Checking In With Ernie Whitt

Ernie Whitt is the Phillies Minor League Catching Coordinator and he’s here in Hagerstown to work with the BlueClaws catchers as we wind down the regular season. We sat down with Ernie for a few minutes earlier today.

I enjoy it. I did it for about seven year s with the Blue Jays and I enjoy working with the kids. It’s nice to see the kids progress so it’s been a lot of fun.

Unique watching just one guy on the field rather than 25 moving parts? Managing is totally different. I enjoyed managing. I sit up in the stands and I’m still managing in my head. But I did that in my playing career too. It’s part of learning the game and I did enjoy that. But I enjoy this.

What’s the toughest part for a young catcher to grasp? Knowing how to call a ballgame. You have 13 different personalities and you have to get them through a tough situation. It’s easy to call a game when a pitcher has all of his pitches. Then it doesn’t matter what you put down. But when a pitcher is struggling, you have to get them through five or six innings so you don’t tax your bullpen. That to me is the sign of a good catcher.

Valle’s progress? He’s done a great job and turned the corner. He’s doing everything behind the plate that you want him to do. He just needs experience. He’s handled the staff well. He has a positive outlook that he doesn’t want to lose. You have to have that to be a successful catcher. You’re going to get banged up but you have to want to play and be a part of a championship team.

Preparation for the offensive players that you will face throughout the course of a series? It’s learning how to read the swings. How hitters approach the plate. Do they extend their hands or like the ball in? That comes secondary after knowing your pitcher. If you know what your pitcher is capable of doing, you still want to go with your pitcher’s strength. If my pitcher is a sinker-baller, I still want to keep the ball down even if the hitter is a good low-ball hitter. If I ask my pitcher to do something he is uncomfortable doing, we’re really asking for problems. It’s a lot to learn. A lot goes into it, more than people realize. Plus there in-game adjustments the hitters make that you have to adjust to as a catcher.

Throwing guys out…how much is the pitcher and how much is the catcher? It doesn’t matter how strong of an arm you have, if the pitcher doesn’t do his job of holding guys on and adjusting his times, you’re not going to have any success throwing out the baserunner. We’ve had guys this year throwing 1.8 down to second, which is unheard-of. But the guy is safe. The pitcher is close to 2 seconds going to home and you just have to learn how to speed that up?

Who’s caught your eye around the system? Sebastain. He’s number one. Tuffy Gosewisch up in Reading has done a nice job. He won the defensive catcher of the year again and hopefully he’ll be in Triple-A next year.

How hard is it for these guys to manage the stuff on the field and then at the same time go through everyhting they need to do to be sucecssfull hitters? That’s hard too. You separate the too. Sometimes young catchers will take their offense on the field, and you just can’t have that. What you do offensively is great and a bonus. But what you do on the field is more important for me.

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