What do you do when you have not one, but two all-star catchers ahead of you on the depth chart?
It’s easy, if you’re David Bartram of Marblehead High.
“You sit, you learn as much as you can, and you make sure you’re ready when your time comes,” says Bartram, the starting catcher on this year’s baseball team.
It’s been that kind of a journey for the senior receiver, who is handling the pitchers and calling pitches for coach Mike Giardi’s team.
“He’s stepped in and done a nice job handling the staff,” said Giardi. “I don’t normally call pitches, though if I want them to throw a certain pitch I’ll tell them. Otherwise I tell him it’s his game. Sometimes catchers see things we don’t see from the dugout.”
Bartram, who spent much of Monday looking at colleges, says that he takes this part of being a catcher seriously.
“Before our games, I get their starting lineups, and I go over their hitters with our starting pitchers, and talk about what they’ve been doing, where they’ve been hitting the ball, and come up with a plan,” Bartram said.
“There are times when I feel the pressure,” he said, “I sometimes worry that I’ll call the wrong pitch and the batter will hit a bomb. But it’s worked well so far.”
Though Bartram credits his coaches for helping him become a better player, he couldn’t have had two better teachers than Charlie and Andy Titus, both of them Northeastern Conference all-star catchers while with the Magicians.
“I’ve been able to learn under two very good players.” Bartram said. “I especially got to learn a lot from backing up Andy last year. It really helped me develop.”
“He’d been waiting, waiting, waiting,” said Giardi. “Now, though he may not be a captain by name, he’s one of our leaders out there.”
For his part, Bartram is thrilled to be where he is.
“I’m the type of guy that if I’m playing, I’m happy,” he said. “I’d play wherever they told me to.
“And coach is probably one of, if not the, best coaches I’ve ever played for,” he said. “Every game, every practice, he gives us something to take with us. He’s really, really good.”
Knowing he was going to finally crack the starting nine this spring, Bartram made sure he was ready. He lifted weights at the Jewish Community Center, did some hitting drills with a relative who doubles as a batting coach, and did some exercises to get into shape. Come March, he was ready.
“I went into the season confident and excited,” Bartram said. “I didn’t want to be any other way.”
Unlike a lot of high school athletes these days, baseball was the sport that captured Bartram’s fancy the most.
“It’s kind of in our family,” he said. “I’ve been playing it since I was old enough to walk.
“I played some other sports early on,” he said. “But they all fell by the wayside, and it was just baseball.”
He played in the Cal Ripken League, and then in Babe Ruth. But when he was a freshman in high school his, and everyone else’s, athletic career came to a screeching, if temporary, halt.
“COVID,” he said. “We missed my freshman season completely. When I was a sophomore, I started out on the varsity, but ended up on the JVs as the starting catcher there.”
That was fine with him.
“Given the choice of sitting or playing, I’d rather play,” he said. “I was very happy to be playing.”
He spent his junior year as Andy Titus’ understudy, and says he got a lot out of watching Titus and applying what he’d learned. By the time it was his turn, he was ready.
The only fly in the ointment now, Bartram said, is that he doesn’t hit. The Magicians’ best hitter cannot play the field due to injury and the pitching staff has a lot of good hitters.
“He’s handled that well,” said Giardi. “He’s been really good about it.”
“In a way it’s good,” Bartram said “It’s one less thing I have to think about. I can go in between innings and zero in on what I’m going to do next inning.”
Thus far, the Magicians are 3-2, including a tough loss to Masconomet and a victory over Peabody.
He gives the following advice to anyone who finds himself in his situation: Work hard, wait your turn, and be ready. It’s all you can do.