SARASOTA — TD Dietrich had no idea he was going to be a catcher when he first stepped onto the baseball field eight years ago.
He continually rotated through positions, but by age 10, it was apparent Dietrich was destined to be a catcher.
“I enjoy being like a general when I’m catching,” Dietrich said. “I love being in every play.”
In the past three years, the Out-of-Door Academy seventh-grader steadily improved his play at the position. And now, the 13-year-old is the starting catcher for the Thunder varsity team.
But aside from his expertise behind the plate, Dietrich also has become one of the vocal leaders of the team — much to the surprise of his coaches, who knew nothing about the young talent before this year.
“Catcher is probably the hardest position to play in baseball, and he’s just doing an outstanding job,” coach Mike Verrill said. “I knew nothing about him until he came out for the team. I gave him a couple lessons before the season started, and he looked pretty good, but you never know until an actual game how they’re going to react.
“He’s a little leader out there,” he added. “He directs the field and makes sure everyone is where they need to be. He’s really well aware of what’s happening on the field in front of him.”
Dietrich began playing baseball when he was 5 years old at the urging of his father, Billy, a former Texas Tech University pitcher.
“My dad influenced me to play baseball at an early age — I’ve been playing all my life basically,” Dietrich said.
He started playing little league for Twin Lakes in Sarasota before moving over to Manatee East. Two years ago, Dietrich began playing travel ball for the Lakewood Ranch Longhorns, which he said helped prepare him for playing baseball at the high school level.
“I’ve been able to work on many things like catching and hitting drills — many of the things we do up here,” Dietrich said.
The transition from little league to high school baseball appears to have been a smooth one for Dietrich. Although he admits, like his coaches, he didn’t quite know what to expect when he stepped onto the Thunder practice field for the first time a couple months ago.
“I knew it was going to be hard coming up here, but I’ve gotten into the swing of things so now it’s (pretty) casual,” Dietrich said. “It’s tough because I’m a new student here, and I didn’t know anyone, but they let me into the group, and I feel really welcome now.”
Aside from adjusting to his new role on the field, Dietrich also had to adjust to the strength and speed of the high school game.
“Catching-wise, I was used to seeing kids throw 50 or 60 (mph), and when I came up here, I had to adapt to catching faster pitches,” Dietrich said. “I still need to improve in blocking because some pitches can be wild (and get behind you). Blocking is important so that doesn’t happen.”
Dietrich still has five years left with the Thunder following this season — much to the delight of Verrill and the rest of the ODA coaching staff. But that doesn’t mean Dietrich, who aspires to be like Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, isn’t already looking ahead to the future.
“I want to play for the University of Texas,” Dietrich said. “My dad is a big fan of them, and I play for the Longhorns, and I’m a fan of Texas.”
Contact Jen Blanco at email@example.com.
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