Marc Narducci: Wickersham has way with pitchers

Audubon's Derek Wickersham says of working with pitchers. MARC NARDUCCI / Staff
Audubon's Derek Wickersham says of working with pitchers. MARC NARDUCCI / Staff ("You want to encourage them,")

Audubon's catcher shows a positive attitude that rubs off on teammates.

Posted: March 25, 2012

Audubon senior Derek "Boomer" Wickersham hasn't been a catcher very long, but he's sure making up for lost time.

Wickersham didn't begin catching until the eighth grade and says there are things he learns every day about this complicated position, which requires brains and grit as no other position in baseball does.

One aspect of the game that Wickersham has a true feel for is working with pitchers.

"He's 100 percent positive and is never negative," said Audubon lefthander Andrew Schorr, an East Carolina recruit and a potential major- league draft choice.

Schorr, who says he's healthy after two seasons plagued by injuries, added that having a catcher with such a positive attitude is a major benefit.

"He's somebody you really want to pitch to," Schorr said. "Boomer is the type of player who is always picking everybody up."

At 5-foot-6 and 180 pounds, Wickersham displays the toughness required of catchers. Yet he understands that screaming at pitchers who don't throw strikes becomes counterproductive.

"Yelling won't change things, and you have to talk to them," he said. "Everybody is out there trying hard, and you want to encourage them."

Wickersham has been a starter since he transferred as a sophomore to Audubon, after attending Gloucester Catholic, where he was a varsity performer as a freshman.

In his sophomore season, after sitting out the required 30 days because of NJSIAA transfer rules, Wickersham helped Audubon win the South Jersey Group 2 title and advance to the state final before losing, 2-1, to heavily favored West Essex.

Last season, competing in Group 1, Audubon went a step further, winning the state championship. It was the program's seventh state title. Along with Hamilton East, Audubon has the most state titles by a public school in New Jersey since the advent of NJSIAA state championships in 1971.

In the 8-6 state-title win over Waldwick, Wickersham went 2 for 2 and reached base four times.

"He had so many big hits for us," said Audubon coach Rich Horan, who has guided the school to six of the state championships.

Wickersham was elated to add to Audubon's deep baseball tradition.

"It was an awesome feeling to win it," he said. "We work so hard, the players and coaches put so much into it, and then to end with a championship is unbelievable."

Before becoming a catcher, Wickersham played second and third base and was a pitcher. Regardless of the position, Wickersham was always a hitter. Last season, he batted .554 with 14 doubles, three home runs, and a team-high 44 RBIs.

"I still like pitching, but I know how important catching is," he said.

He said he has benefited from the tutelage of Horan and assistant coach Chris Harris, both former Audubon catchers.

"I feel like I'm learning something about the position every day, and we have such great coaching," Wickersham said.

Horan has come to expect a lot, both offensively and defensively, from Wickersham.

"He's been such a big part of our success, and he works hard at both his offense and defense," Horan said.

The senior catcher hopes to play baseball at the next level, but he hasn't narrowed his choices yet. Right now, his main focus is on earning a third straight appearance in a state final and matching last year's results.

Catching is a leadership position, and Wickersham has definitely received high grades in that category. He has shown that one can carry a big stick but doesn't have to raise his voice to get the attention or respect of his teammates.


Contact Marc Narducci

at 856-779-3225, mnarducci@phillynews.com,

or on Twitter @sjnard.

Find his Rally columns

at www.philly.com/narducci

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|