Coaches Joe Pimentel of Carlsbad High School and Jeff Meredith of Grossmont have said their baseball teams would not be where they are today--in the San Diego Section 2-A championship game at the University of San Diego’s Cunningham Stadium at 3 p.m.--if not for the play and leadership of their catchers.
Pimentel on Cord (Buck) Taylor: “Buck is our unsung hero. He doesn’t get any of the attention or recognition. But we wouldn’t be where we are today without him. That’s the honest-to-God truth.”
Meredith on Todd Cady: “He’s one of the many MVPs on the team. He’s the guy who seems to always come through. Boy, without him, we lose a big part of our offense. I don’t think we’d be where we are without Todd’s bat in the lineup and without his influence in the field.”
While Taylor and Cady have been instrumental in their teams’ first trip to the 2-A final, they are near opposites in many respects.
Taylor, a senior, specializes in defense and handling pitchers. Cady, only a sophomore, specializes in offense and dismantling pitchers.
Taylor is 5-feet-10, 150 pounds. He has had to work and scrap to receive any kind of respect and appreciation. He was a utility player last season, not catching an inning.
“I told him last year I wanted him to be my starting catcher, but that he had to get better,” Pimentel said.
Taylor improved immensely by playing summer baseball for University High in Long Beach, where his father lives. “I worked on blocking balls and my throws to second,” Taylor said. “I don’t have a gun for arm, but I have a quick release.”
Said Pimentel: “His throwing has been excellent. He’s impressed a lot of coaches in the league being as small as his is. All facets of his game have really come a long way.”
An example of Taylor’s savvy came Saturday when Crawford’s Todd Davis lined a single to right. Taylor hustled down the line and sneaked up behind Davis, who had rounded first. Second baseman Larry Griffith relayed the ball to Taylor for the pickoff.
“To me he’s a backstop,” said Carlsbad pitcher Scott Karl. “I have a 55-foot curveball, and he’s always saving me. He really knows how to call a game, too. I never have to shake him off and I rarely see Jeff (Myers) shake him off.”
Cady is 6-4, 220 pounds. He has stood out at every level and last year, as a freshman, was first-team All-Grossmont League.
“When you tell people he’s a sophomore and he’s only 16, they don’t believe it,” Meredith said. “He’s aggressive. He runs well. He’s a great hitter. I think that no one brings the bat through the strike zone better than Todd.”
In a game against San Pasqual, Cady had been batting left-handed against Eagle right-hander Mike Escarcega. With Grossmont trailing in the sixth, San Pasqual Coach Bill McAllister put in a left-hander to face Cady with two runners on. Cady switched around to the right side and stroked a two-run single to win the game.
“I don’t think they knew he was a switch-hitter,” Meredith said. “They played right into our strength. I think he’s a better hitter right-handed.”
A right-handed hitter without a lot of power, Taylor hit the only two home runs of his career this season. One was against Crawford Saturday in the Lancers’ 9-0 semifinal victory.
Cady hit five home runs in each of his first two seasons. He missed hitting his sixth by about an inch in Grossmont’s 10-0 semifinal victory over Rancho Buena Vista. The ball hit off the top of the support pipe on the center-field fence, 410 feet away. Cady hit .418 with 27 RBIs this season while striking out just seven times in 91 at-bats.
Taylor is a team captain, a rah-rah type who sees it as his job to motivate. “Being a catcher, I’m in charge of controlling the game,” he said. “I feel the responsibility to fire the team up.”
Cady is more the quiet type.
“He doesn’t say much, but you know he’s fired up,” Meredith said. “He knows how to take charge. Sometimes, I’ll walk out to the mound to talk to the pitcher, but I won’t say a word. Todd will do all the talking. At the end, I’ll just say ‘You got that?’ ”
With all their differences in style, stature, ability and intensity, both Taylor and Cady stress the importance of their fathers’ influence.
Taylor’s father, Carl, once played double-A ball for the Angels. Ron Cady, Todd’s father and president of the Sockers, was a small-college All-American for USD.