Vanderbilt’s Shea Robin was just hoping to avoid embarrassment four years ago when he first strapped on catcher’s gear.
He arrived as a middle infielder, but Commodores coach Tim Corbin was desperate for help at catcher.
Robin still remembers the day Corbin asked – or begged? – him to make a position switch.
“At first, I thought he was joking,” Robin said. “I had never played catcher in my life.”
Robin agreed and went about learning his new trade, but it was an arduous task. Learning to block pitches in the dirt resulted in many days of having bruised hands.
“It was a lot more difficult than I thought it was going to be,” Robin said.
Now in his third year as a starter, the senior from The Woodlands, Texas, is established as one of the best defensive catchers in the Southeastern Conference.
After throwing out just 20 percent of base-stealers last season, Robin has pushed his success rate to 42 percent this year. He also blocks pitches with aplomb, giving Commodore pitchers the confidence to throw curveballs into the dirt in crucial situations.
In addition, Corbin praises Robin’s ability to call pitches and for his knowledge of the game.
“He’s the best in this league,” Corbin said. “No one can argue that way, and I think the coaches feel that way, too.”
Corbin said Robin’s defensive skills as an infielder made for a smooth transition to catcher.
“The reason we liked his potential is because he had a good, quick, short arm and has some arm strength,” Corbin said. “He moved his feet pretty well and he had pretty good hands.
“If he really took to that position, I thought he had a chance to be pretty good at it. He jumped head-first into it and never looked back. He didn’t question us as to why we were putting him back there.”
Robin is offering significant offensive contributions, too.
In Vanderbilt’s past 12 games, he’s batting .407 and hiked his season average from .264 to .297. In last weekend’s series against Auburn, in which VU won two of three games, Robin collected seven hits in 11 at-bats.
“He’s not a bad hitter, but as I told him, he’s here to catch,” Corbin said. “He’s playing a primary position. When we talk about pitching and defense, it all hinges upon what he does. He gives us everything we want.”