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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

December 12, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Bombers’ catchers grow through competition

The baseball team is benefitting from a prolonged position battle for a spot on the diamond that usually calls for stability.

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Kristen Tomkowid/The IthacanSophomore catcher Bill Collins throws to first base during the Bombers’ 14-0 home victory against the Keuka College Storm on Friday. Collins has started three home games this season.

Juniors Corey Caswell and Kevin Primm and sophomore Bill Collins are all competing to start at catcher for the Blue and Gold this season. Each catcher has started at least three games this season.

Head Coach George Valesente said having three competent catchers helps the team because each catcher excels at various facets of the game.

“Caswell has been more accurate and consistent with his throwing,” he said. “Collins has a great deal of potential and talent, looks to be a stronger hitter offensively. And Primm does a good job of receiving, and his blocking has gotten a lot better.”

Valesente said it is important to find the right catcher given the demanding nature of the job.

“There’s a great deal of responsibility for catchers — remembering the hitters, calling a good game, knowing the temperament of the pitcher, blocking, throwing and making the calls to the infield,” he said. “There’s a lot going on for them.”

Caswell, who has started six games this season, said the competition is close and a natural part of the sport.

“We all have our areas of expertise, and we all just want to battle,” he said. “That’s just the way the game is. The best players play, and all three of us are trying to show coach at the same time that we are the best player.”

Collins, who has started three games this season, said the competition is good-natured, but still intense.

“We’re friendly face-to-face,” he said. “But on the inside we’re thinking to ourselves we want the position more than the other person.”

Despite the competition, the catching trio continually helps one another improve by critiquing their throwing mechanics or by offering words of encouragement after a bad play. Primm said they do this because they realize if they help one another to improve, the Bombers will have the best possible catcher they can have.

“We’re all part of the same team, so it’s not really cutthroat,” he said. “It’s all to benefit the team as a whole. Anything we can do to help each other out is going to help the team.”

All three catchers said the competition forces them to play their best.
Caswell said he knows if he does slack off, there are two other players who will get the playing time.

“The competition has definitely brought the best out of me,” he said. “I work as hard as I possibly can every day just because I know that if I don’t, someone’s going to be right there behind me, ready to take my position.”

Collins said he weighs his performances in games and practices against the other two catchers, which motivates him to play well.

“Every single play I’m comparing myself to what they just did,” he said. “And they’re doing the same to me, so it helps us do the best we can every time.”

Even in the face of such fierce competition, the three players remain good friends off the field. They always room together in the hotel on away trips and regularly spend time at one another’s houses.

“There’s no bad blood between any of the three of us,” Primm said. “There’s pressure, but it’s not the end of the world. We’re all going to support whoever gets the starting job.”

Valesente said he and the coaching staff are making the decision on the starting catcher based on a number of factors, such as throwing accuracy, fielding ability and contributions on offense.

Collins said production at the plate will be the deciding factor.

“What really is going to separate us is the offensive side of the game,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a huge difference between us defensively, but hitting-wise will be what really seals the deal. Whoever can produce will get to play.”

Valesente has not named a specific date for when he will decide on who will get the starting job. Primm said the position battle should pay dividends for the team because it has elevated his focus from the first pitch to the final out.

“I love this competition because it forces me to not take a play off when I get the shot,” Primm said. “I have to go 110 percent every single play.”