The list of every day catchers at TCU baseball during Jim Schlossnagle's tenure reads like a Horned Frog Hall of Fame.
That's because all of them have set a standard of excellence behind the plate rarely seen over a 14-year stretch.
From Kyle Dalhberg in 2004, Schlossnagle's first season at TCU, to Evan Skoug, the Frogs' everyday catcher the past three seasons, someone has assumed the integral role on the roster.
This season, it's sophomore Zach Humphreys, who entered the every day lineup as a true freshman in May when Luken Baker's season-ending injury forced Humphreys into the lineup as the designated hitter. Humphreys, who backed up Skoug and made sporadic starts through much of the first three months of the season, was now in the lineup for the Frogs as the postseason approached. For Humphreys, who attended Midlothian High School, it was a sink or swim moment.
"At first, that’s the way I took it. I have to perform or they’re going to the next guy," said Humphreys, who hit .267 with 19 RBIs and seven extra-base hits in 2017. "I became more comfortable in my position on the team as the season went on. I think it was a huge deal ... getting to play every day, it was awesome. That sense of comfort that you develop."
Schlossnagle and his staff were not surprised with Humphreys' smooth transition into the lineup. Big-time baseball was in Humphreys blood. His dad, Mike Humphreys pitched at Texas Tech and for the Yankees and Padres. His brother Alec played at Texas Tech and Tarleton State. Schlossnagle already liked Humphreys' demeanor and steadiness.
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"Guys these days are more prepared than ever before, especially if they’ve played at a super high level summer team," Schlossnagle said. "They’ve faced elite pitching, they’ve been in big league parks. He has great baseball intelligence so I didn’t worry at all about him panicking or being overwhelmed by the situation. He’s just a baseball player. That’s his best trait is he’s a throwback baseball player."
When Humphreys sets up behind the plate for the season opener at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix Friday night, he'll be taking the baton from Skoug, who was drafted in the seventh round of last year's MLB draft by the White Sox. In fact, the six every day catchers since Schlossnagle took over in 2004 have been drafted.
"I don’t want to say there’s a lot of pressure because it’s not pressure, but it’s an elite group to be in," Humphreys said. "To have the chance to have your name with all those guys ... it’s always in the back of your mind that you’ve got to hold up the standard just like they did."
Defensively, Humphreys brings an athleticism behind the plate and a professional approach in the batter's box, Schlossnagle said. He's unlikely to hit for as much power as Skoug, who hit 20 home runs last season, but Humphreys showed down the stretch a year ago that he can bunt and execute situational hitting and won't strikeout a lot.
"All those at-bats, especially in postseason play and in the World Series, really sped up Humphreys' development as an offensive player for sure," Schlossnagle said.
Catcher U at TCU
2010-12 (played OF/DH in ’10)
2005-07 (caught 20 games in ’05)
2004-05 (caught 41 games in ’05)