GRANTSVILLE — There is a special set of skills a player has to have to succeed as a catcher.
Breana Hiatt may come by a few of them naturally, but the vast majority of them she’s earned through years of committed, relentless work. Her dedication has earned the freshman the confidence of Grantsville’s coaches and the respect of her teammates in her first year of high school softball.
“We love how hard she works,” said Grantsville head coach Heidi Taylor. “In her 80 innings, she’s only had four passed balls. She wants to be there; she wants to be on the field.”
In fact, Hiatt loves the game so much, that when she’s not playing, she wants to help call pitches for the younger teams.
“She’s actually great at every position,” Taylor said. “She’s played third base, and she played shortstop the other day. I just love her effort and attitude.” The 14-year-old said she didn’t actually choose the sport she’s so passionate about — nor the position.
“My parents just signed me up,” she said. “I just kind of started playing.” When it came to catching, a position that a lot of young players shy away from because of the gear one has to wear, it was a coach who asked her to give it a try.
“When I was about 10 years old, they just tried me at it, and I guess it worked out,” she said. “I loved it.”
For her, it’s an opportunity to have an impact on the game.
“I think just being involved in every pitch,” she said of the allure of catching. “I don’t really like the pressure, but I like that you have to react faster at catcher and third.”
The second of four children, Hiatt is batting. 400 in the last 10 games. She’s helped Grantsville to a No. 1 ranking in the 3A classification.
Taylor said it takes a special player to succeed at catcher because it requires so much confidence and skill, but then they have to be comfortable playing in the shadow of the pitchers, as the girls throwing the ball get all the credit from fans and media. “They don’t get much of the glory,” Taylor said. “Some of the time, they’re the ones getting extra strikes called because of the way they’re doing their jobs.”
While Taylor calls the pitches from the dugout, she tells her catchers that they should be honest, even blunt, with the team’s pitchers, most of whom are older and more experienced than Hiatt.
“You have to learn to communicate with the coaches, and you have to learn to call (the pitchers) out,” Taylor said. “If they think something is working really well, and it’s not, you have to tell them, or you have to ask me to tell them.”
Taylor said telling a pitcher to change a pitch or strategy can be daunting, especially for a young player. “I wouldn’t want to do it,” she said. “That’s why I give them the out to tell me it needs to happen. But I’m not behind the plate. It’s much easier for her to do it.”
Because of Hiatt’s skill and personality, Taylor said the players have handled the realities of the situation very well.
“It’s just a matter of knowing each different girl’s personality and their strengths,” she said of her four pitchers.
“I call the pitches in the game, but in practice, she has to talk to them and let them know what they’re hitting and what they’re not.” Hiatt is quiet and reserved around her coaches, but a well-liked, adventurous teen with her friends. “I know her differently than the girls,” Taylor said.
“She’s super quiet, super coachable, and works so hard. Then the girls will tell me, ‘You should have seen her at the dance. She’s so crazy and fun.’ The girls really like her, and she’s the kind of girl who would never say a mean thing to anyone.”
Hiatt said her mentors in the sport have been her coaches, including the accelerating coach, Roger Nyman, who she’s been playing for since she was 10, and one older player, who took her under her wing last season.
“They’ve taught me to be a better person and a player,” she said
And when it comes to this year’s team, Hiatt doesn’t see any limits to their potential.
“I think we can take state this year. It will take a lot of hard work, but I think we can get there.”