The baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. And in an environment where fresh stars seem to pop up out of nowhere it is easy to forget that most baseball careers are marathons as well.
The Tigers new backup catcher, Bryan Holaday, thus far has one of these determined and steady careers. As Brayan Pena, Rob Brantly, and Curt Casali have all parted ways with the organization, Holaday has been a fixture, staying the course and working hard to get himself in a position for a bigger role on the big league club.
When it became clear that Pena was not returning to the club, and it was unlikely another catcher would be signed, how did Holaday feel about the chance? "It's a great opportunity" he says, "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited about it. But It's not going to change my mindset."
This is his year. This is the year that will determine whether he is to be leaguer. But even though the opportunity is new, the approach is the same.
"It's not going to change my mentality on what I’m going to do. I'm going to work as hard as I work every year. Just try to get myself as ready as possible', says Holiday "Really [my preparation] didn't differ this year than from any other other year."
Part of getting ready has been traveling to the Dominican Republic after Thanksgiving day to get in some work with the Tigres del Licey. Holaday played in eleven games and got in 28 at bats. He batted only .179/.233/.464 in the small sample but did hit two home runs.
Even in as an amateur Holaday took the patient approach. He played a total of four years of college ball in his native Texas, first at North Central Texas College and finishing at Texas Christian University. As an older draftee he went right to Lakeland and has been steady and improving ever since. His batting average has improved at each level, hitting .220 in A ball, .242 in AA, .251 in AAA, and .282 at the major league level.
Despite his improvement at the plate his most important work will be behind it. In last year's prospect report, Bless You Boys described Holaday as "a defense-first catcher that combines solid blocking skills, good receiving skills, and a plus throwing arm behind the plate. He's a prototypical backup catcher, essentially, meaning that when he's in the lineup the defense of a team (at the MLB level) will not suffer at all, but he won't provide the same offense that the starter normally would."
What was projected a year ago will have to come into reality in 2014. Expect Holaday to handle it with patience an consistency.