Catchers – The Unsung (super) Heros

boulanger catching

No baseball pitcher would be worth a darn without a catcher who could handle the hot fastball. ~Casey Stengel

I’m intrigued by baseball catchers. They are often the unsung heroes of a game,“stolidly going about their duties without attracting much attention.” [*Peter Morris, Catcher: The Evolution of an American Folk Hero]  And I’ve noticed that this catching stuff is really one tough job – not a job for just any hero, but a SUPER hero!

Crouching in an inherently unnatural and uncomfortable position for long stretches of time, relaying pitches and adjusting to whatever comes across the plate, framing and blocking pitches, popping up quickly, making lightning-speed, on-the-money throws – let’s face it, without these “super” powers behind the plate, even the best pitcher could come-off looking like a bad Robin for Batman.

And then, of course, there’s the little detail of equipment, the so-called “tools of ignorance.” A glove, mask, chest protector, and shin guards — arguably a disguise fit for a superhero (sans cape, of course). According to, “The term, tools of ignorance, was meant to be ironic, contrasting the intelligence needed by a catcher to handle the duties of the position, with the foolishness needed to play a position hazardous enough to require so much protective equipment.” Yep, sounds like a super hero to me.

In his book*, Peter Morris also reveals that “In baseball’s early days, catchers stood a safe distance in back of the batter. Then the introduction of the curveball in the 1870s led them to move up directly behind home plate, even though they still wore no gloves or protective equipment. Extraordinary courage became the catcher’s most notable requirement, but the new positioning also demanded that the catcher have lightning-fast reflexes, great hands, and a cannon for a throwing arm. With so great a range of needed skills, a special mystique came to surround the position, and it began to seem that a good catcher could single-handedly make the difference between winning and losing.”

So this is why I am in awe of catchers. I admire the confidence and guts it takes to silence an archenemy’s weapons, coupled with the humility all superheroes possess to quietly change back into being just another ordinary, everyday kind of guy (or gal) at the end of the battle.

No place like (our old) home

VFW - rainbow

Our league season officially begins tomorrow, with one little wrinkle. Home field. It won’t be at the same place it’s been for most of the Indian’s storied past. I think I miss it already.

Many former Indian players and their families have expressed disappointment in this change. I’m not surprised. Even though the parking situation was less than ideal, and foul balls regularly bounced into the adjacent alley, these, and many other quirky characteristics about the VFW field, are the very things that made it feel strangely special to us.

There was something endearing about the freight trains lumbering by, their engines droning so low and loud that play sometimes would be suspended because a person couldn’t hear her/himself think. The horses grazing in the meadow beyond the tracks, the house on the hill just over the left field fence where many home run balls left their marks, the grass infield, and the stands so close to the backstop that even an umpire with bad hearing could hear fans grumble. This is a baseball field? Yes. And oh, how we’ll miss it!

What is it about “place” that’s so important to us, no matter how imperfect that place may be? According to Ed McMahon,  a nationally renowned authority on sustainable development, land conservation and urban design, “A sense of place is a unique collection of qualities and characteristics – visual, cultural, social, and environmental – that provide meaning to a location.”

That pretty much sums up the place we once called our home field, and helps explain why it will always be dear to our hearts.


This year, all Mountville Indian home games will be held at FROELICH PARK (at the Mountville Pool) instead of at the Mountville VFW field as in past years.