Feb. 19, 2008
Sophomore catcher Tony Sanchez hit for a .318 average with 28 RBIs as a freshman last season, while starting in 48 games (38 at catcher). Sanchez, a Miami, Fla. native, was named to the 2008 Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Award Preseason Watch List. Sanchez and the Eagles take to the diamond for the first time this season on Friday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. at Georgia Southern.
Talk about your role on the team. As a catcher, do you have a greater responsibility to be a leader? Is it accurate to view the catcher as the team's quarterback?
I'm the only player who sees the whole field while we're playing. We have our senior captains and I may have been a little too young, not as experienced as they are, but I'm kind of considered the on-field leader along with Eric Campbell, who is our captain that plays third base. He and I direct players during plays and we're both considered on-field captains. Especially as a catcher, any catcher has the responsibility of a leader. You have to keep pitchers at even tempos; you can't let them get too high or too low on themselves. We have to communicate with them, make sure their mind is right and keep them strong on the mound. A catcher has to keep everybody in good spirit.
Technically, what are the keys to being a good - even an elite - catcher?
To be a good catcher you have to develop good relationships with your pitchers. Of course you have to have the tools that come with being a catcher - throwing runners out, the blocking, the receiving - that will all come along. You have to have the trust of your coaches and the trust of your pitchers. Having that trust just makes everyone else so much better. If everyone trusts you back there then everyone is going to play to the best of their ability, as well.
How do you rank the different roles you have as a catcher? How does hitting play a part in these roles?
I think the most important tool that a catcher can possess is probably the relationship with his pitchers. Although blocking and throwing runners out aren't very far from the relationships that you have, the most important one is probably the relationship with your pitchers. Also, sometimes if you have a good relationship with the umpire you're going to get calls on balls that are a couple of inches off the plate. Relationships are the biggest part of catching. As a catcher, I don't get in as much hitting practice as everyone else does during practice, but I have to have the responsibility and determination to come in on my own, hit by myself, or take Coach out of his office and hit with him whenever I can.
How often, if ever, do you call the pitches? Explain how that system works here at BC.
What we have is a system where Coach will give us a set of numbers. He'll show us three different numbers and we'll wear a thing similar to a quarterback wristband on our arm. We'll have about 250 different pitches with different numbers that symbolize that pitch. Whatever Coach gives us we have to look on our chart and find that pitch and that's what we call. I don't think any catcher in college calls his own game right now.
What are your communications with a pitcher during a game? What do you say - between pitches, between innings, during a trip to the mound? How do you balance providing advice vs. leaving him alone?
I like to keep pitchers focused when they get two quick outs. I don't want them to get relaxed and then get complacent from getting two good outs. So I like to communicate with them about that. I'll communicate with them about what their responsibilities are on bunts. Then, we have different shakes and pickoffs. I just try to be their friend. Providing advice plays back to your relationship with the pitchers. You have to know who wants to hear what, who wants to be by themselves. Usually if a pitcher is going well, doing everything right, you just leave him alone. They go to the bench, they sit by themselves and you go back out and just make them look as good as they can be.
Last year, you stepped right in and established yourself as a solid/credible college catcher. Tell us about your personal goals for the coming season. What skills have you been working on?
First, I want to make it to the Tournament. I want to take this team to the ACC Tournament, do well in that, and then hopefully make a regional bid and see where things go from there. From an individual standpoint, I'd love to hit better. I'd love to hit more than one home run and throw more guys out, but the most important thing I want to accomplish this year is getting to the ACC Tournament. As far as hitting, I've been working on going the other way a lot more, staying through baseballs. I have a tendency to want to pull the ball. We're trying to work on that a lot. I'm pretty good at hitting the fastball, so we're just really working on the off-speed stuff.
Being from Miami, how have you adjusted baseball-wise to the cold weather you often face here in the Northeast?
It's actually pretty funny because Mike Lowell was playing for the Marlins and then he came to Boston, so he still had a house in Miami and one day my girlfriend and I went to dinner and we saw Mike Lowell. I was like, "Wow. This could be the best chance for me to ask him how he adjusted from warm to cold." So I asked him and he said you have to bear down. You have to tough it out. You can't think about how cold it is and think, "How badly am I going to play today?" You just have to layer up and play. So I've taken that into consideration. I love the cold here. In Miami, you step outside and you sweat automatically. I kind of love just wearing sweats and sweaters and walking out there. I mean, when you're playing, it's cold, but it's alright. I've adjusted.
When it comes to pitching it seems like the team has a healthy combination of veteran pitchers and talented newcomers. Talk about the team's pitching staff and how you work with the newcomers.
Terry Doyle, Ted Ratliff, Dan Houston, Nick Asselin, who's coming off an injury, they're all going to do really well. They're all going to pitch fine in the ACC and give us good mid-week innings. These freshman pitchers, I've never seen a freshman class like this. I've only been through two, but these guys, they know what they're doing. They're mature, they're throwing well. Hopefully they can keep it going into the season. The thing I have to do with the freshmen that I don't have to do with a Doyle or a Ratliff is build their confidence and let them know that I'm back there for them. I let them know that I'm going to work my hardest to keep them in focus and allow them to have no worries whatsoever and just let them play the game.
The 2008 team will feature two new middle infielders and an entirely new outfield. With this in mind, what insights can you give us about the team?
We lost six starting players out of our nine, so we're going to be a completely different team. We're also going to be young, but these kids were recruited to play in the ACC and the coaches believe that they have the talent to step right in and have a real impact. Hopefully they can do what I did last year, step right up and have no worries. They just don't know what they're stepping into. There's no scouting report on them. They have the best chance right now to come in and do their thing.
Talk about Head Coach Mikio Aoki and his staff. With which coach do you interact the most?
I love the coaches. Every coach is a great person. They all strive to help us get better every day. They are always available to volunteer to hit, catch, everything. The coach that I spend most of my time with is Coach Englert. He's our catching coach. Every day he's drilling me and Harry Darling, the other catcher, with drills and tools and how to play the game. We probably spend 75 percent of practice with him alone.
What do you see as the future of the baseball program here at BC?
When they do build this new stadium it's going to be great for recruiting, it's going to be great for bringing ACC teams in here and getting people out to baseball games. Right now our field doesn't hold as much as a normal ACC stadium or any stadium for that matter. Hopefully that [new stadium project] gets on track sometime soon. I mean, if you build it, they will come.
The Atlantic Coast Conference is clearly one of the nation's elite baseball conferences. Talk about the competition you face each weekend and the intensity of each series.
I do believe the ACC is one of the best conferences in the country and last year coming in I didn't know how good it was. I had no idea how many great players there were in this conference. Now, looking into it, I'm not intimidated at all, but I'm just realizing who I'm playing with and what teams I'm up against and I respect that.
Who do you look forward to facing on this year's ACC schedule?
Our first ACC series is against Miami and I've been looking forward to that series since I signed here. I've just wanted to come down to play Miami and have my family there. I know I'm going to be nervous, but hopefully I can get the job done, the team can get the job done, and I can play for the family. I'm going to have a lot of people there so I might be nervous for the first couple of innings, but we'll see what happens.
Interview conducted by sophomore Geoffrey Kehlmann