This is the sixth installment of our “Catcher’s Faith” series. We sat down with some of the greatest catchers in the history of baseball (Cho Bum-hyun, Kim Dong-soo, Park Kyung-wan, Jin Gap-yong, Kang Min-ho, and Yang Ji). We talked to them about what they do to create their pitches, what they do to build trust with their pitchers, what they struggle with, and what they find most rewarding.
Even among the legendary catchers, there were some differences in their top priorities for leading pitchers. Some emphasize the importance of close communication and trust, while others place more emphasis on catcher-driven chemistry, regardless of seniority. Of course, there’s no right answer.
What they did have in common was a surprising emphasis on the importance of the catcher. It’s something that’s so easy and taken for granted that even a foul (dropping a ball thrown by a pitcher) can result in a barrage of criticism.
Catchers have said that it’s “never easy” to catch the ball “well. They emphasized that catcher framing, which involves fooling the umpire with the movement of the mitt, or a quick throw to prevent a stolen base, all start with getting a good grip on the ball.
As more pitchers throw fastballs with movement, such as two-seam fastballs (two-seam) and cut fastballs (cutter), the challenges for catchers have increased. “Ryan Sadowski’s two-seam fastball, which I caught for three seasons (2010-2012), hurt my left hand (wearing a mitt) every time I caught it. I ended up wearing a thumb protector.” It was one of the most memorable quotes of the relay interview. Sadowski’s two-seam restraint was in the mid 140 km/h range.
The catcher even tried to change his body shape to make his delivery more stable. Former KT Wiz manager Cho Bum-hyun made his catchers work on both lower-body strength and flexibility when he was coaching. LG Twins battery coach Park Kyung-wan endured the “hell” of training. Park also pushed his junior catchers to improve their flexibility. “It was like spring training every day,” said Kim Min-sik (SSG Landers).먹튀검증
Pitching can be a thrill for catchers. The exhilarating feeling of receiving a heavy ball from a great pitcher is what makes catchers excited.
“I had a lot of good pitchers on my team, but when I went to the Korea-Japan Supergame (a regular all-star game between Korea and Japan in the early 1990s), I was happy just to receive pitches from the league’s top pitchers,” said Kim Dong-soo, an SBS Sports commentator. “For the national team, I also enjoyed receiving pitches from the bullpen, especially when the pitchers from other teams were throwing me pitches that made me think, ‘I didn’t hit it (at the plate),'” Kang Min-ho laughed.
We asked the Legends catchers to name a pitch they’d like to catch, assuming they haven’t had a chance to bat against a pitcher. Former South Korean national team manager Sun Dong-yeol, who is often referred to as a “national treasure” pitcher, received the most votes.
“When I was just entering the professional scene, he was playing in the Japanese league, and I never got to see him throw a ball,” said Kia Tigers head coach Jin Gap-yong, adding, “I really wanted to see his slider, which was his main weapon.”
Kang Min-ho also spoke highly of the former manager. “When I watched the old videos, I felt that the four-seam fastball (fastball) was coming up from the bottom. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it what it feels like when a ball like that is sucked into your glove.” Yang also said, “I’ve been dreaming of playing baseball since I was a kid, watching coach Sun Dong-yeol throw. I wanted to try my hand at it.”
Coach Park Kyung-wan, who shared a battery with Sun during the 1995 Korea-Japan Super Game, said, “I know it sounds like a cliché, but of all the pitches I’ve ever received, his was the one that sent the strongest shivers down my spine. It was like a stone being pushed through.” Nearly 30 years later, he still can’t forget the feeling.
Kim Dong-soo mentioned the late Choi Dong-won, former pitching coach of the Hanwha Eagles. He recalled hitting a home run off Choi in 1990 as a rookie for the Samsung Lions, and said, “It was a pity that I didn’t get to see his fastball and curveball in their prime, which I loved even before I started playing professionally.”
Former KT Wiz manager Cho Bum-hyun didn’t crave balls from pitchers he hadn’t seen. Instead, he thought back to his favorite middle and high school baseball player, Won Min-koo, who was “one year older” than him. He is better known as the father of Samsung ace Won Tae-in.
“He was a senior who studied and threw a cutter back then. I used to throw a slider, but it really curved a little bit. Above all, there was no pitcher who was so confident. There hasn’t been a pitcher since who felt that way as a catcher. He was someone I looked up to.”
Catchers are manual laborers. They wear nearly 10 pounds of protective gear and squat for hours on end. They are often criticized by managers and distrusted by pitchers. Catchers are the closest to the umpires, so they rarely have a voice in inaccurate ball and strike calls. Even the basic task of catching is difficult.
Nevertheless, they are happy to see the growth of pitchers, and they are constantly working on ball formulations that don’t have a right answer. He is thrilled to receive a heavy ball. “I’ve never regretted being a catcher,” all six of them said. It’s a DNA that’s hard to understand, and it’s this irony that makes the catcher quest so fascinating.