Column: Catcher Johnny Tincher will not let Birmingham’s bubble burst


Standing in the batter’s box, Johnny Tincher of Birmingham is chewing gum. Crouched behind home plate wearing his catcher’s mask, Tincher is chewing gum. Walking out to the mound to talk to the pitcher, Tincher is chewing gum.

“Every time he comes up to me, I see him chewing gum,” pitcher Albert Garcia said.

By game’s end, Tincher has chomped on at least four pieces of Hubba Bubba.


“It relaxes me,” he said.

The 16-year-old could become the spokesman for Hubba Bubba the way he is hitting and fielding. No one has had a better opening month of the City Section baseball season than Tincher, a junior who’s batting .547 while displaying his defensive prowess.

“He can be a game-changer the way he plays defensively and offensively,” Coach Matt Mowry said. “He’s so much better than he was as a sophomore, and he was pretty good.”

Even more stunning is that Tincher is doing his hitting as a leadoff batter. How rare is that for a catcher?

“I’ve never had it in all my years,” Mowry said.

Tincher’s ability to run, make contact and get on base makes him an ideal leadoff man.

“I’m trying to hit the ball as hard as I can and run as fast as I can to first to get on base,” he said.

At 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, with agility and quickness, Tincher earned a reputation last season as an outstanding catcher. He started at Dodger Stadium behind the plate as the Patriots won the City Section championship. His pitchers trust him completely, enabling them to have confidence to throw curveballs in the dirt, knowing he’ll find a way to block it. And trying to steal a base off him is pretty futile. He has thrown out eight of 11 runners trying to steal this season.

“My main goal is nothing gets past me,” he said. “I’m confident enough nothing will get past me because I’m there for every ball and I’m there for my pitchers. I honestly don’t care if I have to take them in my body anywhere.”

Tincher didn’t make All-City as a sophomore because his hitting was inconsistent, and he used that as motivation for this season.

Birmingham has been the best City Section team during nonleague play, with a 14-6 record and wins over Southern Section schools Valencia West Ranch, Mission Hills Alemany, Newbury Park and Chatsworth Sierra Canyon. But the Patriots are hardly a cinch to win the City title. They lost to Carson 3-2 on Saturday.

Now the real season starts this week with the tough West Valley League and a two-game series against nine-time City champion El Camino Real on Wednesday and Friday.

“The intensity picks up,” Mowry said. “Even though we’ve played some good teams already, you have to compete and get after El Camino and Chatsworth and everybody.”

Birmingham has three strong pitchers in Garcia, DJ Vergini and Armando Yanez. Mowry must make the decision who’s going to start against the Conquistadores.

But having Tincher bat leadoff and be the anchor behind the plate helps make Birmingham one of the favorites to reach Dodger Stadium on June 2.

The Patriots just need to make sure there’s plenty of gum available for Tincher to chew.

Twitter: @latsondheimer