In a different time in his career, sitting in the bullpen on game night would’ve been harder for John Hester.
It’s still not fun. The 29-year-old catcher still wants to be on the field every day. But with three seasoned players at his position on the Salt Lake Bees’ roster, it’s not something he can expect.
“It’s one of the situations where all three of us understand what it is,” he said. “There’s a rotation, and there’s going to be games when you’re in the bullpen and it’s not your time out on the field. Each one of us wants to play every day, but we try to make the most of the opportunities we do get.”
Hester, Luke Carlin and Chris Snyder are among the most experienced players on the roster when it comes to major league games played, and each of them had big league appearances last year.
That’s why it’s so unusual for them to all be on the same team in the same level. All of them could likely contribute to a big league squad, but as it happens, they’re all battling for the same spot on a Triple-A team.
It’s understandably an awkward arrangement, with one catching, one starting as the designated hitter, and one sitting out every night. But like Hester, Snyder and Carlin are veterans: They’re all old enough to take a professional approach to the musical chairs game in the lineup.
“[Manager Keith Johnson] does a good job of letting us know when we’re going to get in there so it’s not too much of a surprise,” Carlin said. “We’ve all been around for a little while now, so he’s respectful of that as well and kind of gives us a heads-up.”
It’s not the first time the threesome has been in the same organization. Snyder, the one who has spent the most time in the big leagues, was the starter in Arizona for a few years. In 2009, Hester and Carlin were in Triple-A Reno right under him, and both made major league appearances. Hester was a Pacific Coast League all-star.
This situation is a bit different, and they all know it.
Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger are so far secure on the Angels roster, so the Salt Lake’s catchers are biding their time, trying to shine with the Bees in hopes of finding a path back to the majors. And they’re all mindful it might be in a different organization.
“They’re not trying to keep good players out of the big leagues,” Carlin said. “Whether it’s Chris or John or me that’s doing well, there’s a need for catching in other places than L.A.”
For now, it’s all about just playing ball.
Snyder has been hitting the best, getting starts as a designated hitter and catcher while hitting .358 with five homers entering Sunday night’s game. After batting .176 in Houston last season, he acknowledged it is good to be feeling some power at the plate even when he can’t catch.
“I’m getting at-bats, I’m seeing pitches, and that’s good,” he said. “Being DH gives me some time to catch with some of these guys in the bullpen and get some work in with that.”
But all three agree defense is what’s going to get them back in the majors, where all three hope to be sooner rather than later. Carlin and Hester have caught a few runners stealing already.
They’re professionals, so it’s a manageable situation. They try to keep loose in the dugout; they approach their work with focus. But all three haven’t lost sight of the prize.
“We have a good time but we all know what our goals are,” Snyder said. “By no means do we want to be career Triple-A catchers. We all want to get there.”
Three catchers, a wealth of experience
Chris Snyder • 706 major league games, .998 fielding percentage, .225 batting average
John Hester • 92 major league games, 1.000 fielding percentage, .216 batting average
Luke Carlin • 50 major league games, .991 fielding percentage, .179 batting average