Bullpen catchers are the men in a baseball game who have the responsibility of warming up relievers in the bullpen. Most of these receivers are anonymous to baseball fans and sports media, they never get a baseball card with them (even when the mascot sometimes does!). However, they impact the overall experience at a baseball game in ways that most people don’t recognize. While their primary duty is to warm up relief pitchers during a game, there are many other things bullpen catchers do while serving in what some consider an “thankless” role for the team. These are just a few of the things they do to contribute:
- Many teams carry only two receivers, and another fielder is the “emergency” receiver. Ideally, the team manager wants to have all of his reserve receivers ready to use in the event of pinch hitting, pinch-hitting (although there are VERY few receivers that are used as emerging running backs!), Injuries, or just to help the pitching coach. evaluate the performance of a pitcher. The bullpen catcher frees up the manager to keep all of his receivers available for use during a game by replacing the need for one of the reserve receivers to be in the bullpen.
- Occasionally, the bullpen catcher will be called to work before a game to catch the opening pitch from the honored person. You are often called in to escort and warm up that person to make sure they make a decent attempt to pitch in front of the crowd.
- During pregame batting practice, the bullpen catcher will share the load with the other warm-up pitching catchers who need to pitch on their respective “days off.” Each pitching coach gives his pitchers a specific pitching schedule and routine. It is in these practice sessions that pitchers work on their mechanics and fine-tune their deliveries. Other drills include “Towel Drills,” “Flat Throws,” “Long Throws,” and other pitcher-specific drills.
- After working with pitchers, many bullpen catchers are asked to pitch the remaining portion of hitting practice or to work with hitters on “Flip Toss” or other hitting drills.
- A bullpen catcher, if he has been trapped for many years, can also be a de facto “psychologist” in the bullpen. Relay pitchers have a stereotype of being insane, mentally unbalanced, etc. While this is not necessarily a true stereotype, although I have met some wild men in the bullpen (!), A pitcher’s ability to rely on feedback from his bullpen catcher is an important part of a pitcher being ready to play. enter a game. Barry Zito and Huston Street, in an August 2006 article by an MLB.com writer, are cited for relying on the experience of their bullpen catcher to help them prepare (http://oakland.athletics.mlb.com/ news / article.jsp? ymd = 20060817 & content_id = 1615561 & vkey = news_oak & fext = .jsp & c_id = oak)
- Between innings, if the bullpen is located along the foul lines of the field, it will often warm up one of the outfielders. Outfielders carry two balls between innings, and one is shared between two of the outfielders to keep loose. The other is thrown between the left fielder (or right fielder depending on which side the bullpen is on) and the bullpen catcher to help the outfielder stay loose.
- If a bullpen is located along the foul lines, and one of the other receivers is catching a particular pitcher, the bullpen catcher will stand behind the pitcher to protect him in the event of a hard line hit to the bullpen. .
A bullpen catcher can also fill multiple roles off the field:
- Provide post-game lessons for the kids when the other players are in the clubhouse.
- Show up in uniform for various local charity events or events with an emphasis on children.
- Help the team with their marketing efforts, especially at the lower levels of the minor leagues.
- Work with the pitching coach to determine ways to help pitching improve.
- Help prepare the costumes before the opening day. Yes, this really happens!
- Help the GM with promotions on and off the field
In all, the bullpen catcher does a tremendous amount of unrecognized work. Additionally, he sometimes ends up catching (and returning) more pitches and warm-up shots (between pregame practice and in the bullpen) than the starting catcher. If you want to make a player’s day, find out who your team’s bullpen catcher is, send them an autograph request, and they’ll likely get one back faster than any other request. And if you run into your team’s bullpen catcher in July, August, or September, remember that it may take him a few more seconds to raise his arm to shake your hand. All those releases take their toll!