FRILLS CORNERS, Pa. (EYT/D9) — When Josh Daum was in Little League, his team needed a catcher.
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Daum had no idea what he was getting himself into.
The bruises. The bumps. The foul balls ricocheting the mask, off the shoulders, in the gaps between the shin guards and the chest protector.
For years, Daum has crouched behind the plate — in addition to playing, well, virtually every other position. Strapping on the “tools of ignorance” has grown on him over the years, however.
“When I first started catching, I didn’t really (like it),” Daum admitted. “Then I noticed I was actually pretty good at it. I just kept developing from Little League until now.”
Daum has become so solid behind the plate that the North Clarion coaching staff gives the senior the freedom to call the game.
He takes that responsibility seriously, including meeting with the starting pitcher ahead of each game to go over how they will attack the opposing lineup.
He also keeps a sharp eye on how the hurler’s stuff is working early in a contest.
“Usually around the first or second batter, I’ll start to figure out if his curveball is working today, or if his changeup is biting dirty,” Daum said.
He adjusts how he calls a game accordingly.
The unique insights he gets crouching behind the plate also aids him when he steps into the batter’s box as a hitter.
“It helps me know the zone a little bit more, seeing where the umpire is gonna call a strike or a ball,” Daum said. “It helps me to know what I should swing at.”
Daum doesn’t swing at many bad pitches. A patient hitter, Daum is the definition of a contact hitter.
He’s off to a hot start for North Clarion this season, batting a team-leading .429 with a pair of doubles, a triple and three runs scored for the 2-3 Wolves.
“I have some hidden pop,” Daum said. “Every once in awhile, I’ll catch one, but mostly I’m a singles- and doubles-hitter.”
It’s been a a challenging spring for Daum and his North Clarion teammates. The weather has made things difficult of the Wolves, who have practiced outside sparing and have managed to complete only five games this season.
Practicing indoors is not ideal, but Daum said the team is making the best of an unfortunate situation.
“This year has been hard for practices,” Daum said. “We haven’t been able to go outside. You have limited things you can do in the gym, so we’re not getting that game-feel.”
With the weather improving as the calendar has flipped to May, Daum is hoping he and his team can better show what they can do.
And Daum has proven he can do quite a bit.
Daum is listed on the North Clarion roster as a catcher/pitcher/utility player. While he primarily catches, Daum is as versatile as they come.
It’s one of the things that made him an attractive recruiting target for manyt area colleges.
Daum ultimately decided to take his diverse skill set to Thiel College next year.
Daum committed to play there in March.
“I went to some of the winter camps that they had and their coaching staff was probably one of my favorite coaching staffs over all the camps I went to,” Daum said. “I felt they would help me improve the most.”
Daum was also looking at Waynesburg University, Slippery Rock University and La Roche University.
Daum said he thinks he will start out his college career as something of a utility player at Thiel.
“In travel ball, I play whatever position I’m needed,” Daum said. “I’m fine with doing that at Thiel. Whatever they need me to do.”
North Clarion coach Mike Canter said Daum’s ability to do multiple things on the diamond is a precious commodity.
He should know. He’s coached Daum for a long time.
“He’s one of those guys who you can put anywhere in the field and you know he’s gonna give you 100% all the time,” Canter said. “I coach him in travel ball since he was 15. He’s just a go-getter. Hardcore.”
Daum also has excellent speed on the bases and in the field.
That speed also makes Daum and X-factor.
“There’s not a lot of people who are as fast as he is,” Canter said. “One of his biggest assets is his speed. It’s not just about being able to run fast, it’s his movement on the field, reading the ball. It’s almost like he knows what’s gonna happen before it happens.
“He’s very sound mentally,” Canter added. “It’s hard to rattle him. He leads by example more than anything else. He’s a huge asset to the program.”