Finding Where He Belongs
It didn't take too long for Scott Salmon to find where he belonged on the baseball field.
Salmon first discovered that catching was the position for him back when he played Little League.
"I tried a couple of positions and finally went behind the plate," Salmon said. "It felt natural."
At one time, the position was saddled with a negative connotation, with phrases like "putting on the tools of ignorance" getting that point across. But now, nothing could be further from the truth.
"It's lots of fun," said Salmon, now a junior at Abington Heights. "You have to stay focused. The catcher has a lot of responsibility. When I tried catcher, it felt perfect."
The change in perception of catchers in evident when you look in the dugouts of Major League Baseball teams, with over a dozen ex-catchers holding down managerial positions at the sport's highest level. The position demands leadership and smarts and Salmon seems to be handling all the various responsibilities much like he handles pitches in the dirt - very smoothly.
"He's a leader. He handles the pitching staff, a real take-charge player," Abington Heights head baseball coach Bill Zalewski said. "He's a quiet kid, but the kids all respect him."
Leadership never comes easy, but Salmon appears to have the right style of knowing when to step up and say something and when to remain low key.
"In leadership, I try to do my best," Salmon said. "I'm not a loud mouth, but I have to keep everyone focused."
Salmon has the advantage of having the whole field in front of him, allowing him to see when somebody is out of position, and the willingness to say something when he sees something wrong.
"I try to be humble, but speak up when necessary. I try to be quiet on the field," Salmon said. "I try to be a leader, voice my suggestions, but no showboating. Part of being a catcher is being a leader, and I want to lead by example."
So he goes about doing the unglamorous aspects of being a catcher, the little things that go a long way in being successful behind the plate.
"A catcher has to block balls, frame pitches, stay in command," Salmon said. "Catcher is a big part of the defensive core."
Zalewski adds that Salmon has come a long way since he first saw him as a freshman.
"He just kept getting better and better," Zalewski said. "He works harder and harder, he doesn't take a day off.
That work ethic helped Salmon get the attention of the coaches and his teammates, created a tight atmosphere on the Comets, who have a lot of underclassmen.
"He got a little playing time last year," Zalewski said. "But we're young, and there are a lot of kids that came up with him. A lot of them have played together, all part of the same group."
That respect and his knowledge behind the plate rubs off on his teammates, who know who to turn to when they bat. They like having somebody to bounce ideas off, and makes for a happier, more cohesive dugout.
"They ask me about a couple of things, like how is the umpire calling the game; is he calling inside pitches [for strikes], outside pitches," Salmon said. "It [being the catcher] gives me a better view of the strike zone and it's my responsibility to tell the team."
Being so advanced defensively may make it sound that his offense is an afterthought, but Salmon is using the information he is gleaming on defense and putting it to work in the batters' box.
"It's helping me with my timing," Salmon said. "As a first-year starter, I have to get used to the pitching."
That seems to be working for Salmon.
"He's improving; he had a big game against North Pocono, where he had a couple of RBIs in the first inning," Zalewski said. "He's working hard every day on his batting. But you can't replace what he gives you on defense."
Salmon is in the process of putting his game together, but as the Comets try to chase down a Lackawanna League division title, Zalewski knows what he can count on from his junior catcher.