While many children fall in love with baseball at an early age, Austin Hedges was drawn to a specific part of the game
Hedges is a fine athlete
In 2011, he graduated as an A student from Jserra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, California
In 2013, Baseball America rated Hedges as the 4th-best prospect in the Padres' organization
Austin said his favorite major league catcher of all-time is Ivan Rodriguez and he loves watching Yadier Molina pick players off at first base. But, the catcher he admires most is JSerra head coach Brett Kay. Kay went to the College World Series twice with Cal State-Fullerton between 1999-2001 and was an eighth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2001. He spent three years in the minor leagues before beginning his coaching career.
"Basically, everything I know now is from him," Hedges said
"Basically, everything I know now is from him," Hedges said. "Between teaching me receiving, catch-and-throw, blocking pitches, even calling pitches, it's all him."
Hedges loves putting in the hours to fine-tune his game, whether it's working on his footwork on throwing down to second base or learning the intricacies of pitch selection. Hedges lives and breathes baseball.
Austin spent six years honing his defense with highly regarded JSerra coach Brett Kay, a former catcher at Cal State Fullerton and in the Mets system.
And, near the end of the 2013 season, Hedges said that he still enjoys the game as much as he ever has.
"I've always dreamed of making the big leagues, but also it's the most fun I ever have in life. So I'm always happy to be out here playing the game," he said.
“They’re very consistent,” said Hedges, talking by phone between games in the 2013 Texas League playoffs. “They minimize their mistakes, and work with their pitching staff, and make pitchers want to throw to them. I just want to be more consistent.”
Austin is a baseball rat. He studies the game and has a very high aptitude for it. He sees things a lot of players, even catchers, don't see. He sets very high standards for himself.
He loves earning the trust of his pitchers. It is much deeper than giving signs for what pitch to throw. It's about something deeper, something much more visceral.
"When a guy shakes me off, I want to be able to communicate to him and get him to trust me," Hedges said. "I think the best advice I've gotten so far is that the wrong pitch with conviction is better than the right pitch without conviction. I always try to think of that. If the pitcher knows his slider is good, then you throw it the best you can. That's always better than, say, a mediocre fastball.
"It's getting the full trust out of your pitcher. That helps to develop our relationship."
2016 Spring Training: As a 22-year-old in the big leagues for the first time, there were, as you might expect, many times in 2015 when Padres catcher Austin Hedges wished he could slow the game down.
"It's not that easy, though," Hedges said. "There are only so many ways that you can slow the game down."
Hedges may have found another way.
Hedges and Padres strength and conditioning coach Brett McCabe started playing with a pair of Nike strobe glasses in the offseason, after Hedges saw Golden State Warriors' guard Steph Curry using them for drills, dribbling a tennis ball with one hand and a basketball with the other. The two have devised a way for catchers to use the glasses during drills, with the intent of overloading the central nervous system and improving read-and-react time.
The glasses offer eight different settings (easy to difficult) that control how long the lenses are open, as they flicker from clear to opaque. The drill the team has used this past week involves the catcher facing a wall in his crouch as a coach stands behind him with a tennis ball. The coach bounces a tennis ball off the wall with the catcher attempting to grab it with his bare hand.
"Since you don't know where it's coming from, you've got to kind of react to it," Hedges said
"Since you don't know where it's coming from, you've got to kind of react to it," Hedges said. "Honestly, it's one of the few drills I've ever done that when you put the glasses on it actually slows the game down. Doing it without [the glasses on] is tough enough, doing it with is really hard. But when you take the glasses off, it's like slow motion. So the drill becomes really easy."
Hedges said that once the glasses are removed, trying to catch that same tennis ball almost looks like a beach ball.
McCabe said it took between four and six weeks to find the best way to use the glasses to help catchers. McCabe said the team hasn't ruled out having position players use the glasses during some hitting drills. Hedges already thinks the glasses are a hit, and he plans to keep using them throughout camp.
"We call them failure drills, drills you're supposed to [struggle with]. But over time, you start getting good at them," Hedges said. "If you see a live pitch from someone nasty like Tyson Ross, maybe that sinker isn't as tough to catch because you've been doing certain drills that test your reactions. I kind of started liking more failure drills. You can do easy drills, but it's not going to get you a whole lot better. This is really testing yourself on something you are not very good at it and eventually getting good at it." (Corey - MLB.com. - Feb.22, 2016)
Austin said he benefited from spending much of the 2015 season on the Padres’ bench as a backup to Derek Norris.
“The biggest thing I took from it was having a consistent routine each day,” said Hedges, who hit .168 for the Padres and lost his rookie eligibility by taking 137 at-bats. “Show up at the field, then prepare myself both physically and mentally.”
Austin has been a UCLA basketball fan his entire life. His manager, Andy Green, bleeds Kentucky blue (and still holds his alma mater's all-time hits record). Those two schools met in the 2017 NCAA men's basketball tournament with an Elite Eight berth on the line. And Green's Wildcats came away victorious, 86-75.
The next day, Hedges learned an important lesson: Never bet against your manager. After losing the wager with his skipper, Hedges wore a full Kentucky basketball jersey to the Padres' morning workout. The bet originally stipulated that he wear the gear, socks and all, through stretches. But Hedges' teammates loved the get-up so much they requested he wear it into the workout.
And Hedges obliged TRANSACTIONS
And Hedges obliged. (Cassavell - mlb.com - 3/28/17)