[ In theÃ‚Â second inning of last night’s game, Devin Mesoraco hit home run so high I thought it would be classified as a threat to public health. He then followed it up with a dinger in the ninth –Ã‚Â single-handedly scoring more runs than the entire Diamondback’s starting 9.Ã‚Â Given his commanding beginning of the season,Ã‚Â IÃ‚Â thought it would be appropriate to re-run this post that profiles our starting catcher. It was originally run a week beforeÃ‚Â the seasonÃ‚Â so some of theÃ‚Â newer members of the NationÃ‚Â may have missed it. I hope y’all are enjoying your weekend, and let’s get ready for another Reds’ W tonight. -mdm]
We know that Homer Bailey has his own no-hitter saddle, hunts lions in Africa and even has his own Chuck Norris-style website. We know that Joey Votto studies advanced baseball statistics and goes through an endless supply of batting gloves. We know that Todd Frazier played in the Little League World Series and can rescue people from choking to death. Yet strikingly few authors have taken up the task of writing about the Reds’ new starting catcher, Devin Mesoraco.
First, the basics. He’s from Punxsutawney, PA, which is about 90 minutes from Pittsburgh. The Reds drafted Mesoraco straight out of Punxsutawney high school (the Chucks Ã¢â‚¬â€œ where Devin began wearing red and white) with the 15th pick in the first round of the 2007 amateur draft. Reports hailed him as one of the Ã¢â‚¬Å“hottest commoditiesÃ¢â‚¬Â on the board. But when Mesoraco struggled early in his minor league career, the organization and fans were beginning to wonder if Yasmani Grandal, who the Reds took with the 12th pick in the 2010 amateur draft, was going to pass him by. The Reds settled that competition by trading Grandal in 2011 to San Diego as part of the deal for pitcher Mat Latos. Since then, Mesoraco has split time with Ryan Hanigan behind the plate. But now, as we start the 2014 season, Devin Mesoraco is poised to become the Reds everyday catcher and one of the team leaders.
But beyond this basic history, who is Devin Mesoraco?
Perhaps the most overwhelming part of a Devin Mesoraco interview is how modest he comes across when discussing his baseball accomplishments. When asked about a walk-off grand slam he hit in AAA, he was quick to mention that the wind was blowing out Ã¢â‚¬Å“pretty hardÃ¢â‚¬Â that day. When asked about hitting well with runners in scoring position, he says that sometimes pitchers make mistakes and he will get a good pitch to hit. When asked about being drafted in the first round, he often says that he was Ã¢â‚¬Å“speechlessÃ¢â‚¬Â to be selected that high.
He is quick, however, to support his teammates. While he was coming up in the minor leagues he was often asked how it felt to be a member of the Cincinnati Reds. Immediately, Devin pointed out how much talent the Reds have and how he hoped to compete for a World Series. Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of Mesoraco is how genuinely optimistic he is about his team. When he was playing for the Louisville Bats, he twice mentioned in an interview that they were about to make a run and could really perform well by the end of the year. The Bats, at the time, were 11 games out of first place. When asked about the mental errors the team was making, he replied that every team has its mental errors and they were going to overcome them. This team-first demeanor was present in every interview and article I found about Mesoraco.
There is one particular interview where we get a good look at Mesoraco in a relaxed environment. In a segment where his close friend, Todd Frazier, asks Devin ten fan questions, Mesoraco is asked what other position he would play if he didn’t play catcher. Quickly Mesoraco responds, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think I could play third, no doubt about that.Ã¢â‚¬Â Both of them laugh before Mesoraco takes the safe answer and says that he could be a pitcher (and therefore wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be replacing anyone on the current team). Perhaps one of the best moments is when Frazier asks Devin what his first glove was. Devin used a Nokona. Frazier quickly interjects that his first glove was a teenage mutant ninja turtles glove (Leonardo, for those of you who are wondering). You can tell that the two of them are exhausted from finishing a game but they are having fun with the interview.
An aside: While researching this article, I ran across a few great quotes from former catchers, such as:Ã‚Â “God was never a catcher because, if He was, there would never have been a knuckle ball pitcher.” Devin Mesoraco, however, went above and beyond the call of linguistic duty in 2012 when he was trying to tell Aroldis Chapman to keep his release high. Devin used simplicity to overcome their mutual language barrier:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Here is horseÃ¢â‚¬â€-,Ã¢â‚¬Â Mesoraco said with his arm at a sidearm angle.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Here is bueno.Ã¢â‚¬Â Mesoraco said with his arm overhead.
I expected to find hundreds of articles out there about Devin Mesoraco. He was, after all, the first pick in the 2007 draft. Yet, I came to the conclusion that his quiet demeanor and lack of headlines is how he wants go about being a major league player. He is thoughtful in his interviews and avoids the clichÃƒÂ©s that often dominate interviews with professional athletes.
For example, in perhaps the best interview I could find (by our own Bill Lack), Devin addressed the choice between college baseball and playing for the Reds. He was going to attend University of Virginia had he not been selected so high in the amateur draft. His reasoning: University of Virginia is a great academic institution. When asked about where he loves to play, he says Pittsburgh so that his grandparents can watch him take the field. It is hard to get Mesoraco to say anything about his own individual performance, but he is quick to tell you that his father taught him everything he knows about the game of baseball.
In an age when Twitter and social media have overwhelmed fans with exposure to athletes, it is refreshing to find someone who quietly goes about his job and tries to avoid the limelight. It seems perfectly appropriate for a man whose job requires him to wear an iron mask.