Vol Star: Tennessee baseball catcher Charlie Taylor

Baseball is at its most physical behind the plate.
Baseball is at its most physical behind the plate.
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 2:06 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - 2023 features another loaded roster for Tennessee baseball. One Vol making quite the impact on the field is Charlie Taylor.

WVLT caught up with the sophomore for this week’s Vol Star feature to highlight the physicality of his position and what it takes to be an elite catcher.

Taylor said, “I broke a finger last year when it was really cold, and the pitch went a different way than I was expecting and kind of caught me in a bad spot. But typically, my pointer finger kind of gets bruised, that’s where I get bruised the most.”

Some might even expect that when Tennessee’s pitchers are tossing near triple-digit figures. While the glove tries to withstand the heat, other parts of his gear are trying to do the same.

“Evo Shield has a little heart piece that you put, a little slot you put in to so it kind of protects me from any ball that might pop me right there,” said Taylor.

For many catchers, some of their gear comes down to comfort.

“A lot of people call this a hockey mask,” said Taylor. “I think that the two-piece masks sometimes look a little cooler, but for me, this one just makes a lot more sense. For example, on a pop up I look up into the sky I don’t have to worry about my helmet piece coming off, my mask going the other way. I just have one mask that when I am ready I can take it off and kind of toss it to the side.”

Every movement has a purpose for a catcher, down to his stance in the catcher’s box.

Taylor explained, “When a batter gets two strikes or there’s anybody on base I always come up to two feet, so I am a little more athletic, if there’s something in the dirt I can go down and get it real quick, or if somebody tries to run I can get up and try to throw them out a little bit quicker.”

While Taylor focuses on his own movements, he has to be aware of the umpire behind his back and the batter swinging inches from his face.

“For me, right when I walk out here, I want to shake the umpire’s hand, I want to make him my best friend because I want to be back here for nine innings with him. So, the better relationship we have, the more it’s going to work,” said Taylor.

He continued, “And then as far as you know everything going on you know the hitter, sometimes the crowd can be chaotic, I’d say the biggest thing for me is just taking a deep breath, not letting the game speed up on me, kind of just staying in control.”

Taylor also has to stay in control of his defense.

“People call it the quarterback of the defense you know, you have to know every pitch, every play, where people are supposed to be, directing people. And then you also kind of have to be, just which is kind of my favorite part, is like a support staff for that pitcher on the mound,” said Taylor.

Dealing with pitchers is a tricky business, but the message is always the same, even if his approach varies.

“Some guys you can go out there and kind of say, ‘Hey, man, like let’s pick it up,’ but some guys you kind of maybe crack a joke or you know, tell him you know, you’re doing great man. It just totally depends on the personality. So, I think that’s one of the more fun parts is learning about your teammates so you can be better able to motivate them,” Taylor said.

Maybe the most intricate part of his job is mapping out the pitch sheet. A monumental task the pitching and catching units tackle ahead of each game.

“Coach Anderson prepares more than anyone in this league. He studies these hitters. He knows what they like to hit, what they don’t like to hit, and where their weak spots are. So, we just follow his plan,” said Taylor.

Of course, it’s never that simple. Especially, when the pitcher shakes off the catcher.

“I love it. Because it’s them throwing what they want to throw not what coach Anderson or what I want them to throw, you know, it’s I want them to be competent, whatever they’re throwing. And, you know, I’d rather than throw a pitch they want to throw rather than something that we want them to throw,” Taylor added.

To add another layer to the complexity of his position, most catchers are also asked to be involved on offense.

Taylor has taken advantage of that this season, setting career highs in five categories through the first eight games of the season. Highlighted mostly when the Vols hosted Alabama A&M and Taylor roped two home runs.