HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The position that is often overlooked, yet arguably the most important on a baseball field – catcher.
Cole Donaldson fills in behind home plate for the third season at Southern Miss.
“You kinda have to have that bulldog mentality,” Donaldson said. “You gotta take pride in running a pitching staff. Be there mentally for the pitchers because they need as much help as they can get."
Jokes aside, Donaldson is the anchor the USM pitching staff and a wall behind the plate. He committed just two errors on 432 fielding chances last season.
The St. Charles, Missouri native’s baseball career was nearly cut short after he twice fractured his vertebrae, broke his wrist and underwent Tommy John surgery all before even making the move to Hattiesburg.
It was at Hutchison Community College in Hutchison, Kansas where Donaldson was discovered by the USM associate head coach Chad Caillet.
Donaldson played with Shane Cooper at HCC – the older brother of Southern Miss senior shortstop Storme Cooper. In his freshman season with the Blue Dragons, Donaldson threw out 14 of 30 base-runners.
"If you look at the tools of a catcher, he blocks well, he receives well, he throws well,” said USM head coach Scott Berry. “Defensively, he's everything that you want from a coach's standpoint and from a pitcher's standpoint, behind that plate really leading your team."
A former college catcher himself, fellow Missouri native Berry knows exactly the physical toil Donaldson goes through behind the plate. The sacrifice is partly why Donaldson is drawn to the position.
“The eight other players on the field, they’re all looking to that place and that’s called home plate,” Berry said. “Where we always try to find our strength from is at home, in our own lives. That’s kind of the way it is on the baseball field. That leader’s behind home plate and all eyes are on him.”
“[Berry]’s very old school,” Donaldson said. “He loves being tough and owning that role. The whole game is right there in front of you. You can’t be caught on your heels. You have to be locked in at all times and you kind of have to attack the game.”
Donaldson knows who will be throwing to him on opening weekend against Purdue. Southern Miss announced junior right-hander Walker Powell will start on Friday at 4 p.m.
Powell returns after a 7-3 campaign in 2018 in which he posted a 3.80 earned-run-average, 62 strikeouts, 14 walks and 91 hits.
Senior left-hander Stevie Powers will start on Saturday at 4 p.m. Powers posted a 5-2 record in 2018 with a 4.07 ERA, 73 strikeouts, 13 walks and 83 hits.
USM did not announce Sunday’s starter.