Westminster's Tozer sounds like wise Owl on catching Senior's know-how makes him sometimes seem like a part-time coach

Carroll County Baseball Preview

March 21, 1997|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The spring semester has arrived. Welcome to Advanced Catching.

Brian Tozer will be in to lecture today.

The Westminster senior, the best of a solid crop of catchers in the county, will discuss all the position's idiosyncrasies.

"For me, the most important thing is defense. You have to know what you're doing behind the plate," he said. "You have to be able to work your pitchers, know the hitters, have a good arm and after all that, think about your own hitting."

Tozer, who has been behind the plate since his Little League days, has with his stocky frame the look of a catcher. More importantly, he also has a fine understanding of the game.

"He's probably as good as anyone we've had," said Westminster co-coach Guy Stull. "We've had some good catchers [athletically], but he also brings a pure knowledge of the position. What has helped Brian so much is his commitment to the game. He gives 100 percent in practice and games, and his leadership carries over to the other players."

Back to class, where Tozer is talking about dealing with his pitchers.

He says there are signs to look for. When a pitcher is dropping his elbow, the ball tends to sail. Balance is the big key, and you don't want your pitcher overthrowing.

The Owls have a solid pitching staff, led by returnees Chris Mathias, Matt Bowers and Brian Davidson, along with newcomers Mike Taylor and left-hander Kelby Smith. Each has his strengths and weaknesses, and it's Tozer's job to know them. What pitch to throw and when -- it's all on Tozer.

"You really have to communicate," Tozer said.

"Taylor's style is very similar to [that of last year's ace] Mike Peters. And I really like catching Kelby. He listens well. When you ask for one up and in or low and in the dirt, he gets it there. He throws hard, and it's always good to have a lefty."

Said Westminster co-coach Carl Rihard: "Brian's the best I've had at calling a game. He sees what pitches are working better from his viewpoint than mine in the dugout. Having him back there the past two years, we've started to think a lot alike."

Defensively, his responsibility doesn't stop there.

Tozer, a three-year starter, has to position the field players, based on who's hitting and what pitch is being thrown. Letting everyone know how many outs there are and what base the out should be played at seem to be little things, but they are vital. Keeping pitchers focused after the pitch is another key.

"If the ball is hit to the left side, you have to tell the pitcher to get over [to first to cover the bag]," Tozer said. "If one is hit right back at him, you tell him to 'step and throw.' So many times I've seen a pitcher just throw it over there, without first taking a step. It ends up over the first baseman's head, and the guy ends up at second."

The next parts of the lessons are on the wear and tear that come with working behind the plate and the challenge of throwing out base-runners. Stull said of all the catchers who have come through over the years he's coached the game, Tozer has the quickest release.

"I really enjoy all that," Tozer said. "I love a ball in the dirt. And when a runner tries to steal, it gives me a chance to improve my skills. I don't mind it at all. It keeps you in the game at all times."

He said that understanding gives him an advantage at the plate as well. It showed last season when he hit .396 with three #F homers and 12 RBIs to earn first-team All-County and All-Central Maryland Conference honors.

"It makes it a lot easier for both pitchers and catchers at the high school level," he said. "I know what I would call in certain situations. If it's an 0-2 count, I can expect a pitcher to throw me a curve or slider. Also, you can tell the way pitchers wind up differently for certain pitches. It helps to know things like that."

Plenty of colleges have shown interest, and Tozer said he's leaning toward Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, W. Va. Physical education is a possible major, and it isn't surprising Tozer would like to coach some day, which brings up the last part of the lecture.

"The most important part of pre-game warm-ups is infield practice," he said. "You have to make good throws with a lot of chatter, and you have to look sharp. The other team sees that, and it psychs them out."

Pub Date: 3/20/97

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