From Infielder to Catching Prospect Wolters Has Tools and Energy
Rob McLamb | On 29, May 2013
It requires an investment of time and patience to play minor league baseball. The investment becomes magnified when a player is willing to reboot and learn a new position in order to achieve his dream.
Carolina Mudcats catcher Tony Wolters is doing just that. The native of Vista, CA was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the third round of the 2010 and began his career as a middle infielder.
But with the glut of players within the Cleveland organization playing infield at both the major and minor league level-including teammates Joey Wendle and former-first round pick Francisco Lindor– the Tribe brass approached Wolters about switching to the catcher position this past off-season.
“It happened (being approached about the position change) during the last couple days of spring training,” Wolters said. “I was excited but nervous at the same time. I didn’t know how it would turn out.”
After taking some time to consider his options, Wolters has embraced the change and has not looked back.
“We had two or three meetings,” Wolters recalled. “It took me a couple of days to decide what I wanted to do. I talked to my family and coaches. After that, I decided to try catching.”
“I am so glad I picked to try out catching because I love it already. It is a lot of fun.”
Learning a new position meant extended spring training in Arizona for Wolters. While most players are eager to break away and get to the actual games, Wolters enjoyed the camaraderie within Indians camp.
“There are young guys out there, having fun and learning how to play baseball,” Wolters said. “The young guys just love the game. It really brought energy back to me.”
“It gave me a drive to get to the finish line with this.”
One of the aspects of catching that Wolters particularly enjoys involves calling pitches. The amount of control on the game that a catcher’s pitch-calling has is not lost on Wolters.
“I am trying to control the game, not have big innings,” Wolters said. “There is going to be times where there is adversity there. That happens. That is baseball. Pitchers are not always going to hit their spots. I am not going to call the right pitch every time.”
“I am learning from it.”
Carolina Mudcats manager Dave Wallace, a former catcher, has enjoyed the task of guiding Wolters through his position shift.
“My priority here is to manage the team,” Wallace said. With my experience being in catching-I wouldn’t call it a side project- but it is something I can really focus on and dig my teeth into everyday we are here. You don’t get that opportunity normally at this level.”
Wallace likes what he has seen from Wolters so far.
“I think he is way ahead of where I thought he’d be at this time,” Wallace said. “I have been encouraged by what I’ve seen so far.”
Wolters is grateful to be learning from Wallace and is happy to be learning the catching trade under the auspices of the Cleveland organization.
“He (Wallace) is always there looking at things, telling me what I should do” Wolters said. “He is always on me, and I love that. It is giving me a drive to get better.”
“I never thought I’d get drafted by the Indians. It was kind of surprising. They are an awesome organization. They are first-class with everything they do.”
After the position switch and time invested in him by the Indians organization, Wolters looks forward to hopefully one day repaying the effort and would consider it a honor to wear the Cleveland uniform.
“It would be breathtaking, for sure,” Wolters said. “It would take me a few games to get used to it.”
Wolters then corrected himself.
“Not a few, I would probably be nervous every game for the rest of my career. That would be amazing.”
The Mudcats catcher knows he must first be pragmatic if he is to fulfill his dream.
“This (Class A ball) is my major league now,” Wolters said. “I am here learning every day. I am doing everything I can to get to my end goal.”
“Getting there is awesome, but staying there is even better.”
Photo by Nikolaus © 2013 Carolina Mudcats