TOP COLLEGE CATCHERS
Three college catchers from the Valley area have more in common than wearing round, puffy mitts.
Two were high school teammates, although they now play 2,000 miles from one another. Two never caught until they reached college. And they share a dream--to be picked in the major league draft.
A look at each follows:
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE
A pitch in the dirt caught McIntyre flush on the pinkie of his throwing hand last week in the third inning of a game at Cal State Los Angeles. The fingernail ripped away, but McIntyre, tougher than nails, remained in the game.
“That kid has a lot of guts,” L.A. Coach John Herbold said. “He just wouldn’t come out of the game.”
It never occurred to McIntyre to bail.
“The adrenaline is going so much it didn’t hurt bad until that night,” he said. “Besides, a catcher can’t leave the game unless he’s really hurt.”
Or as Chuck Fick, who caught five years in the minor leagues, at Pepperdine University and at Santa Monica and Moorpark colleges, says about injuries: “You have to grin and bear it. You figure, if the backup catcher was any good, he’d be playing.”
McIntyre (6-4, 200) is batting .357 in 22 conference games and has 11 home runs and 32 RBIs. Stabilizing the defense, however, is his priority.
“If I allow a passed ball or call a bad pitch,” he said, “that’s worse than looking at a third strike.”
Although McIntyre was an all-league catcher at Thousand Oaks High in 1983, he was a long way from being what scouts call “draftable.” Since then, he has improved the accuracy of his throws, cut down on his strikeouts increased his power.
“We’ve been contacted by a lot of teams because Scott has the size and obvious abilities,” CSUN Coach Terry Craven said.
Still, McIntyre considers himself a longshot.
“I’d love to be drafted but I’m not setting my hopes on it,” he said. “At this point I’m planning on returning for my senior year.”
McIntyre will have to change his plans if Guy Hansen, a Kansas City Royals scout and minor league pitching coach, is correct.
“I think he’ll be drafted,” Hansen said. “He’s very slow but has done a good job behind the plate and has some power.”
Lack of speed is a death knell for players other than catchers.
“Agility and quick feet are important,” said Dodger catcher Mike Scioscia, who is notoriously slow. “But if raw speed meant much, where would I be?”
Pittsburgh Pirate scouts have had several conversations with Skeels, who speaks cautiously about being drafted despite boasting big-time numbers.
He is batting .393 with 64 RBIs in 48 games and has a slugging percentage of .860 to go along with his 16 home runs. He has about 12 games--the number will vary according to how many postseaons games Arkansas plays--to snap Kevin McReynolds and Jeff King’s school record of 17.
“People have been talking a lot about the draft, but I’ll wait until I see it on paper,” Skeels said.
Arkansas couldn’t be preparing him better for life in the minors. Certainly, the fast food and slow bus rides won’t bother Skeels.
Arkansas, ranked fourth in the nation among Division I colleges by Baseball America, has traveled 16 hours to Texas Tech and 13 hours to Houston by bus for games. And after Skeels helped to polish off No. 1-ranked Oklahoma St. last week with a home run in the bottom of the ninth, he dined at a taco joint. An appetite for a professional baseball career includes getting used to the diet.
“It’s not a bad life in the minors,” he said, wistfully. “Sleep til noon and roll out to the ballpark at 4.”
Skeels is a late bloomer as a catcher. He played outfield in high school, where Kurt Stillwell, now of the Cincinnati Reds, was his best friend. Skeels attended Oxnard College and volunteered to catch when Scott McIntyre, who was set to attend Oxnard, received a last-minute scholarship to CSUN.
“I had always messed around imitating major league catchers and I guess I did it too well,” Skeels said. “I’d say, ‘This is Carlton Fisk,’ or ‘This is Gary Carter.’ The coach recognized I could do it.”
Skeels (5-11, 180 pounds) is an overachiever who has been able to control everything about his destiny except his size.
“Scouts get caught up in those numbers,” he said. “Being 6-2, 215 is better than a high batting average.”
Skeels can take heart in the words of the Dodgers’ Alex Trevino, who at 5-11, 179 is one of the smallest major league catchers.
“Smaller catchers have mobility and quickness,” Trevino said last week. “If you prove you are durable, size is of little concern.”
Trevino blocks his size out of his mind as resolutely as he blocks a pitch in the dirt. The only exception is blocking the plate.
“Don’t tell me to block out Dave Parker on a bang-bang play,” Trevino said. “I’d be in the hospital every week.”
Skeels already knows that staying healthy and making a steady contribution is the key to advancing in baseball.
“I’ve tried to show consistency,” he said. And he has. Skeels has never had a serious injury.
COLLEGE OF THE CANYONS
Trevino and Bible have backgrounds as different as Alexis Colby and Father Murphy, yet they have shared a similar experience. Both were longshots to play after high school until coaches noticed shots--out of Trevino’s arm and Bible’s bat.
When Trevino reported to a Mets Class-A team in 1974 at the age of 17 after being purchased from a Mexican league, he not only saw five other catchers, he saw five very large catchers.
“I was too young to know any better than to stick it out,” said Trevino, who was 5-10, 155, at the time. “I had an unbelievable arm and had the quickest feet.”
Trevino’s tenacity has helped him to a yearly salary of $512,500.
Bible’s tenacity has helped him become the best junior college hitter in the area. After trying football at Tarkio State in Missouri and working for a year after graduating from Saugus High in 1984, Bible tried out for the COC team last fall.
Although Bible had not caught since Little League, Coach Len Mohney told him catcher was the only open position. Mohney must have told several players the same because 10 guys were clanking around in shin guards the first day of practice.
“I didn’t think he had a chance to be the starter,” Mohney said. “He’s been a real surprise.”
Mohney became a convert when he saw Bible belt the ball. Although raw behind the plate, Bible is batting .508 with 9 home runs and 57 RBIs in 33 games.
“I didn’t think I’d be this good,” Bible said. “The power just showed up.”
Still, he will be surprised if his name shows up on the draft list. Scouts aren’t giddy on Bible because of his inexperience behind the plate. Only the Brewers have contacted him.
“I’ll figure to be back at COC next year,” he said. “I’m sure scouts want to me to get another year of seasoning. And then I’ll consdier transferring to a four-year school.”
Bible gave up football for baseball but believes catching offers the best of both sports.
“Catching is the contact spot,” he said. “I like it when people try to knock me over. If they want to try, I say, ‘Come on.’ ”