|Aguilar enjoys being on receiving end of pitches|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
March 5, 2004 -- When Sulphur Springs pitchers are winging fastballs, curveballs, risers and screwballs, it's not much fun to face them at the plate. But, Lady Cat catcher Courtney Aguilar enjoys being on the receiving end.
Aguilar, starting her second season on varsity at catcher, has found a home behind home plate.
"It's fun because we have such disciplined pitchers that I don't have to worry about them missing their spots too often," she said. "I just like being behind the plate and having the whole field in front of you, and kind of being in control."
That attitude is what coach John McCullough looks for in a receiver.
"I look for a leader because the catcher really is in charge of the game, said McCullough. "They're communicating the pitch and location to the pitcher, they're communicating the bunt coverage for us, the first-and-third situations. They're the quarterback of the team.
"And you need somebody who has no fear. There's a toughness factor to catching."
Aguilar has passed that test. She ices her knees after every game because they swell and hurt. It's especially hard on her during tournaments, when the team may play up to three games a day. That's a lot of bending and squatting, even for a high school senior.
"The doctors told her she's got knees like a 40-year-old person already," McCullough said. "After every game, she has to ice her knees, yet you never hear her complain. In fact, I can hardly get her out of the game.
"The toughness factor is one of the big deals when it comes to catching."
Aguilar has been a catcher for about 10 years, growing up in youth leagues behind the plate. Her best asset, she and McCullough both acknowledge, is a strong throwing arm.
In the pitching-and-defense philosophy employed by the Lady Cats, it's especially important to have a catcher who doesn't allow passed balls or wild pitches and who can put a quick stop to another team's running game.
The coach said he has seen her become more relaxed both behind the plate and with a bat in her hand, and that has correlated to even better production.
Against Frisco on Tuesday, she went 2-for-3 with a triple, and in the Corsicana tournament she had a double, four walks and knocked in six runs.
"She's really starting to come around. She's getting confidence at the plate, now, and sitting back and seeing the ball real well," McCullough said.
"I told her, she's got great athletic ability, and she knows the game. She just needs to relax and react. Since then, I think she's become more relaxed behind the plate. She's relaxing and just reacting and letting her natural ability take over, and she's doing a great job for us."
While McCullough calls the pitches, he talks with Aguilar about how the pitchers are throwing. His pet peeve: calling the wrong pitches.
"It happened a few times last night, but it doesn't happen too often," she said slyly. "He usually asks me what's working for the pitchers that day, and we go over what's working and what's not. He usually knows during the game what's working."
Aguilar is not only softball smart, she is a member of the National Honor Society, Texas Scholars, and an officer in the Student Council, Key Club and Art Club. After high school, she intends to get a college degree in structural engineering and product design so she can design amusement parks.
Perhaps, that's from catching all the up-and-down pitches she has thrown at her every day.