Torres felt “natural knack for catching” early on

Last week, we had San Jacinto College North baseball coach Tom Arrington preview catcher Ray Torres IV, who has reportedly agreed to join the Nationals organization as an undrafted free agent.

Torres got the call from the Nats after the draft and agreed to terms, forgoing a scholarship offer to LSU. He told me he was ready to go pro after high school last year, but opted instead to get better and hone his skills at San Jacinto this past season.

The 20-year-old Torres is now back home in Charlotte, N.C., continuing workouts and baseball activities as he waits for the next step in his professional career.

San Jacinto went 21-6 before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the season in mid-March. Torres was scorching the baseball at the time, hitting .444 with six doubles, two triples and 12 RBIs in 45 at-bats.

“Remembering the beginning of the season, the first four games started off really hot,” Torres said. “Went something like 14-for-16, then had a good season coming to the end of it there. It was a lot easier pitching than I was used to facing in the travel ball circuit. Guys in the travel ball circuit are pumping it up in the 90s mph every game. Especially on these competitive teams, you are always getting another team’s ace.”

Torres played for the Central Florida Gators travel squad and at one time was a teammate of Nats 2018 first-round pick Mason Denaburg.

Besides his outstanding start in the batter’s box, Torres said he saw marked improvement in his “pop time.”

The pop time for a catcher is taken from the instant a pitch hits a catcher’s glove to the moment it strikes the glove of the middle infielder at second base. Generally speaking, a decent time at the big league level is about two seconds.

Nats-Helmet-in-Dugout-Sidebar.jpg“Some things that have improved since being at San Jac (include) my pop time,” Torres said. “I threw a 1.74 pop time my senior year in high school and at our scout day at San Jac threw a 1.67 (seconds).”

Torres played middle infield in Little League and some with San Jac. But since those early days of playing baseball, he really has enjoyed, and excelled at, playing catcher.

“Around the age of 12 or 13, I jumped behind the plate and started catching,” Torres said. “I remember growing up taking thousands of ground balls with my dad. There was just a natural knack for catching, so that’s why that switch happened.”

Torres said working with the pitcher and receiving every pitch, coordinating the defensive plan and setting the tone and tempo of the game makes playing catcher so much fun

“It is really just being in every play,” Torres said. “You can never get bored as a catcher. Also, my leadership is a big part of my game as well. As a catcher, it is necessary to be a leader.”

Leadership on field is a key component to being a good catcher. Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki run out to walk with Stephen Strasburg as they head to the dugout at the end of each half-inning, taking advantage of that time to go over what was working and what they would try to do in the next frame. Torres said that is a valuable moment for the pitcher and catcher to communicate in preparation for the next hitter.

“After every inning, after they make that third out, definitely want to make sure to get out there and give them a fist bump and pat them on the back and go over that inning with them and just prepare for the next inning,” Torres said. “You just want to win every inning. That preparation is definitely a big part of it.

“Pitchers tell me all the time when we get back on the bench, ‘You are reading my mind out there. You know exactly (what I am thinking).’ “

During the time away from baseball, Torres has full-day workouts in Charlotte. He gave us an inside look on what a typical day is for him as he gets ready to join the other Nationals prospects and draft picks. Torres begins with workouts at a baseball gym about 10 minutes from his house.

“There are some pro guys that work out there,” Torres said. “They have a batting cage and a full weight room. That is definitely a blessing. We will go there for my first workout of the day, go and lift. Come back home to eat some lunch and just recover. (Then) go back over there and hit and throw, workout, get another lift in. Probably spend 45 minutes to an hour on hitting, then go toss and finish with an hour lift. Then come home and eat again.”

Then to work on his speed and quick twitch skills, Torres spends time with a well-regarded personal trainer in Charlotte.

“There is this personal trainer, Glenn Deveaux, that works with me and he usually works with guys getting ready for NFL combines,” Torres said. “We got out to a football field and we work on speed and agility stuff. My workout with him every day is 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.”

Torres was thankful for that first call from the Nats. As he awaits the next directive, Torres continues to focus on getting better and stronger each day on the field. Not letting the day end, the young backstop looks for one more opportunity to work on his skills.

“The gym right next to me, I also have the keys to it, so my fourth workout of the day will be at that gym,” Torres said. “Just take more cuts, my dad will throw me BP. And then a light lift, go home, eat and sleep.”

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