Nick Feeser had gone hitless in five at-bats. He called it the worst offensive game of his life, but he seemed perfectly happy after a recent Laurel victory. The senior catcher had thrown out four runners trying to steal in the first two innings, making a quick and significant impact on the game.
"It feels good knowing I can have my worst offensive game of my career and still be able to throw out base runners," Feeser said. "I know when I'm having my worst offensive day, I am still going to have a good defensive game."
Throughout the Maryland regional baseball tournaments, a handful of catchers have had similar affects on games. In the Prince George's 3A/2A league, Gwynn Park's Patrick Leslie has deterred base runners from being too aggressive. Quince Orchard's Tommy Johnson and Sherwood's Kyle Obal, who have signed to play for Marshall and Winthrop, respectively, are the best in Montgomery County.
"If [a runner is on first] and he's got any speed and the catcher doesn't have any ability, two pitches later he's on third," Bowie Coach Bill Seibert said.
Feeser is in his first season as a full-time starting catcher. He said he has always had a strong arm, but in the past did not pay attention to some of the other aspects of playing the position, especially when it came to blocking pitches in the dirt.
Known more for his hitting ability entering the season, Feeser this season has stood out because of his defense. In 17 games, opponents have stolen only 10 bases. Feeser has thrown out nine runners trying to steal and his strong arm often deters teams from trying to take an extra base.
"I was thinking the other day, 'He's gone [after this year]. Now who is going to replace him next year,' " Laurel Coach Paul McCarthy said. "Once you throw a couple guys out, they don't steal anymore. That's how you change the game. And he isn't afraid to throw to any base. That's an important thing. He doesn't hesitate and base runners have to be guarded against that."
Having a strong catcher also gives a pitcher more confidence. Not only can he throw a pitch in the dirt and not be concerned about a wild pitch, he also does not have to worry as much about a base runner.
"It's always in the back of pitchers' minds that they can make their best pitch because they know their catcher has a chance" to throw out a would-be stealer, Feeser said.