Of all the players at Citi Field Kids Day, I was most impressed by Josh Thole, who Terry Collins introduced as a rising young star in the National League.
Even after speaking with Beningo and Roberts on WFAN in the morning and then fielding basically the same set of questions in the afternoon, Thole smiled and delivered in-depth, informative answers.
What’s more is that he seemed like a genuine, friendly guy. Thus far in his short career, he has flown under the radar due to some of the guys like Wright, Reyes, Beltran and Santana that he has played with.
He was even kind enough to set aside a chair so Steve Keane from the Kranepool Society could set down his bag and talk with him.
Keane and I agreed that Thole is rapidly becoming our new favorite Met.
“As a team, we give ourselves high expectations all year round no matter what the situation is,” said Thole. “We have to go out and we have to hit the ball, we have to make our pitches. We do that and we’re going to win ballgames. There’s not one person that can argue with me that we don’t have just as good a lineup as anyone in the big leagues.”
His confidence and demeanor really made a great impression on me as well as the other bloggers and writers. He emphasized that this team has the pieces to be successful, and you really can’t predict anything until games are played.
“Look at the years some of our guys had,” said Thole. “Our bullpen is back together. We may be the underdogs, but who thought the Giants were going to win last year? The Texas Rangers, they don’t have any money, and they’re in the World Series. That’s my point, anything can happen.”
I asked Thole about what it meant to work with a veteran catcher such and Henry Blanco and this year Ronny Paulino.
“It’s needed in every clubhouse,” said Thole. “My first year was Brian Schneider. You get around those guys, and they kind of lead me by the hand. When something comes up, I talk to them and they tell me. That’s what Henry was so great about; he was just honest with me. If I was making mistakes, he was telling me, and I think that’s important. Ronny’s a guy that’s going to be there and have your back.”
He said the being a catcher helps him with pitch recognition as a hitter. He’d like to eventually develop more power at the plate. His goal for this year is to do a better job hitting the breaking ball. For now though, he is content with approaching every at-bat like he has two strikes.
“Choke up and spread out a little bit,” said Thole. “That’s always been the method, and I’m going to stick with that.
Thole is confident that it won’t take long at all to get on the same page as Chris Capuano and Chris Young.
“They’re supposedly very intelligent guys from what I here,” said Thole. “They’re very smart baseball guys, and they’ve all pitched in the big leagues long enough. You get a guy like that and it’s easy. They know what they want to do and they stick with it.”
When asked about R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball, Thole said he works especially hard in catching that pitch. The two developed a chemistry at Buffalo, one in which Thole hopes to continue this year.
“It’s challenging,” said Thole. “I have to say it’s the hardest pitch to catch.”
In addition to his confidence, Thole also showed his humility. While the media has already proclaimed Thole as the starting catcher, Thole cautioned about sitting on his heels thinking that he has a role locked up.
“I’m going to take it how I always take it,” said Thole. “I don’t have a contract and anything can happen. I have two options left; they can send me to Buffalo if they want. If I come in with ‘I’m the catcher,’ it normally comes around and gets you. So I’m going to come in like anything else. If they tell me at the end of March that I made the team, I’m going to be excited and keep working.”
Not only are you going to make the team this year, Josh, you will turn lots of heads if you continue that positive, humble attitude.
Here’s another guy who fans of the game simply cannot root against. He does things the right way, which is very noble of a young ballplayer.