By Jason P. Skoda
Their masks may conceal their eyes but it does not impair their vision.
“Catchers see the whole field, there is no one behind them and they have a hand in everything,” Mountain Pointe softball coach James Bradford said. “At every level of softball the catcher is a vital position.
“They got a lot going on and it takes a special kind of player to handle all of those things. They become the coach on the field.”
The Division I programs in Ahwatukee have two of the better ones in Desert Vista senior Ali Cerminara and Mountain Pointe’s Hannah Hoban.
Although they are at different points in their careers, the importance to their team’s success just might be on equal footing.
Cerminara, a senior, is back behind the plate after having bunion surgery and it isn’t a coincidence the Thunder has surged in the power rankings, including sweeping a home-and-home with the Pride last week.
“Everyone feels so much more confident when she is back there,” Thunder coach Chris Crowl said. “She is finally healthy for us and given us a big jolt. Maddie Kelly was catching for us and did a great job, but Ali knows (pitcher) Dani (Block) so well and (Dani) has a bounce in her step.
“Ali has meant so much to this program because of the way she plays the game and how everyone follows her lead.”
Cerminara, who will continue her career at Cal State East Bay in Hayward, Calif., fully embraces what it takes to be a catcher.
“You have to be the vocal leader on the field because you are the only one who can see everything,” she said. “You have to get dirty, play hard and handle every pitch.”
While she wasn’t able to take her perch behind home plate until recently, Cerminara has been swinging it nearly all season after missing the first six games. She began the week hitting .434 (23 for 53) with 11 runs and 10 RBIs.
“She is hitting the ball lights out and we need someone to step up,” Crowl said. “She’s the clean-up hitter and she always seems to come through when we need it the most.”
Hoban is starting to get a similar reputation as the Pride sophomore has developed into a top hitter and receiver already.
The Pride entered this week having already matched last year’s win total (13) with playoff appearance in sight.
If Mountain Pointe can keep its winning ways the remaining two weeks it will be a breakthrough season for the Pride and Hoban is one of the reasons there is excitement around the program.
Most of the core players are underclassmen, including Hoban’s cousin and battery mate Kristen.
“They are quite the duo,” Bradford said. “They work well together and give us a chance to win every time we take the field.”
Hoban is comfortable behind the plate and knows what it means to put on the gear, but that hasn’t always been the case.
“I thought it was going to be easy and I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I get to sit,’” she said. “I found out it was going to be much more than that. You have to make the pitcher look good, keep the defense on their toes, and be part of everything.”
The most important intangible of a catcher may not even have anything to do with physical ability. They need to have a voice that is heard and respected. One that carries some weight and comes with authority.
“You have to be a leader,” she said. “If you can’t open your mouth and tell people what to do, maybe catching isn’t for you. I have no problem telling people what to do.”
And it is clear that the Pride is willing to listen.