Who would have thought that a 40-something warehouse manager would have the good fortune to speak with David McCarty, Brian McRae, Jason Grilli, Garrett Berger (all of MLB fame), Roger Crawford (Most Recognized Physically Challenged Athlete) and Kelley Smith (Women's Professional Soccer)?
Sort of surreal. Each day I pinch myself to make sure that I am not in some sort of John Nash-like mania and I only think I'm talking to these amazing athletes.
With several more in the on-deck circle, I truly question whether I may have died in my sleep and ended up in locker room heaven. I expect to find myself with a lifetime supply of Big League Chew while being surrounded by athletes dressed in towels as far as the eye can see.
So, when Coach Bob Salomon, of "A Glove of Their Own" fame, called and asked me if I wanted to meet another one of his baseball friends. I chuckled, shook my head and took down catcher Brent Mayne's phone number.
With my palms sweating slightly and finger trembling, I keyed in Brent's number, feeling almost the same as when I used to call up Roberta Welch when I was in sixth grade ("Oh...I hope she doesn't answer..I hope my voice doesn't crack").
Much to my good fortune (I guess), Brent answered the phone and seemed to overlook the crackle in my voice as I introduced myself. For the next hour, Mayne entertained me with his sense of humor, his candidness and his immense knowledge of, not only of the sport of baseball, but about the thought process, physical skill and tremendous amount of knowledge he possessed from his crouch behind the plate.
Tools of ignorance? I think not. A finer human being, you'll never meet. Thoughtful, kind and generous with his time and his intelligence. And his passion for the sport of baseball explodes out of his soft spoken voice.
"I really love the game of baseball and find it endlessly fascinating. It can teach you something new daily if you can be open and listen. Lessons that can be of benefit both on the field and off."
And Mayne's book the "Art of Catching-The Secret's and Techniques of Baseball's Most Demanding Position", which is a must for every baseball players library, should be forever referred to by the oxi-moron "The Tool of Ignorant Intelligence."
Mayne caught in the major leagues for fifteen seasons for seven major league teams, primarily with the Kansas City Royals. In his book, he takes everything he learned during his career as a backstop and folds it neatly between the pages of this beautiful instructional how-to manual/why to manual.
"I wrote the book because there is such a void of information on the catching position", explained Mayne, who boasts a .263 lifetime batting average to go with an incredible lifetime fielding percentage of .993.
"For a game that has been pretty well dissected from every angle to have nothing on the most important defensive position on the field seems goofy to me. My primary purpose was to share my experience of 15 years behind the dish and a unique and new catching philosophy with the baseball community."
The book, which is available through Mayne's extremely entertaining and informative website at www.brentmayne.com, as well as on Amazon.com, covers everything the catcher must know including:
- Athletic posture and stances
- Glove mechanics and throwing to bases
- Pitchouts, backpicks, and handling pop flies
- Calling games and working with pitchers
- Getting the most out of drills and bullpen time
- What it takes to play in the big leagues
The book even includes every Mom's favorite chapter, "Making plays at the plate without getting hurt."
"The catcher is the most important defensive position on the field, yet is by far the most misunderstood. In The Art of Catching, I distill years of Major League experience to provide cutting-edge overviews of all the crucial technical aspects of the position."
The information in the book can be utilized by players from Little League to the major leagues. It is filled with many photos and illustrations, summaries of key points, and thought-provoking quotations.
"The book is doing great and we actually just went to a second printing. I do have plans for a second book, but I'm planning to do video clip series first."
Mayne, who ranks fourth in all-time career fielding percentage (.993) and 75th for games caught (1143), resides in Orange County, California where he gives both private and group catching lessons. He also appears through out the country at several camps and clinics.
"When I'm not catching, I'm usually chasing the kids around, surfing, golfing, or doing yoga. My family and I like to fish and travel, too."
His website is well designed and packed with additional information. It includes a tip of the day and a blog which Mayne posts on frequently. His recent post entitled Memories is a hilarious look at 1980's baseball cards, while his column of September 17, 2008 on steroid use in the 90's is a MUST READ.
Despite spending a decade and a half in the bigs and catching Brent Saberhagen's 1991 no-hitter, Mayne's greatest baseball moment occurred on August 22, 2000.
Mayne had been kept out of the starting line-up by an injury to his left shoulder. He pitched a scoreless 12th inning before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the frame because the injury prevented him from swinging a bat correctly. The Rockies scored a run for a 7-6 win making Mayne the first position player to to win a game since 1968 (Rocky Calavito).
His other career highlights include "going to the playoffs in 2004 with the Dodgers, winning the Southern League with the Memphis Chicks in 1990, playing for my Dad (Mike Mayne), and all of the great folks I met in baseball."
I hung up the phone knowing that I added another brush with greatness to my quickly growing resume. I pinched myself, shook my head and recited Brent's off used words of wisdom from his website...
"Til next time, have fun, play hard, and keep your eye on the ball."