Evergreen’s baseball roster is comprised of 12 players, and none may be quite as important as the guy behind the plate.
Blake Whitehead is the lone catcher on the depth chart entering a season where the roster is as low as it’s ever been in Evergreen coach Chad Burchett’s tenure. As the only catcher on the roster, Burchett posits that without Whitehead — a first-team all-3A Greater St. Helens League utility player as a junior — the Evergreen Plainsmen would be in big trouble.
“If I lose him, I’m in a world of trouble,” Burchett said.
Those expectations are perfectly fine for Whitehead. The to-himself, unassuming senior is behind the plate for his second season after popping around as a utility player.
Does Whitehead, perhaps the player most directly effected by the lack of depth, see it as an issue?
“No, not at all,” Whitehead said.
Neither does Burchett. When Whitehead’s behind the plate, the longtime coach puts any worries aside.
“He embodies what I like out of a player: a quiet, confident kid that just goes out and takes care of business,” Burchett said. “Doesn’t have to tell anybody how good he is or isn’t. He’s respectful, not a kid who talks crap to the other team.”
Whitehead began to fill in at catcher last year, but was needed more in various other positions. But over the summer, to Burchett’s surprise, catcher is where he blossomed.
Sure, the roster isn’t long. But Whitehead believes the Plainsmen possess the talent to make some noise in what could figure to be a top-heavy league. With league MVP and one of the area’s top pitchers Tommy Snyder graduated, along with five seniors, that puts Evergreen right where Whitehead wants them: overlooked.
“I think we’re underrated this year,” Whitehead said.
He’s not setting any overly lofty goals for the team. The senior, rather, is set on taking the season one game at a time.
And in his role, he’s taking one task at a time. He worked on blocking. He honed in on his footwork. Mastered pitch calling. And, he says most importantly, learned how to be a leader amongst his teammates.
If a player is overly upset, Whitehead is there to help them remain composed.
“(I’m) keeping track of everything,” Whitehead says.
But with his quiet demeanor, an average person passing by might not even notice everything Whitehead is doing. Particularly when the Plainsmen field junior Carter Monda, one of the area’s top returning players.
But other coaches certainly do.
“Most people are like, ‘who’s that little guy? He’s a hell of a player,’ ” Burchett said.
As Burchett recognizes, that success hinges on Whitehead staying healthy at one of the sport’s most physical positions.
Perhaps a reason for that is it’s the nature of his position. Whitehead says catcher is more of a mental battle for him than a physical battle.
“You’re focusing on other people as well as yourself,” Whitehead said. “You’re thinking ahead.”