIR GOOD CHARACTER WITH INTEGRITY
Integrity is another word that can mean different things to different people, but for our purposes, integrity means that you are who you say you are. What you say and what you do are the same. Your words and your actions match.
Now, it goes without saying that no one is perfect. We all make mistakes and do things that we aren’t proud of. But, we also know the difference between someone who makes a poor, out-of-character decision and someone who displays a pattern of behavior that is different from their words.
What does this look like practically on the baseball field?
One of the essential duties of a catcher is to take care of his pitching staff. Whatever his pitcher needs in order to perform at his best is what a great catcher is willing to do. So, let’s say that your pitcher is having a rough outing and struggling to control his emotions. You go out to the mound and offer encouragement. You tell him that you have his back and remind him that he just needs to give his best effort every pitch. Your pitcher takes your words to heart and is grateful that he has you in his corner.
But then when you get to the dugout you mention to another teammate how bad your pitcher is doing and say something like “Man, I hate catching this guy. He’s a head case and I can’t wait till coach pulls him out of the game.”
That’s poor integrity. That is saying one thing and then doing another. Put yourself in the pitcher’s shoes in that scenario and imagine that you overheard what your catcher was saying about you… would you trust him the next time he came to the mound to try to encourage you?
Words are easy. Anyone can talk and say the right thing. Actions actually reveal your level of integrity. Great catchers prove their good character with integrity day in and day out.
GREAT CATCHERS PROVE THEIR GOOD CHARACTER WITH MORALITY
Morality is the distinction between right and wrong. Great catchers prove their good character by always doing what is right. They don’t compromise their morality for any reason.
Competition has a fascinating effect on people. We will explore this more when we get to the Competitor aspect of The Catcher’s Creed, but here is a great example of how this plays out in baseball: performance enhancing drugs. Their have been (and still are) many baseball players who were willing to sacrifice their morality in order to improve their performance. They cheated… plain and simple. Sure, they could have been great teammates in other ways. And, maybe their enhanced abilities helped a team win important games or even a championship and in that way made a positive impact on their teams. But, they still cheated nonetheless.
Another example of how this plays out is with bat regulations in youth and college baseball. It is not uncommon for players at the youth levels to try using a bat that is an illegal weight (e.g. they are using a bat that is too light). Or, at the college level there are players who have figured out ways to doctor their bats so that the ball travels further when they hit it. Using an illegal bat could make a difference in winning and losing and therefore could “help” the team. But the morality of using an illegal bat remains the same… it is wrong.
Great catchers prove their good character with morality. They don’t turn to cheating in order to improve their performance. They play the game the right way in all ways, and they go a step further and hold their teammates accountable to right and wrong as well.
GREAT CATCHERS PROVE THEIR GOOD CHARACTER WITH UNSELFISHNESS
There is no such thing as a great catcher that is selfish. That is an oxymoron. Catchers might perform at high levels and help their teams win while being selfish, but results do not equal greatness.
Catchers that are truly great at any level have a “team first, always and in all ways” attitude. They look around at their teammates and ask themselves, “what can I do to help my teammate succeed?” They are more concerned with helping others succeed than they are with their own results.
Does that mean that great catchers who are unselfish don’t care about their personal performance? Absolutely not. Every player should care about their performance and strive for excellence. The issue here is a matter of priority. What does a person care about more – what is best for his team/teammates or himself?
And, here’s a important paradox – playing with an unselfish attitude is actually the type of mindset that sets up a player to have the best chance at individual success.
Great catchers are unselfish. They prioritize what is best for the team and helping their teammates succeed more than their own selfish interests.
GREAT CATCHERS PROVE THEIR GOOD CHARACTER
Clearly this is not an exhaustive study into what good character looks like. But, for our purposes of exploring the defining characteristics of great catchers these are three really good examples of what good character looks like in catchers.
And perhaps the most important aspect of this whole conversation is that great catchers prove their good character. The “it” factor that we are seeking to define is proven by actions and words day after day.
(1) This is my favorite definition for character because it is so simple and yet says so much. I came across this definition in a book called What Drives Winning by Brett Ledbetter.
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