Being a Major League catcher is tough. Not only do you have to squat in an uncomfortable position for over an hour everyday for six months while wearing big, heavy pads (the tools of ignorance) in the middle of summer, but you also need to be knowledgeable of your pitching staff and opponents so as to call the best game possible from behind home plate.
Being a bullpen catcher, however, is easy money by comparison, or so you’d think.
Yesterday, the Arizona Diamondbacks posted a job listing looking for a bullpen catcher for the 2022 season. While you might think being a bullpen catcher is nothing more than putting on a glove and helmet and playing catch with Major League pitchers every day, there’s apparently a lot more to it than that.
The duties of bullpen catchers are way more involved than anyone outside of the baseball world might realize. Of course, at the top of the listing are the responsibilities that we’d expect: “Attend Major League Spring Training and designated camps/workouts,” “Spend the entirety of the 2022 season with the Major League team,” etc.
Then you start getting into the other duties.
“Work with the Pitching Staff and Run Prevention Coordinator to help ensure that bullpen practice habits align with pitcher development plans.”
Run Prevention Coordinator? First off, I didn’t even know that was a thing. Secondly, do they want these catchers to help develop pitchers, too? Most applicants wouldn’t know the first thing about developing young pitchers, and how would being a bullpen catcher have anything to do with that? I would’ve thought that there were coaches specifically hired to help with development. Why would a Major League pitcher listen to anything some washed-up JuCo catcher who just wants to stay close to the game of baseball has to say about arm slot or release point?
Sure, catchers are some of the most knowledgeable baseball players on the diamond, but there’s no way they know enough about pitching to help develop a Major Leaguer, right?
“Assist with different components of the advance process for upcoming opponents as needed.”
OK, what? These guys have to look into scouting reports for upcoming opponents as well? No. No, No, NO, NO!
That’s a Major League catcher’s responsibility. You might as well sign the guy to a contract at this point. Like he’s practically a part of the coaching staff at that rate. And what does it even matter? No matter how much a bullpen catcher might try to help prep a starter for an upcoming opponent, the pitcher is definitely just going to listen to what his actual catcher has to say on the matter, right?
The qualifications listed for the BP catcher opening are way more in line to what you’d think a bullpen catcher is require to do: “Ability to catch multiple bullpens daily,” “Strong level of intellectual curiosity and openness,” “Ability to bring a positive attitude and energy to the ballpark each day, with a mindset committed to serving the needs of the team.” That’s all just normal “Hey, teamwork makes the dream work” talk we see on job postings every day. The preferred qualifications though, are a little extra.
Sure, learning Microsoft Office isn’t that difficult. Word and PowerPoint are pretty self-explanatory, and if you really sit down and try to figure out Excel, anyone should be able to learn to put together a basic spreadsheet in an hour or two. However, needing to have “strong knowledge of the advance and self-scouting processes,” that seems a bit much? Why in the world would a bullpen catcher have to self-scout themselves? That makes zero sense. Maybe they mean they need to help the pitchers they work with self-scout themselves, but once again, there should be actual coaches and people specifically hired to work on that stuff. Isn’t that what a pitching coach is for? Sure, a pitching coach is just one guy, but can’t you get multiple people on your staff to help instead of the guy who’s just there to be on the receiving end of Madison Bumgarner’s fastballs?
Yes, bullpen catchers are technically coaches, but most of the time, applicants aren’t going to be guys with coaching experience, rather fresh-out-of-college guys looking for a way to stay in the game.
The average bullpen catcher makes about $90,000 a year, so I guess it makes sense they’d have to wear so many hats in a Major League clubhouse. And FYI, if that $90,000 paycheck sounds enticing to you, there have been bullpen catchers in the past who’d never caught a day in their lives.
Aron Amundson played a few years of independent ball as an outfielder, third baseman, and first baseman before becoming Minnesota’s bullpen catcher. So, yes, he did have some high-level baseball experience, but nothing behind home plate. Basically, if you know the game of baseball well and have tough hands capable of handling insanely fast pitches...might as well give it a go.