In the 1940s classic baseball novel, The Kid from Tomkinsville, the young pitcher Roy Tucker would never have made a name for himself if not for the veteran catcher Dave Leonard. It was Leonard who befriended, coached and mentored the young Brooklyn Dodgers phenomenon from a small town in Connecticut. Sixty years after The Kid was published and twenty years after we met Crash Davis in Bull Durham, a real Big League catcher has published the book to own about catching at any level of baseball. The Art of Catching: the secrets and techniques of baseball's most demanding position by Brent Mayne is worth the $25 it costs whether you are a fan of the game, a catcher, a coach or a player contemplating a switch of positions.
According to Mayne, a switch of position may be your best ticket to a college scholarship and a trip to the Big Leagues. To hear him tell it, baseball is starving for good catching.
If it's true that catching is the most demanding position, then this book may merit mention right alongside Ted Williams' classic, The Science of Hitting. Mayne's "art" and Williams' "science." Sounds like a great gift.
I found the history of the position fascinating. Most importantly, I didn't realize we have seen three very different eras in catching -- turn-of-the-century stance, "Bench-era" and a modern stance that Mayne calls "art-of-catching" stance. Mayne brings some cross-sport analysis to his argument. And, interestingly, Mayne was part of an experiment in the mid-80s to reinvent the position. His father, Mike Mayne (Orange Coast College) Larry Corrigan (Cal State Fullerton) and former Major Leaguer Jamie Nelson apparently used Mayne to experiment with changing catching in the modern era.
Mayne went on to a 15-year career in the Major Leagues. As I understand it, he is also the only big-league catcher also to win a game as pitcher.
I've talked with Brent by phone and encouraged him to get out there into communities across the country to teach catching as it should be. He's a genuine and sincere ambassador of the game -- and he's got great website to boot!