‘Cats led by catch­ers

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By Joe Boyle [email protected]­i­tal­first­media.com Sports Edi­tor

TROY, N.Y >> The suc­cess in the first few weeks of the Val­leyCats’ sea­son can be traced to one po­si­tion on the field, and it is be­hind home plate.

“We have good catch­ers and the good thing is that they are here to­gether and they are here to com­pete,” said Val­leyCats’ Man­ager Ozney Guillen. “They all three get along and I told them they are here to com­pete for a job so they have to put good at-bats to­gether and they are do­ing it.”

De­spite be­ing quite scarce prior to the 2019 MLB draft, the Hous­ton As­tros made an ef­fort to bol­ster the depth at that po­si­tion, and the Val­leyCats are cur­rently reap­ing the ben­e­fits.

The Val­leyCats cur­rently have four play­ers listed as catch­ers on their of­fi­cial ros­ter. Returning Val­leyCat Nate Perry was a fa­mil­iar name en­ter­ing the sea­son and he was joined by the pro­moted Juan Paulino on open­ing day.

With the col­lege sea­son all but over, first round draft pick from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Korey Lee and the tenth rounder from the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia CJ Stubbs also join the Val­leyCats and have made their pres­ence known in­stantly.

“We had a pretty funny re­la­tion­ship com­ing into it be­cause I didn’t know him at all,” said Stubbs on his re­la­tion­ship with Lee. “I played against him when he was at Cal and we had a funny se­ries where those guys didn’t re

ally like me that much. He prob­a­bly had a pre­de­ter­mined no­tion on me, but I’ve been get­ting to know him and it’s been fun get­ting to know him, espe­cially with Nate.”

Another wrin­kle to Lee and Stubbs’ re­la­tion­ship is that they did not grow up too far from each other in Cal­i­for­nia. Stubbs, a na­tive of Del Mar, and Lee, a Vista, Cal­i­for­nia na­tive, grew up just thirty min­utes apart in Cal­i­for­nia. De­spite their lo­ca­tion, they never crossed paths.

“I knew of his brother when his brother was at USC. I watched col­lege base­ball,” said Lee of Stubbs’ older brother Gar­rett Stubbs, who is also in the As­tros or­ga­ni­za­tion and made his ma­jor league de­but back in May.

“Learn­ing from him and un­der­stand­ing it is a grind, but you have to en­joy it,” said Stubbs on the lessons he has taken away from his brother Gar­rett’s jour­ney. “Other­wise it will swallow you up and spit you out.

Lee is cur­rently bat­ting .360 through 25 at bats with four RBI on his state line, earn­ing him­self the top spot in av­er­age of Val­leyCats play­ers with over ten at-bats.

Stubbs is hit­ting .333 with two home runs and three RBI and Paulino is also hit­ting .33 with two RBI. Perry is cur­rently hit­ting .147, but leads the Val­leyCats in at-bats cur­rently while also hav­ing a home run and three RBI to his credit.

“See­ing CJ and Korey hit night in and night out lights a fire un­der me, and that’s cool, and I needed that,” said Perry on the mo­ti­va­tion the healthy com­pe­ti­tion offers him.

“He had a great col­lege ca­reer. Right now he was one of my more ver­sa­tile guys and his com­po­sure at the plate is great,” said Guillen of Stubbs’ suc­cess so early on. “I ex­pected it from him. With him, I have a lot of con­fi­dence.”

What the stat lines won’t tell you, is that a catcher has been at the dish for two of the three walk offs at Joe Bruno Sta­dium this sea­son, with another be­ing the win­ning run to cross home plate.

Lee was the first to hit a walk off when he crushed a ball to the left cen­ter gap that scored Perry from first on Fri­day, June 21. Stubbs fol­lowed Lee up the fol­low­ing night with a walk off of his own down the left field line.

“It’s un­be­liev­able,” said Lee af­ter his walk off.

“No com­pe­ti­tion here. We are on the same team,” said Stubbs af­ter his walk off the fol­low­ing night.

The catch­ers are form­ing a strong re­la­tion­ship. Lee, Stubbs, and Perry each of­fer some­thing that oth­ers can learn from and use in their own game.

“Perry is the savvy vet around here so we are def­i­nitely pick­ing apart his brain on what to do and what not to do, what you can kind of get away with, and when you suc­ceed, what you can do with that,” said Lee. “CJ is the guy that goes out there and plays. He is a loose guy, he likes to go out there and have fun. He’s a player that is fight­ing for a job. I love to play the game. I love to talk the game.”

“We are re­ally en­joy­ing it right now,” said Perry. “Both guys are great play­ers and even bet­ter peo­ple. I’m learn­ing from them and I am ready to get to work with them.”

“Just get­ting into that club­house that first day, Nate had a good re­la­tion­ship with all the guys and see­ing how he con­ver­sates with all of them, even the ones where there is a lan­guage bar­rier, and know­ing how to deal was that was im­por­tant,” said Stubbs. “Korey is a phe­nom­e­nal player, ob­vi­ously as a first rounder. He has a hell of an arm. That guy can hit it ev­ery­where. Pulling its and bits of his hit­ting game and his catch­ing game is huge — I feel like the older guy at 22 and Nate is about to turn 20, and Korey 21, but it’s been work­ing well and we get along.”

BY JOE BOYLE [email protected]­I­TAL­FIRST­MEDIA. COM @BOYLERALER­TTROY ON TWITTER

Korey Lee throws out a runner at first on June 22 at Joe Bruno Sta­dium.

BY JOE BOYLE [email protected]­I­TAL­FIRST­MEDIA.COM @BOYLERALER­TTROY ON TWITTER

Nate Perry runs out of the dugout on June 12 at Joe Bruno Sta­dium in an ex­hi­bi­tion matchup with the Al­bany Dutch­men.

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