Catcher uses hitters’ body language to call pitches
Arizona catcher Dwight Childs believes studying the body language of opposing hitters is a big key in calling pitches.
The sophomore defensive specialist doesn’t just study scouting reports before a series, but also facial expressions, twitches in swings and preferences for pitches.
It is working because Childs is calling 95 percent of the pitches in games he catches, and stopping everything around him when a throw goes a little wild.
Childs, from Elk Grove, Calif., will open his bag of tricks again at 7 p.m. Saturday for the first of a three-game series against Stanford at Sancet Stadium.
“Looking at the body language is so important in calling a game,” Childs said. “If there is a fastball and a hitter will step back and say ‘Oh,’ you could tell he was thinking he could have crushed that thing or ‘I don’t want that pitch.’ That sets up what you throw next.
“If a pitch is going away, a guy might lean over and make a move like he doesn’t want that. You could tell he is looking for something in.
“It is all about reading a guy’s body language on what he is thinking and throwing a pitch the hitter is least likely expecting.”
Anything Childs gives the Wildcats offensively is a bonus. His .221 batting average is overlooked because of his defense (he hasn’t made an error since the fourth game of the year) and how he makes UA pitchers more confident.
“He is the best catcher I have ever had in my baseball career,” UA pitcher Preston Guilmet said. “If you have runners on second and third you don’t have to worry about throwing a ball in the dirt and getting the runners in.
“It’s not even a thought that he won’t stop it. The guy blocks everything.”
Childs, who has not committed an error in his last 291 chances spanning 37 games, had his first passed ball of the season last weekend.
UA pitchers almost always are willing to go with the pitch Childs calls.
“I have probably shrugged the guy off 10 times in the last two years. That’s it,” Guilmet said. “His brain works like mine. He knows what I want to throw and what we should throw.”
UA coach Andy Lopez admits he gets a little bored when the Wildcats are on defense because he doesn’t have to call any pitches.
The coach thinks Childs could be more of an offensive force with some added weight. Childs is 6 feet 3 and 178 pounds.
“If he was 20 pounds heavier he probably wouldn’t be here for his senior year and he would be a pretty high draft pick,” Lopez said. “He is very unique. The only one who would come close in my career is David Ross, who is with the (Cincinnati) Reds right now.
“He is similar to (Ross in) managing the game and ability to retain information.”
Ross was with Lopez while at Florida. Ross was able to control the game, and make the plays when it counted.
Childs is the same way.
“If I get my pitcher into a bases-loaded jam I feel I can get him out of it,” Childs said. “I don’t think (Lopez) is needed to call a pitch to get out of it. I want the chance. This is my pitching staff.”
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STANFORD AT UA
Saturday: 7 p.m., 1290 AM
Sunday: 6 p.m., 1290 AM
Monday: noon, 1290 AM
School Conf. Overall
ASU 12-6 41-9
Stanford 11-7 30-18
Washington 10-8 31-17
California 11-10 32-17
Oregon State 11-10 25-20
Arizona 8-10 34-15
UCLA 8-10 26-23
USC 7-11 24-26
Washington State 6-12 28-22