Wade Hedges Talks MSU Catching

Mississippi State catching coach Wade Hedges talks about this year's catcher, Johnny Bench finalist Edward Easley, and who are the leading candidates to replace him next season.

Talk about Edward Easley and also about how he helped the pitchers and how he helped prepare the young catchers for next season.
"He is a leader in his own kind of way, which is in a quiet way. What he brings to the table in terms of leadership is consistency. What I mean by that, whether it is a good day or a bad day, he is exactly the same. If he comes back to the dugout after a grand slam, he calmly puts his helmet in the rack, doesn't say anything, then sits down. If he strikes out for the fourth time in a game, he calmly puts his helmet in the rack and sits down. He's exactly the same both times. For someone to be that emotionally stable at that age is tough because this is such a game of failure, particularly on offense. And with someone like him who performs at such a high level, when you don't perform one time, it's easy to get down on yourself. But he has such a nice inner confidence that he believes he is going to do it. And if he doesn't do it one time, he just believes he's going to do it the next time. That allows the younger guys, who are more up and down emotionally, to look at him and see how steady he is.

"In terms of influencing the pitching staff, he matured a lot in calling the game. As various games went on, sometimes Coach (McNickle) would start the game calling pitches then turn it over to Ed after we had been through the lineup once. They did a good job of working together.

"He also did a good job of working with the different traits and strengths that our pitching staff had. I really think they liked working with him because, one, he's a great catcher who catches the ball really well. And he blocks phenomenally well, as good as anybody that I have ever seen. So, they aren't afraid to throw that great breaking ball in the dirt. If they hang onto it a little too long and it bounces, they know he is going to block it. I also think they figured out if they did a good job of being quick to the plate, then he was going to throw guys out for them. And his steadiness was good at calming them down. If you are out there and your heartbeat is going a 100 miles per hour and he comes out and talks to you he is so calm. I think that rubs off on you."

I think we all know he will be leaving soon. So, who are the guys who are contending for the catcher position next season?
"We aren't letting him go just yet. He will sign, but I'm going to hang onto him for another week so that we can go to the Johnny Bench Award. After that, we will say our goodbyes to him.

"But after Ed we have some guys already in the program and some guys coming.

"Ryan Duffy is the most known since he's already here. He will be a redshirt sophomore, so this will be his third year in the program. He is a left-handed hitter with some power. In fact, the Thursday practice at Omaha, he was the talk of the town. He put on an absolute power display in BP. He probably hit 12 home runs, 6 or 7 in the upper deck of right field. So, he has the power potential from the left side. And you always like that. He also receives and blocks pretty well. But he was already good at that in high school because he worked with some minor league guys in high school. He's a very different personality than Ed because he is very outgoing, kind of loose and carefree. And he keeps the team loose. Throwing-wise, he's got some similar traits to Ed. Neither has great, great arm strength, they have to get rid of it quickly. Easley did a great job because his feet were unbelievably quick and his exchange was unbelievably quick. And he was very accurate. Duffy has some work to do in terms of accuracy, but he has the potential to be a very solid thrower. Another thing that will help Duffy is he has been on the 25-man roster at the end. He may not have played much, but that is still experience, maybe not as good as getting into the game. But he went to all the games, including here in front of the huge crowds. He went to Omaha and saw it. he took all the batting practice and infield and outfield. So, if we get back to the point next year where we make a run in post-season, and he's the catcher, then he has been through it even though he hasn't been in the games.

"And all through this year in all of our drill work I always paired Duffy and Easley together because Easley was the guy and you think Duffy is probably the next guy. I hope that helped him because you have to push yourself to keep up with Ed.

"There are other guys in the fold including Scott Deloach, a junior college guy that we redshirted. He is a very good defensive catcher. He can really catch well, block well and throw pretty well. When he first got here in the fall he was just ok offensively, but he has made great strides. And he's a little older than the others. He will be a redshirt junior who has already played two years of junior college. He's almost going to be the replacement for Wyn Diggs because Diggs was similar. He was a little older and very mature, almost like having another assistant coach on the field. It will be interesting to see, with a summer and fall of work, where he fits in.

"Of course the talk will be the (Cody) Freeman kid from West Lauderdale. He is another blue chip type (freshman) recruit. I haven't seen him play in person but they talk about his power and how strong his arm is. Plus, he plays for a great program coached by Jerry Boatner. He's used to winning and being pushed.

"There are some other guys. Brooks Lewis is back and extremely improved. Donny Stephens and Brent Tanner are both guys that we redshirted.

"But, of all the guys, I would probably have to say that Duffy and Freeman are the leading candidates going in. But we will see. Often times you don't have one guy who catches every single game and almost all the innings like Easley did. Most of the times, due to the physical wear and tear, you have to share the duties. The nice thing is we are going to have a couple of right-handed hitters and a couple of left-handed hitters at the catching position. Duffy and Tanner hit left-handed. And Freeman, Deloach and Lewis hit right-handed. It might give us a chance to platoon a little bit."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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