NORMAN — Most coaches perceive a catcher having a big day at the plate the same as finding a wad of $20 bills in an old pair of pants.
Either one is an unexpected surprise. In Oklahoma’s case, the surprise has come along more often than not.
The Sooners (18-8, 2-1 Big 12) actually have two hot-hitting catchers in Mac James and Anthony Hermelyn.
James has been the conference’s best hitter thus far. He enters the start of a three-game series at Kansas (17-8, 2-1) at 6 p.m. today batting a Big 12 best .429 with three home runs and 22 RBIs.
Hermelyn is hitting at a .327 clip with a homer and 18 RBIs.
One will catch two games in the three-game series. They’ll trade the catchers’ gear for a first baseman’s glove in one game of the series.
The goal is neither wears down due to too many innings behind the plate.
“I think it’s really good. Anytime you can have your legs underneath you, it’s an awesome deal,” James said. “I think with the weightlifting and everything, we’re going to be strong throughout the year and it’s going to help a lot.”
There isn’t a more grueling position in sports than catcher. Start with getting in and out of squat well over 250 times. That alone would force 911 calls from most. There’s also blocking balls in the dirt, the constant paranoia that comes with runners on base and foul tips that constantly find unpadded parts of the body on a catcher.
Hermelyn learned this all too well last season. He caught more than 50 games as a freshman last season. By May, the physical rigors had exacted a toll.
Hughes wasn’t even OU’s coach last June but he could tell that Hermelyn was worn down to a nub when OU went to Virginia Tech for the Blacksburg Regional.