Twenty catchers between the ages of 13U and seniors in high school have been hard at work since Thanksgiving week and into December. The initial session was held outside at the New England Baseball Complex in near perfect weather conditions. During the colder weather, the clinic has moved to the spacious Armour Cage indoor facility at St. Mark’s School. The Gedman Catchers Clinic is open to Ruffnecks and non-Ruffnecks, many of whom played Fall Baseball at the NEBC. For Ruffnecks catchers, the opportunity to work with the lineup of catching instructors that Mr. Gedman brings to the party is an extraordinary privilege. Rich Gedman is a 13 year veteran Major League catcher and two-time All-Star. He currently serves as a minor league coach in the Red Sox system. His partner in the clinic is Chad Epperson, a former professional catcher who is now the catching coordinator for the entire Boston Red Sox organization. “Eppy” is widely regarded as one of the finest tacticians of the catching trade in baseball. Ray Fagnant, the Northeast Area Scout for the Boston Red Sox, is also on the staff. Coach Fagnant brings equal passion and knowledge to the position. Assisting these fine men with professional catching backgrounds is former Penn State Academic All-Big 10 catcher Alex Farkes along with Framingham State head coach, Michael Gedman, and Ruffnecks catching coordinator Andrew Collins. Indeed, there is no shortage of attention paid to each catcher, and no small details ignored.
Skill Development in the Little Things
As Mr. Gedman readily acknowledges, catching skills at the high school and even collegiate levels are often taken for granted or even ignored. Coaching staffs are limited, and time is insufficient to develop, train, and reinforce good habits for catchers. The Gedman Catchers Clinic does not solve that problem, but it does provide a baseline and a foundation for knowing how to prepare. As Coach Epperson puts it, “The catcher is the only player on the field who can look into the eyes of all the other players.” The Gedman Catchers Clinic has physically demanding moments, as well as periods of significant “information dumps,” when participants and instructors simply talk about situations catchers encounter. Blocking drills, balance drills, weight-shifting drills, arm-slot and throwing techniques, all contribute to the volume of work necessary to develop as a catcher. Coach Fagnant dispels many long misrepresented notions about “receiving skills.” As a long time scout, with years of watching catchers, he is passionate about communicating the principles of securing strike calls and catching pitches that may not be strikes.
Ruffnecks Catchers Benefit
For Ruffnecks catchers, the Gedman Clinic is a yearly opportunity to reinforce the tremendous importance, pride, and expectations that come with the most demanding position on a baseball field. As Coach Gedman reminds them, catchers cannot be about themselves; they must be about their pitchers and their team. Along the way, catchers may be vulnerable to hitting slumps, loss of speed, and mental fatigue, but they cannot relent in their duties. Their contributions to the team are directly related to their ability to execute the skills that enable them to manage a game… and successful skill execution comes with repetition, knowledge, and practice. Ruffnecks teams are known for their solid catching corps. It is no small wonder that we owe much of that success to the efforts of Mr. Gedman, and our own catching coordinator Andrew Collins. So as the winter work continues, so will the emphasis the program places on catching skills and development.