Catcher Michael Ohlman was among those optioned to Memphis (AAA) following the Cardinals game on Easter Sunday, but that hardly is expected to dampen the excitement he recently shared when discussing his improvement from Spring Training a year ago.
“Even more,” he stated. “I hit a huge step last year. I think I needed that, maybe missed some development in the prior few years but being traded and coming here was the best thing for me. It’s shown–it’s fun to see in yourself. Self-gratification that it’s working, still getting better at 25 is exciting to see.”
Ohlman was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles last February for cash considerations.
“You have to learn a lot about the pitch calling–reading hitters,” continued Ohlman on his improvement. “Mechanics and receiving, stuff like that it’s stuff that you just work on. It’s almost like a schooling process for me. Having Erik Pappas and Dann Bilardello last year, they were not afraid to come up to me after an inning and be like ‘hey, what were you thinking there, what’s your thought process, okay but we could’ve done this’ and just bouncing stuff off each other like that, not only that, but taking it into the game to work. I’ve learned a lot. I feel very comfortable calling a game. I’m not intimidated catching those guys, I feel like I fit in and it’s fun now–it’s like a game for me.”
That sort of enjoyment was not always the case.
“I’ll tell you that catching was more of a chore for me–it wasn’t easy,” shared Ohlman. “For it not to be easy, it doesn’t make it a whole lot of fun. Now, I’m much more comfortable. They talked about making your own style last year and how Yadi kind of did it.”
To help in that regard, Ohlman pulled video of Yadier Molina from ten years ago and studied.
“He was still coming into his own, but still the best catcher in the league,” said Ohlman. “Seeing little things like that, having that in my back pocket and gaining a rapport and a trust out of these guys is probably the number one biggest thing that I’m working on right now.”
Molina is obviously a standard to shoot for but there are physical limitations in their styles as at 6’5 and 240lbs, Ohlman more resembles Mike Matheny.
“Everyone’s different and they don’t cookie-cut anybody here,” said Michael with appreciation. “If you have anything that you need, Yadi’s there for you. Mike’s there for you. Pogie’s (Jaime Pogue) there for you.
“I owe so much credit to a lot of these guys since I’ve been here.”
Besides working on his craft behind the plate last year in Springfield (AA), Ohlman hit .274 at the plate with 12 HRs and 69 RBIs.
“I’ve learned to separate the two,” he said. “Once I take that helmet off, I put the skull cap and mask back on and I’m a catcher. It doesn’t matter. I think the separation of the two is very important because the pitcher doesn’t care whether you struck out or hit a double, he’s out there to get outs and that’s what you have to be 100% in on. That’s what it is–I came in here and I bought in to what they’re doing and what they’re trying to accomplish here. I come with a big fat smile on my face, I have a lot of fun.”
And the fact that being assigned to Memphis now makes him one step closer to the his ultimate goal isn’t lost on Ohlman either.
“It could be the season I get the call that allows a dream to come true that I’ve had since I was five years old,” he said. “I think about that everyday but other than that, I take care of what I can control and let the people that make the decisions take care of the rest, but I’m going to put my best foot forward to give them the best look that I can before we head off to the season.”