PEORIA, Ariz. – In rookie Adam Moore’s first spring training, Seattle Mariners Camp 2007, he was fresh out of college, had played 62 professional games a year earlier and knew everything.
“What do I remember about that first camp with Adam?” asked roving catching instructor Roger Hansen. “I remember grabbing him by the chest protector, pulling him out of a game and taking him to another field to work on a few things.”
That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship – and the day Moore began to learn what it took to be a major league catcher.
Now in camp as a 25-year-old, Moore has caught 412 minor league games and six more in the big leagues. He’s here with a handful of other catchers, all with more experience, to win one of two spots on the opening day roster.
Moore said he’s ready. And Hansen agrees.
“Adam is ready to catch every day or play whatever role the team wants him to play in the big leagues,” Hansen said. “It’s a maturing process back there, finding who you are as a catcher. He can handle a pitching staff, make in-game adjustments that no one would notice but him.”
Moore knows how far that journey has taken him, because he remembers how it began – and what he was like.
“Right out of school I thought I was ready, thought I knew how to catch. I had to re-learn almost everything about the position,” Moore said. “They broke me down in every way – including my confidence for a while.
“By 2008 in Class AA, I started to get respect from my pitchers. It’s in the way you handle a game, handle a pitcher, a staff. The way you take charge, help a guy who may not have his best stuff that night get through a game anyway.”
“I caught Doug Fister the last two years, and there were times he just didn’t have it on any given night,” Moore said. “But working together he’d go six, seven good innings. You see what they have that game, how you can work with it. You get them to believe in you back there.
“You help them realize that even without their best stuff, if they put the pitch where you want it, it won’t get hit.”
It can’t hurt Moore’s case this spring that he batted .287 last season playing in Double A and Triple A, with 12 home runs and 55 RBI 118 games. But manager Don Wakamatsu said it won’t matter, either.
“We’re going to go with the two best catchers, and offense is secondary,” Wakamatsu said. “The guys that win the jobs are going to be able to help our pitching staff win games, period.”
Moore is on board.
“When you’re a catcher, defense always comes first – always,” he said. “You’re the quarterback out there, so you’d better have the answers when someone needs them. The first challenge is getting a pitcher to listen to you if you want a certain pitch and he thinks another pitch is better.
“You’d better know the game. You’d better know your pitchers. You’d better know yourself.”
A year ago, Moore came to spring training without a chance of making the team.
“There was Kenji (Johjima), Rob Johnson, Jeff Clement and Jamie Burke ahead of me,” Moore said. “I knew I wasn’t going to catch many innings in that camp, but I learned a lot – from the coaches and from those catchers.
“The guys we have in camp today, I respect all of them. They’ve all spent time in the big leagues. Rob, Josh (Bard), Eliezer Alfonzo, Guillermo Quiroz, we talk pitching. We talk catching. I learn something new all the time with them.
“I want the job this spring. The guys I’m competing with are great friends and I respect them. That makes for great competition.”
Hansen laughs when he talks about Moore’s first camp and that chest protector-grabbing moment.
“He was like all young catchers – he wasn’t focusing, he had a bit of an attitude problem,” Hansen said. “We dealt with it on another field, like we do with all our catchers. Adam became himself, like all catchers do. They’re all different, but they all need to know certain things.
“Adam is ready.”
How far has he come?
“My first camp, our first trip, someone was telling me which bus to get on and I kind of blew them off like I knew everything,” Moore said, shaking his head. “So I got on the coaches’ bus. All the coaches started getting on, and (John) McLaren said, ‘Are you lost?’
“I had to get off that bus and on the players’ bus with all the players watching and laughing. It was a lesson learned.”