The man behind the mask

There’s a man on first with a big lead. Do you call a fastball and try to stop the runner from stealing second, or do you call another pitch and hope the batter hits into a double play? We may not know what to do in this situation, but NKU’s catcher has to make these split decisions all the time and in a matter of seconds.

Chris Meyer, a junior in Sports Business and a 3rd year sophomore catcher for NKU’s baseball team, loves those types of opportunities and feels right at home behind the plate. Although he shares the catching duties with another player, Meyer has earned his share of playing time.

Meyer’s freshman year he sat out as a medical redshirt, but with four years of eligibility left, he returned strong.

“I had shoulder surgery freshman year,” said Meyer, “but I’ve never had any knee problems or any other major injuries–knock on wood.”

Meyer is really excited about this year and expects a lot more playing time than last season.

“Last year I sat behind the All-American catcher, Jason Martin. He was also the all time hits leader in Northern Kentucky,” said Meyer.

After Martin graduated, his career position became available. Meyer was ready to step up because he came to NKU with a history of baseball experience under his belt.

“I started playing T-Ball when I was 4-years-old and have been playing catcher since I was 7.”

After T-Ball, Meyer went on to play grade school ball for St. Michael School along with nine years of Knothole ball for Lee’s Famous Recipe.

He continued his career at Newport Central Catholic High School where he was named the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Player of the Year his senior year. Towards the end of high school, he played for the Bluegrass Chiefs, a summer traveling baseball team.

Throughout his 14 years of baseball, Meyer has always liked his catching position.

“I like that I get to touch the ball every game. Sometimes you could play right field and never get to.”

The opportunity to play college ball came when NKU offered him a scholarship, which he gratefully accepted. Now, with Meyer’s chance to gain a permanent position, he has really focused on his performance.

“Right now, I’m hitting around .300, but it changes all the time. Hopefully, it will go up.”

With the dedication to baseball and the hope of winning games, the team practices as much as possible to be ready by the end of February.

The team starts practicing and conditioning on the first day of school in August and continues until October. They then break and start back up in January after the Christmas break. Meyer said that they lift, hit and throw year round to stay in shape for the upcoming season.

In the spring, “we practice five to six days a week until the first game,” said Meyer.

Once the regular season starts, the team can have up to six games a week.

“We do light work on the off days,” said Meyer. Their overall goal is to get to the Regional Tournament, and win. First they want to win the Conference, which means they would have a good chance to go to the Regional.

Karly Smith, an Elementary Education major at NKU and Meyer’s girlfriend of three years, loves her boyfriend’s achievements, but has to put up with his time-consuming passion.

“It gets a little irritating when everything is about baseball, but I’m proud of how hard he works,” said Smith. “I know it’s what he wants to do and he’s good at it.”

Smith is one of Meyer’s biggest fans and goes to every game that she can.

One of Meyer’s good friends and co-worker, Brett Stevie, sees Meyer as a great asset to NKU’s team.

“I watched him more in high school than now, but he was always good. I’m glad he continued playing,” said Stevie. “When Chris isn’t playing baseball, we work together for the Cincinnati Stage Hands union.”

Along with practicing and improving himself, Meyer admits to portraying a baseball stereotype.

“Every baseball player has some kind of superstition. [I] have too many for you to write down.”

Meyer routinely does everything the same for each game; from the time he goes into the locker room until the end of the game.

“When I’m getting ready, when I go to bat, everything. If I don’t I’m not comfortable.”

Some players won’t change their socks, wash their uniform or change what they ate if they’re on a winning streak. This holds true in any level of play- high school, college, minors or majors.

Although a lot of their time revolves around baseball, Meyer and the rest of the team have to keep their grades up.

“Most teachers are pretty cool about you being an athlete, especially during the season,” said Meyer, “but you always have some that can be more tough.”

To prevent as much conflict as possible, the players, along with other athletes, get scheduling privileges like priority registration. They also meet with an athletic advisor, along with their major advisor to avoid as many clashes between practice, games and classes as possible.

Most of his time is spent with his teammates, and Meyer has made a lot of friends.

“We all get along and hang out off the field too. We go out and drink sodas,” said Meyer, with a smile.

Meyer is happy with where he is and is proud of all the work he’s done to get there. He would love to continue his baseball career after college, if possible.

“It’s all about luck and being in the right place at the right time,” said Meyer about a chance of a draft pick.

The scouts mostly come and watch the pitchers, but if he has a good day they might keep him in mind. If Meyer isn’t able to continue playing baseball, he would like to remain in the sports field.

“Working for a sports team, maybe doing marketing for them,” he said. “Any sport really, at any level.”