Lefty-throwing catchers among game’s great rarities
The Pirates were in second place in the National League East but far enough behind the New York Mets that pitching coach Ray Miller, left-handed pitcher Neal Heaton and reserve first baseman/outfielder Benny Distefano were already looking ahead to the 1989 season.
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“Roland ordered a left-handed catching mitt and it came in the mail two days later,” Squires said.
That led to a childhood dream eventually coming true. Squires’ father had been a catcher growing up and the son wanted to follow in his footsteps only to be told by his Little League coaches that left-handers don’t play the position.
However, Squires proved that to be false at the major league level and so did Distefano. Both have distinct memories of certain moments behind the plate.
Distefano’s came in his last game as a catcher when Braves center field Oddibe McDowell stole second base. Distefano made a strong throw that likely would have nabbed the speedy McDowell. However, the throw was late because Distefano had to block a curveball in the dirt from Doug Bair.
In Squires’ first game at catcher, Hall of Famer Robin Yount came to the plate for the Milwaukee Brewers with no outs, a runner on first base and Ed Farmer pitching. Squires called for a full-count curveball and Farmer froze Yount for a called strike three.
“You should have seen the look on Robin’s face,” Squires recalled with a laugh. “I think the last thing he expected was a left-handed first baseman calling for a curveball on a 3-2 pitch.”
John Perrotto is a freelance writer from Beaver Falls, Pa.