JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – In the Carson-Newman baseball clubhouse, the Eagles joke about the seniority of catcher Gooch Greer. After all the Dickson, Tenn. native was a freshman for coach Tom Griffin in 2012, a year he spent as a redshirt. In 2015, Greer used a medical redshirt leaving him with a year of eligibility after 2016.
The backstop said he has no idea what he plans to do in 2017 but the players are thankful to have him on their side in this season. Junior catcher Greg Jones (Maryville, Tenn.) called him "one of the greatest assets" on the team because his experience mentors everyone.
A season on the sidelines for most athletes would conjure up emotions of frustration and impatience but Greer saw the 2015 as a blessing.
"I think it was more beneficial for me because I got to watch the game more than play the game" Greer said. "As you go through that you get to pick up on more of the tidbits of what actually goes on. I think it helped me improve as a player and helped me as a teammate. I got to help the guys and encourage them. Even the younger guys in the dugout I got to help them develop by watching what I was seeing."
The game-caller broke a 0-for-14 string at the plate on Saturday against Northwood (Mich.) with a single into center field in the second inning and with a career .194 career batting average, Greer is the definition of a defensive catcher.
"I take pride in it" Greer said of the designation. "That is what I do. I know hits will come here and there but I know that I'm a wall back there. As coach Griff always says you're the quarterback of the field. I like having that role and I embrace it."
The native of the Volunteer State has committed just one error in 186 career chances and has thrown out seven baserunners in 16 stolen-base attempts. Griffin has been recognized as one of the best catching coaches in the nation and Greer quickly credits the 11-year Carson-Newman coach for his success in baseball and in life.
"He's done everything and taught me about growing up as a man," Greer said. "As a catcher, everything that you may need he provides it. He provides his time and his effort daily for you. He has had a huge impact on my life."
Greer's personal goals for the season focus on his work behind-the-plate as a defender and as a leader for the pitchers and catchers.
"I want to help the pitchers improve" Greer said. "I am a defensive catcher. I work well with the bullpen and help these younger guys improve throughout their year so it's not just about my personal goals. I'd love to do well and I feel like I am but I wanted to keep passed balls limited and don't let anyone steal."
With his focus on helping other players grow, the junior has aided in the transition of 10 newcomers to a pitching staff that features 15 hurlers and just 35.1 innings of Division II experience prior to 2016 outside of ace Vince Apicella (Dillsburg, Pa.).
"Getting to know the new guys is all about going up to them and becoming more personable with them instead of just catching a bullpen and saying 'hey you threw very well'," Greer said. "Making sure that you are on their side and you will do everything you can for them. As a catching group that's what we like to do. We like to be vocal with them and let them know that we are behind them."
With 34 underclassmen on the 2016 Carson-Newman baseball roster it is easy to see why Greer would be at the heart of the team's gags but Greer is one of the first to set up the chicanery for post-game interviews. The signal-caller will relish the spring with his teammates while his fellow Eagles continue to soak up the knowledge that has made the catcher one of the most respected players on the team.
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