The most important position on the field may be behind the dish. Whether or not that is the case, the Sweets are set to have an excellent platoon of players at the catcher position in 2016.
The three catchers that will be wearing the red, white and blue this summer are Willie MacIver (Washington), Hayden Duer (Cal State Monterey Bay) and Griffin Mazur (UC Irvine). Each bring their own traits to field and the batter’s box.
“All three catchers either start or play significant innings for their teams,” Head Coach Frank Mutz said. “All three catchers can really throw and are offensive. It's a strong catching core and they are interchangeable. It's also possible there will be games all three are in the lineup at the same time. Duer is the most offensive, MacIver is the most athletic and Mazur has a great balance of offense and defense.”
MacIver returns for his second season with the Sweets. In his first West Coast League campaign, he hit .215 in 32 games where he played catcher, designated hitter and also played a game at second base. He added four doubles and eight RBIs, but he led all Sweets’ catchers with a .984 fielding percentage and was one of the more consistent catchers defensively with his lateral movement.
“MacIver returning not only brings leadership to the catching core but leadership for the entire team,” Mutz said. “He is a very talented player, is well liked by his teammates and wants to win!”
“You will see his [offensive] numbers jump up,” Mutz added. “He's facing Pac 12 pitching on a regular basis and he won't have to catch 60% of the games this summer. With injuries to a couple of catchers last summer we had to over extend Willie which was tough for any player coming straight out of High School.”
One of the most important focuses for any catcher is to handle a pitching staff and wood bat league catchers must handle a young, sometimes wild and frustrated group of pitchers.
The Sweets last year saw a pitching rotation that finished ninth out of 12 teams in ERA (4.15) in the West Coast League. Those numbers were elevated because of struggles down the stretch in the season, but there were some instances that the pitching staff did not perform up to the standards that Coach Mutz and company had set for them. Mutz is confident that this group of catchers can handle the pitchers that will be in Walla Walla this summer.
“I believe all three catchers are intelligent and will surely be able to handle the pitching staff” Mutz said. “MacIver and Mazur both have played for me and understand my expectations and how I call a game. Duer is a seasoned catcher who plays for a quality program and will definitely be able to handle a pitching staff.”
At the beginning of the season, Hayden Duer will be the starting catcher for the Sweets because both MacIver and Mazur will be in school in early June. He has shown his offensive capabilities so far this season at CSUMB. Through April 10th, he is hitting .292 with seven home runs and 21 RBIs in 32 games.
Duer will be behind the plate on June 3rd when the Sweets welcome in the Victoria HarborCats to Borleske Stadium for opening day. To purchase tickets, you can go to wallawallasweets.com or check out the Sweets Shoppe in downtown Walla Walla.
Check out the blog in a couple weeks for when we breakdown the pitching staff that these catchers will be relaying the signs to!