Help behind the dish

CLEMSON - It's rather impressive that Garrett Boulware managed to lead Clemson in homers, RBI and finish second in batting average last season.

Of the Tigers' 62 games in 2013, he missed only one.

Jack Leggett wrote Boulware into the lineup at catcher 60 times last season, and there weren't many games that he didn't stay there for all nine innings.

Thanks to the addition of Chris Okey, that probably won't happen again this season. Boulware will get some respite from wear and tear that comes with catching every day.

"It helps a lot, because Okey is a really good catcher, Garrett's a really good catcher. They're both very competitive, they're both great leaders for us, they've both got the personality," Leggett said. "We've just got to figure out who's going to be our top guy before it's all over. Right now, you could play either one of them and feel really good about it and the other guy could be helping us offensively, and feel really good about it.

"So, we've got to keep both of those guys really healthy, because they're both valuable parts of our team."

Boulware hit .308 with eight homeruns and 45 RBI last season. He also led the team with 108 total bases and a .476 slugging percentage.

Okey was a 31st round draft pick by the Padres after his senior year at Eustis High School in Mount Dora, Fla. Baseball America rated him as the No. 72 overall high school player in the class of 2013. Among players from the state of Florida, he was No. 5. A two-time Team USA 18U National Team player, Okey also played in the Perfect Game All-American Classic.

"Offensively, they both swing the bat very well, so one of them will be catching for us and the other one will probably be DH-ing for us, at least in the beginning," Leggett said.

That's cool with Boulware.

"[Okey's] good," he said. "It requires me to play at the top level. I cannot slack off…it pushes us to be better baseball players.

"It's comforting to know, when you're not in the game, you've got a kid back there that's going to do just as well as you are. He's a very good catcher, a very good baseball player. It's exciting to have that. Sometimes, it keeps you a little on edge."

Now a junior, Boulware wants to make a deep run in postseason play in 2014. After all, it could be his last opportunity to make a run at Omaha.

"We have the team to do it. I want to go as far as we can. This is the team to do it," Boulware said. "We have a really good team, we have really good chemistry, talent on the mound, in the infield, at the plate -- we've got a good team this year. If we can just play the way we're about to, we'll do some serious damage in the postseason." Top Stories