4-year varsity backstop leading Falcons baseball
By David Yarger
An overlooked position in baseball sometimes is that of the catcher. Every game, the catcher is seeing a new style of pitcher, calling pitches from start to finish, helping guide the defense, throw base stealers out – oh, and they get to hit, too.
As the Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons baseball team comes into a 2019 season with high expectations, it is fortunate enough to have a backstop who has done all of that for quite some time: Ethan Guthrie.
“EG,” as they call him, has been on the varsity team for four years. Despite an arm injury his freshman year, which kept him sidelined, the catcher has received pitches from a variety of arms in the N-W program and posted decent offensive statistics, as well.
As a junior, Guthrie, in a Niagara Frontier League with several talented catchers, was a Third Team All-NFL selection. He batted .314, with 10 runs scored, two doubles, a triple, a home run and 16 RBIs – a league-best amongst catchers. Defensively, Guthrie made 119 putouts, five assists and just one error behind the dish.
Coming into 2019, Guthrie knew he’d be the guy to control the Falcons pitching staff for another season. This season’s rotation will throw a whole jumble of pitchers at Guthrie, all with different styles. The rotation also possesses a mixture of left-handers and right-handers.
Seeing something new during each game may seem like a daunting task to handle, but Guthrie said it’s part of why he enjoys the position so much.
“It’s incredible; I actually love it,” Guthrie said. “It’s one of my favorite parts about catching, actually; just catching a variety of different pitchers and seeing everyone’s different movements and everything.”
Niagara-Wheatfield coach Jim Hagerty recently praised Guthrie and his ability to control his pitching staff.
“Great pitching and good catching is just good pitching, and great pitching and great catching is great pitching,” Hagerty said. “I think he’s very important. He handles the kids well, he handles himself well. He’s a team leader and four-year varsity guy. We’re seeing some of the benefits of having taken a younger team a couple years ago.”
Additionally, Hagerty said he’s seen a lot of progression in Guthrie as a role model.
“He’s definitely taken on leadership the way he should,” Hagerty said. “I had my eye on him as a freshman. … He’s definitely taken on a leadership role and he’s stroking the ball very well.”
As a varsity member for four years, Guthrie said he’s learned a vast amount of knowledge being in the N-W program.
“The coaches throughout this program have shaped me a lot. When I was back in ninth and 10th grade, just coming through the ranks, just learning from all the seniors; it’s been incredible and it’s a great organization and a great program,” Guthrie said.
Developing as a catcher, Guthrie added, “If I’m being honest, I think I’ve gotten a lot better. My mindset, everything; physical, just blocking balls. … You just gotta stay locked in the entire game, and sometimes it can be hard. Sometimes you can get lost (due to a) strike out, passed ball; but I’ve learned to keep my mindset throughout the whole game and I think it really helps the team.”
Recently, during a game at Kenmore West, Guthrie led the Falcons offense by going 3-5 with three RBIs, a double and a run scored. Defensively, this season, Guthrie has caught two Falcons' no hitters (Ben Eodice and Ben Salomon versus CSAT; and Ryan Mellerski versus Lewiston-Porter).
Playing in his final season in the black and red, Guthrie said he has high hopes for what he and the team can do, but also stressed his focus is to be a role model for his teammates.
“Personally, my goal is to shape the younger guys on this team. And for the team this year, I want to go as far as we can go,” he said.
Guthrie and the Falcons (3-2) will dodge the chilly Western New York spring weather and head to Florida on Tuesday, for a few games under the sun. They’ll face high schools from around the U.S.