Same Road, Different Directions

Life in the Minors
January, 2004
Part 2

Shoppach sold on Sox fans too
By Joe Kuras

Kelly Shoppach is 24 year-old catching prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization. The first Red Sox game he watched in Boston was in 2001 as a pro prospect out of Baylor University. Jason Varitek was injured and Scott Hatteberg & Doug Mirabelli were sharing the catching. One play in this game was his defining moment in deciding to become a Boston Red Sox catcher.

“Mirabelli threw out a guy at 2nd and got a standing ovation!” he recalled. “Oh man, I want to get my career started. I want to play for Boston. I want to be in this organization!”

Since then, in just two years of professional baseball, Shoppach has steadily climbed the ladder from Single-A Sarasota to Double-A Portland. He now finds himself in Triple-A Pawtucket, one step away from the big leagues. And after being rated the #2 prospect in the Boston Red Sox minor league organization, he has put it all in perspective.

“Catchers are the guys behind the works that keep the machine running,” Shoppach offered. “It’s my job to get everybody rolling in the right direction. I’m not the guy on Sports Center every night. I go about my business, do what I can. I’m the internal guy – being with my team, instead of on TV & radio.”

Not a bad philosophy for a young catcher who is expected to lead a team of minor league veterans.

“That’s tough to be a young guy, period, to come into a veteran situation or a veteran clubhouse. There is a period where you have to gain the respect. You can’t go in and say ‘OK, I’m the catcher, give me your respect.’ It doesn’t work like that.”

Shoppach got some good advice from veteran pitcher Ryan Rupe at the end of the 2003 season - to get to know the guys and get comfortable with each other until you realize that you are no different than they are.

“It’s not just going to happen, no matter how old you are. You have to get on the same page as the pitcher, and work together to be successful.”

Shoppach may be a young prospect. But he is already wise enough to know that a good catcher needs to have good interaction with the coaches.

“I try to go in there every day and find out what kind of mood they are in. So when they can’t be on the field, I’ll know how to react. I try to get a feel of what they are feeling, or what kind of game they want to play. I try to pass along to pitchers the messages that the coaches are trying to get to them when they can’t be out on the field.”

As the 2004 Triple-A season approaches, Shoppach looks forward to the managerial aspects of the game as opposed to coaching. That is, the strategies to win and succeed on the field, versus coaching fundamentals and baseball mechanics.

“At every level you are being coached. You’re being coached all the time. But at the same time, (at the Triple-A level) you are more aware of the strategy of the game, to win the game.”

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