Let’s make a list of the qualities of a top catcher and apply them to Eastern’s Dylan Stezzi.
Stezzi is a captain of the No. 1 team in the Inquirer Top 25 as a junior.
“He’s a leader of this baseball team off the field and on the field,” Eastern coach Rob Christ said.
“He’s loud of practice and he’s loud at games,” said Eastern’s senior star centerfielder, Jack Herman. “If you’re not hearing Dylan yelling, something’s wrong.”
Locked and loaded at the plate?
Stezzi leads the Vikings in home runs with five. He jacked a two-run blast in the first inning Tuesday as Eastern tightened its grip on first place in the Olympic American with a 4-3 win over No. 7 Shawnee.
“We won the Bill Campbell tournament at our place Saturday and he hit a homer to dead center, 400-foot shot,” Christ said. “He has tremendous power. Pitcher, beware.”
“My whole life,” Stezzi said of questions that have accompanied his status as a rare lefthanded catcher. “People always said to me, ‘Well, you won’t be catching when you get older.’ It made me work harder.”
It’s kind of ironic. Stezzi is the prototypical catcher in every way — he even has the burly build of a backstop — except for the fact that he throws lefthanded.
But it never stopped him when he started playing baseball for the Gibbsboro-Voorhees youth organization. Or when he advanced to travel ball. Or when he joined the Eastern program.
Christ said he never had a lefthanded catcher in his coaching career before Stezzi. “It’s really not been an issue,” the coach said. “He’s done a great job back there. This is a kid who just loves to play baseball. He has that joie de vivre.
“He loves being behind the plate. He’s like a bird in a nest back there, ‘I’m home.’”
Stezzi said he has worked for most of his career with Eastern teammate Isaac Fendrick’s father, Jeff, who was a catcher at Lafayette College.
“He’s helped my whole life,” Stezzi said. “He’s always believed in me and my dad and all my coaches have always believed in me.
“No matter what people say, I go back and do the job.”
Stezzi said many baseball people have uniformed misgivings about the ability of lefthanders to catch.
“When I was younger, my dad would look into stuff, and one of the best catching coaches in the nation, he said there were four or five things that people look at,” Stezzi said. “But the only true one that is a challenge for a lefthanded catcher is the tag at home because you have to come across your body.
“The throw to third, you can make the adjustment. The throw to second is the same thing. And I like to have the advantage of picking off at first. I love to do that. It’s harder for a righty, but as a lefty you can just sling it down there.”
Stezzi is a strong defensive catcher. He threw out a baserunner in Tuesday’s big win over Shawnee.
He also is a top hitter. He’s batting .364 and leads the Vikings in home runs with five and RBIs with 27.
“I’m actually kind of hurt by that,” Herman, who has three homers, joked about trailing Stezzi for the team lead.
Stezzi’s biggest contribution to the Vikings’ cause might be as a leader. He looks like a catcher and he sounds like one, too, constantly chattering in the dugout when the team is at bat and talking to pitchers and infielders from the behind the plate.
“I like being leader on field and the captain back there,” Stezzi said. “You are the only person who sees the whole field. You have to be a leader, make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing.
“That’s what I love about catching, I love being a leader out there.”