Catching On Is Key to Brewers Instructor
Engelberg was the Bears' portly, unathletic and volatile catcher, the kid who ate candy bars at practice and cussed at his coach. Charlie Greene Jr., the veteran field coordinator and catching instructor for the Milwaukee Brewers, likes to joke about the Engelberg characterization when he works with both amateur and professional players.
"They put Engelberg back there, but to me catching is a very athletic position," Greene told FanHouse.
"Catching is the most under-taught position in the whole game and you handle the ball the most. I am trying to tell guys in baseball you are spending all this money, millions of dollars on all these pitchers, and you have some kid back there who doesn't know what he's doing. That's going to hurt the pitcher's development."
Greene, 40, who makes his offseason home here in Florida's state capital, departs Tuesday for Arizona and the start of spring training. Ron Roenicke will take the field for the first time as the manager of the Brewers when the team's pitchers and catchers hold their first official workout at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix.
The Brewers made headlines this offseason with trades for pitchers Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke. Greinke is only two seasons removed from winning the Cy Young Award in 2009, when he posted 2.16 ERA along with 242 strikeouts and a 1.07 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).
"Everyone is excited because pitching has always been our bugaboo. Just like anyone else, you never have enough pitching," Greene said. "I've never heard an organization say we have too much pitching."
While much improved in pitching, the Brewers are looking to establish a regular catcher. The top returning candidates are Jonathan Lucroy (.253) and George Kottaras (.203).
Greene expects to deliver much the same message to that pair that he did to nearly 30 youth players who attended Greene's Pitcher-Catcher Camp here at Next Level Baseball.
"Hopefully, I am able to show these guys some basic fundamentals that they can build on," Greene said as the players gathered their equipment for the start of the four-hour camp.
"A lot of guys don't want to catch, that's why you see a lot of older catchers in the big leagues. A lot of young guys really don't want to pay the price for it. It's a tough job, a hard job to do, but it's very important."
Many youth baseball players in Florida's Panhandle and South Georgia certainly recognize Buster Posey's name and accomplishments.
Greene also likes to tell the story how Posey wasn't Engelberg -- in any shape or form -- from "The Bad News Bears." Posey was converted from shortstop to catcher at Florida State because of his incredible work ethic, athleticism and desire. Posey was named NL Rookie of the Year last season as he helped the Giants to a World Series title.
"Buster picked it up because he's such a great athlete," Greene explained.
"I tell these kids you are half-pitcher, half-position player. An outfielder doesn't really have to worry about the pitching staff, an infielder really doesn't have to worry about the pitching staff. A catcher does. It takes a very unselfish guy to do that, to put in the time and the effort. You are basically working double.
"For every one Buster Posey, there's thousands of kids who take a while to develop because catching is so difficult and it takes a while to learn."
Greene also stressed to campers they needed to work on their own to sharpen their skills. Even at the professional level, each season begins anew with the most seasoned players working on the most basic skills.
And, naturally, Greene repeated the obvious: Don't take the approach used by Engelberg.
"If you wait on a coach to work with you, you are not going to be that good of a player," Greene said.
"You have to work on receiving, blocking and throwing. All the good ones do those well. They are under appreciated skills, but so important to a team's success."