Most aspiring professional athletes train for years at one position just for the chance to try out for a major league team. But for Ramon Hernandez, he only had two months to make his dream come true.
Hernandez, originally from Venezuela, attended tryouts in his hometown as a shortshop and center fielder. By sheer dumb luck, the person supposed to be catching for the pitchers did not show up and Hernandez volunteered for the gig. A scout told him he had two months to train as a catcher and when he returned, he signed Hernandez and brought him to the states, according to MLB.com.
Thus began Hernandez’s twenty-year career as a catcher.
Salvador Perez, a hulking shortstop at 6 feet, three inches and 25 pounds, got th same transitional treatment. A scout told him if he had any hopes of making it in professional ball, he needed to get used to being in gear.
“So I became a catcher. I loved it right away. You’re always in the game,” Perez said in the report.
The trend is common in the major leagues. This season, 44 percent of the 72 catchers in MLB games have been Latino. Venezuela spawns the most catchers, with 15 playing this year.
Puerto Rican players have also gained a reputation for commanding the game. Tweelve players from Puerto Rico have caught in MLB games this year.
Catching is a tough job, but someone has to do it, so why not Latinos, Hernandez said.
“Not many people like to catch. You have to love the game to catch. That’s why so many of us [from Latin America] do it,” he said. “Who wants to get beat up? You take so much [abuse] back there with the collisions, foul tips, balls hitting you all over your body.”
For Venezuelans, the honor to be a leader and a captain is enough to counter the toll the position takes on the body.
“In this position, you are the leader on the field,” Wilson Ramos, a catcher from Venezuela, said. “That’s what we love.”