Brian Baisley: Catching On & Catching Up

Staten Island Yankees catcher, Brian Baisley, is a venerated member of the team who has been impactful this season, despite batting just .214. The former 24th round pick is 3-for-14 (all three hits coming in the team's July 2 win at Aberdeen) in four games this year, but his teammates and coaches and have commended his play.

And for good reason as he represents the traditional, old-school catcher. What he has lacked at the plate, he's made up for behind it.

The manager has opted to rotate the catchers (Baisley, along with Francisco Cervelli and Jose Gil) but the pitchers, nine of whom have earned run averages below 3.20, have pitched to a 1.33 ERA with Baisley at backstop and the team has won in his four starts.

"They make life real easy," Baisley said, laudatory of the pitchers. "They make it so much easier for us (catchers) because they've got good stuff and they throw strikes."

More impressive is the fact that the results have come while both the catchers and pitching staff continue to learn each other on-the-fly. With the exception of Toni Lara, Keaton Everitt and Rolando Japa (who pitched just 1.2 innings), none of the current pitchers were on the Staten Island roster last season and Baisley was playing for the University of South Florida.

"It's definitely a challenge," he said. "Back in college, you would catch them all fall, for months and months before you even got out there. Here, you have to learn them quickly. I wouldn't say it's hard, just a different experience."

Further complicating matters is the fact that three of the pitchers are from Latin American countries and don't speak much English.

"You learn to communicate with each other," he explained. "Even if we don't speak the same language, they know the pitching terms. Putting down one finger (which signals fastball) is the same all over."

"It's not that difficult," added Jose Mosquera, the bench coach. "You just have to know what they throw and what types of pitches they like to use in different counts. He handles all the guys pretty good."

Baisley also believes that in order for a catcher to develop a great on-field rapport with his battery mates, they must establish an off-the-field chemistry. Few situations build camaraderie faster than sharing a living space, as he does with roommates Tim Norton, Tyler Addison and Nick Peterson.

"It gets crazy at times because we're all different," he said. "But they're alright and we get along."

Like a quarterback in football, the catcher, because he calls the pitches and is often the medium between the bench and the mound, is placed in a position of authority, whether or not he possesses leadership skills. Baisley though, embraces the role and deems it paramount.

"When you're catching you've got to be [a leader]," he said. "Sometimes you have to go out and, not really get in their face, but be authoritative. And there are others who don't take criticism as well so you have to coddle them a little. It's all part of the job."

Carlos Chantres, the pitching coach, added that in addition to managing personalities and being somewhat of a pseudo-psychologist, a catcher must be familiar with each pitcher's arm angles, repertoire, and strengths and weakness in order to gain their trust. That's an area in which Baisley thrives, according to Mosquera.

"He does a great job of that," he said. "He knows how to call the game, great catch-and-throw guy, very strong arm, and he's good at blocking the plate. Also, we admire his toughness. He takes a lot of shots back there and is able to hang in. He's tough so everybody respects that about him."

Mettle and fortitude are common traits found in almost all those brave enough to squat behind a plate and allow a projectile to be fired at them at 90 miles-per-hour over 100 times each day. Asked how painful a foul tip into the facemask is, Baisley said, "It doesn't hurt too much, at least not as much as people think."

"It just leaves your ears ringing. But I'm sort of used to it since I've been a catcher for a while." The former Little League pitcher has been catching since he was 13, with stints at first base while in college.

"Over the years it definitely takes a toll on you physically," he said of playing the position. "You're going to get banged up here and there, but you learn to live with it because as a catcher, you have to play through pain."

Of his offensive slump, he said that he is working with hitting coach Ty Hawkins on his mechanics, but nothing has changed in his approach at the plate since college, where he was a career .310 hitter.

"I still look for fastballs," he said. "I try to square it up and go up the middle. I get a lot of hits to the opposite field when I'm swinging good."

Baisley considers himself a notorious slow starter but admitted that once a batter goes hitless in the first few games of the season, the internal pressure begins to mount, exacerbating the struggle. He feels that patience is the key for him and once he stops being overzealous and chasing pitches out of the strike zone, the numbers will come gradually.

He joked about his twin brother, Jeff, a third baseman in the Athletics' minor league system, being off to a worse start than he is. "He started out 0-for-16 so I've still got a couple at-bats to beat him," he quipped.

The 23-year-old also feels that having brothers who were drafted (his older brother Brad was selected by the Phillies in 1998) creates a friendly sibling rivalry which becomes a motivating factor.

"Especially when it's a twin," he said. "If there's something he can do, you always think that you can do it too or do better. In that sense, we're always competing with each other and that drives both of us."

Mosquera believes that if he continues to have that drive and remains diligent, he will get far and have a productive career.

Baisley has dealt with limitations before, finding ways to compensate and overcome them. The former high school basketball player said of his time as an undersized big man, "I wasn't always the tallest guy on the court so I didn't post up too much and I had to be scrappy."

"But I knew how to shoot, I'll tell you that." His current situation parallels that of his days as a 6-foot-3 power forward with him finding the way to find a way. He may not be an offensive force, but he does know how to catch.


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