‘Our program is very professional’
Tampa catcher Pendleton tries to stay one step ahead
CARY, N.C. -- Oh, the arms that Adam Pendleton has seen during his career as a catcher at Tampa.
Nine of the pitchers he's caught have been selected in the Major League Baseball draft, and another, junior Mike Adams, is one of 10 finalists for the Tino Martinez Award recognizing the most outstanding player in NCAA Division II baseball.
Undefeated so far in the 2013 National Championship, Tampa faces Grand Valley State Thursday afternoon. If the Spartans are able to get past Grand Valley, it's a straight shot to Saturday's title contest against the winner of MSU-Mankato and St. Edward's.
Pendleton credits the coaching staff, led by Joe Urso, for Tampa's success.
"Our program is very professional," said Pendleton, a senior. "Our coaches have both been in the professional environment, and they know what it takes and what is expected of you to progress and excel as an athlete and as a baseball player.
"They prepare us very well. The coaching staff, I believe, is one of the best. They really have a clear sight of what it takes to become successful and learn the game in a successful manner."
Catching has never been the easiest gig in the world. Imagine having to don all that gear and then crouch down more than 100 times a game in the Florida heat. On top of that, catchers get plowed into on close plays at the plate every so often.
Despite all that, it's a thinking man's position. The catcher is considered the field general, calling pitches, keeping track of where the fielders are positioned … everything. A mask, chest protector and shin guards are in truth the farthest things possible from the "tools of ignorance."
"I'm always talking to (pitchers) about their pitches, how they're feeling on a particular day, how we're going to go about attacking hitters," Pendleton said. "I just try to take as much information as I can and apply it to the game, so it's easier on them on the mound, so they don't have to think as much.
"That's my main goal, to just kind of let them not think too much. I'll take that and try to think for them. We're working together. It's kind of a chemistry you have to have with one another. That's the only way it's going to work."
It's an approach that has him well this year. Pendleton hit .340, had just one error behind the plate and is a finalist for the Josh Willingham Award for DII baseball's most valuable player.
For him, a ballgame doesn't just unfold on the spur of the moment. He meets with pitching coach, Sam Militello, and goes over the game plan and some strategy. After that, Pendleton has some instructions for the pitchers.
Here's what we're going to do.
This is how we're going to do it.
If it works, it works. If it doesn't, we'll adjust.
He's always thinking.
"It's a continuous cycle," Pendleton said. "You get physically exhausted. But also, you get mentally drained as well, staying focused for nine innings. Or in a doubleheader sometimes, you have two games where you have to stay mentally prepared throughout the whole day. It can be pretty tiring, but it's all fun."
If Pendleton sounds intelligent describes the responsibilities of his position, it's only because he is. He was named to the Sunshine State Conference commissioner's honor roll as both a sophomore and junior, and should be in good shape to make it this year, too.
A typical day for him starts in class at around 8 a.m. and goes to noon. After lunch, it's practice at 2 p.m. and that lasts for at least three hours. Call it a day at maybe 6 or 6:30, and then it's time to study and do homework.
A business major, he plans to go into sales and consulting after his playing days are over. There's always a possibility of getting drafted and playing professional baseball.
"School always comes first," he said. "That's always been ingrained in me since I was a little kid in my family. I've always just had that as a top priority. That and taking care of baseball are my two primary goals.
"In school, I just try my hardest to stay on top of things. I try to get to know my professors really well. If I need help here and there, I'm always in contact with people. I just try to use my time wisely."
Balance, he says, is the true key.
"Time management is the biggest thing I've learned over the years, especially being in college and playing baseball," Pendleton concluded. "It is a big commitment, so I just try balancing the two as best I can, all while trying to stay stressed out as little as possible."