From the Pages of Vine Line: Q&A with bullpen catcher Andy Lane
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Ever wonder what it’s like to be a major league bullpen catcher? For the August issue of Vine Line, we caught up with the Cubs’ Andy Lane, who gave us some inside information on the gig. While being an organization’s bullpen catcher might sound like a dream job, there’s a lot more that goes into it than just warming-up relievers.
DREAM JOB I played in the minors, but everyone eventually gets that call or meeting where they tell you, “Hey, we’re letting you go.” But I always wanted to make it [to the major leagues] somehow, whether it was as a coach or whatever else. This opportunity came, and I am blessed enough to get to be here and work at Wrigley Field every day. It’s awesome.
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES I used to catch Kerry Wood and Sean Marshall and a bunch of other guys in the offseason to pay for my training. [The Cubs] just gave me a call, and Kerry Wood asked me, “Do you think you would want to do this?” And I was like, “Sure, why not?” So they brought me in, and the next thing you know, I’m wearing pinstripes.
THE AUDITION [The tryout] was in Spring Training, three days before we left, and I had to throw batting practice and catch Randy Wells. Jim Hendry offered me the job, and I was like, “Let me think on it.” Then the next day, I said, “I’ll take it.” I didn’t have too many days to think. I had two days to pack for six months.
WILD CARD I get to the park about five or six hours before the game. I get the balls ready for the pitchers and for batting practice. Then if some guys need to throw—they’ll throw a side or the starter or maybe our relievers need to throw a little bit—I’ll catch. I’ll throw batting practice if they need me to, hit fungoes, catch balls at second base. Whatever Dale [Sveum] needs me to do basically. I’m a wild card.
ANOTHER LOOK I’ve always tried to be the best at what I do. Even though I’m not playing, I still want to be the best and give guys good, creative feedback. Those guys, they need that. They like to hear it because they throw it, but they’re never on the other end.
PINCH ME I’ll never forget the Opening Day I caught Ryan Dempster. I was warming him up down the line. It was freezing cold. We were playing the Pirates. It was 2011, and it was so packed. I had never been to Wrigley. It was my first time at Wrigley, so it was unbelievable.
IN THE DIRT We take pride in [not letting balls get past us onto the field]. Me and Franklin Font, we try to keep the number down. We try to beat the other side and see if they have any get past them. But sometimes you just don’t have a shot. But I take pride in not letting the ball [get past me] because if it gets down to that mound, they stop play and it gets on TV. That’s embarrassing to us.
THE RIGHT STUFF The nastiest curveball would have to go to Kerry Wood. [Jeff] Samardzija has got the nastiest split-fingered pitch. Everybody has got a different pitch that’s tough, but Kerry Wood’s curveball sticks out in my head as one of the hardest pitches to catch. And hit, if you have to. But I learned I had to catch that one early.