HINSDALE – Pitching was the buzz word surrounding Hinsdale Central’s baseball team this spring, and with good reason.
With three Division I college pitchers in Christian Bokich, Adam Dressler and Bobby Skogsbergh, the Red Devils have the arms. But just as important as who throws the ball is who catches it, and senior Tyler Ward forms the other half of Central’s catcher-pitcher battery.
“He does a great job hopping around back there like there’s no tomorrow,” Central coach Tom Dorrance said. “He really works his butt off.”
With the way he jumps around to catch and block pitches, Ward at times resembles a hockey goalie facing a flurry of shots. But his fleet feet came a different way.
“I always played shortstop and center field,” Ward said. “Before freshman year, I had never been a catcher, but they needed somebody behind the plate. I tried it once, and I fell in love with it. It keeps you in every play. It keeps you on your toes.”
Ward said good coaching at the lower levels helped him develop into the player he is now, which is a player who is in control of things on the field.
In addition to calling some of his own pitches, Ward is a vocal presences as he barks out defensive alignments and instructs the other fielders what to do when the ball is in play.
Ward has handled a pitching staff with a 2.93 ERA this season, and has done so by dealing with different pitching styles. The ball explodes out of Skogsbergh’s hand. Bokich works low in the zone. Dressler mixes it up. The rest of the staff varies in their style and delivery, too, and good communication has helped Ward develop good relationships with all of them.
“They talk to me to give me an idea of what’s working for them, and we’ll talk before the game to make sure we’re all on the same page,” Ward said. “During the game, I’ll try to give them as much confidence as I can to keep them motivated and keep them positive, and little tips to keep the pitches in line.
“They’re all different pitchers, but they all do a great job.”
He may not bat at the top of the order, but Ward provides a big spark to his teammates regardless.
“I love his competitiveness back there,” Dorrance said. “It’s something I haven’t had in a catcher in a long time.”
Perhaps the biggest vote of confidence in Ward’s ability behind the plate and what he means to the team came from his teammates before the season when he was voted a team captain.
“It was a great feeling. I had no idea they felt like that about me,” Ward said. “I had no idea I had an impact as a leader. I just try to play hard all the time.”