Michigan catchers Jeff Kunkel and Matt Rademacher have their
work cut out for them.

The duo is working on filling the significant void created when
Jake Fox, the squad’s standout catcher last season, was
drafted in the third round last summer by the Chicago Cubs. Fox, an
All-American and Michigan’s team MVP last season, batted .357
and hit 15 home runs his junior season.

Without Fox behind the plate finishing off a four-year career at
Michigan, the younger catchers are working together to compensate
for the loss.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to replace Jake
Fox,” redshirt freshman Rademacher said. “I mean, those
are pretty big shoes to fill. We just do what we can. But I think
what we’re doing right now, what we’ve got, is working
for us.”

Judging by the duo’s performances last weekend in the
Wolverines’ four-game series split with Big Ten powerhouse
Minnesota, Rademacher could be right. Although Kunkel is typically
the starter, and was behind the plate in both of Michigan’s
victories, both players have important roles on the team. The duo
kept the Golden Gophers at bay, allowing Michigan to make an
attempt at a win in the second game of the series.

Kunkel, a redshirt sophomore, believes that he owes some of his
success to a practice that is relatively unusual among catchers.
Most catchers at the collegiate level wear knee savers, which
lessen the tension that they put on their knees while staying in a
squat inning after inning. Kunkel breaks the mold in this
respect.

“To be honest, I think (knee savers) tend to make catchers
lazy,” Kunkel said. “And I like to be up instead of
sitting down anyway.”

But he would still be strapping them on if he hadn’t
experimented with playing without them.

“I wore them in high school, but one day I took them off
and found out it was more comfortable,” Kunkel said.
“Since then, I haven’t put them back on.”

It is also up to these two to make sure that they are
comfortable with every pitcher that Michigan coach Rich Maloney can
send to the mound. Since the team carries an almost excessive
number of hurlers (17), as several Northern squads do, this is
quite a formidable task. But both Kunkel and Rademacher are certain
that their ability to catch from each pitcher — and adjust to
each individual style — is something they’ve excelled
at.

“During the offseason, we have to throw with everyone, so
now we’re pretty much comfortable with them,”
Rademacher said. “And hopefully they’re comfortable
with us.”

Kunkel echoes these sentiments.

“Every game we’re catching somebody
different,” Kunkel said. “So we see everybody and know
what their stuff’s going to do, what they like to
throw.”

Kunkel is also a major contributor on the offensive end of the
Wolverines’ effort. He is currently third on the team in hitting at
.377. In Sunday’s comeback, he drove in two runs on a
double.

“I think all around, Jeff is a good catcher,”
Rademacher said. “He’s shown that so far.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.