Freshman is mature behind plate

<i>Freshman catcher Will Remillard has been successful with the bat and the glove.</i> Will Remillard may be just a freshman catcher, but the quick study leads the Atlantic Ten Conference in base runners caught stealing

<i>Freshman catcher Will Remillard has been successful with the bat and the glove.</i>

Will Remillard may be just a freshman catcher, but the quick study leads the Atlantic Ten Conference in base runners caught stealing with 23 on 29 attempts.

The New York native has contributed more hits (36), RBIs (21) and home runs (3) than any other underclassman on the Owls’ roster. Although, coach Rob Valli said it is Remillard’s defense that sets him apart from other freshman catchers he’s recruited in the past.

“His defense has been most impressive, as much as he’s having a good year offensively,” Valli said. “[Catcher] is a position that not a lot of freshmen can just step in and handle the defense the way he does.”

“He’s been most impressive, defensively, in the way he handles our pitching staff and anchors our defense back there,” Valli added.

As the Collegiate Baseball Magazine Top New York State High School Baseball Player, Remillard was recruited to play for several colleges before committing to Temple. He played high school baseball at the La Salle Institute, and during the fall and summer, he played for a travel team, the South Troy Dodgers of Albany.

The Dodgers are known for producing college-ready ballplayers, as more than 100 players from the team have gone on to play Division I baseball since 1999. Remillard said playing for the travel team helped him gain exposure at tournaments where college coaches, including Valli, scouted.

“We saw him play a couple times at some of the better tournaments against some of the better competition,” Valli said. “He was one of the better players on the field, so we felt comfortable recruiting him.”

As a high school junior, Remillard hit .500 with 25 RBIs, earning a second-team Large School All-Area selection by the county newspaper, Times Union. Before his senior year, he led the Dodgers to the Connie Mack World Series in Farmington, N.M.

“We felt like Will had a chance to be a special player,” Valli said. “We just didn’t know how quickly he would acclimate himself to make that transition to Division I baseball.”

In his first collegiate start against High Point on Feb. 26, Remillard went 3-for-4 with a RBI in the 8-7 loss. Since then, he has started 26 games behind the plate for the Owls.

“The only sticking point was going to be whether he was kind of hesitant or feeling his way around first time out, and it was the total opposite of that,” Valli said. “He played very aggressively, and he played great defense and had some great at-bats. So we felt comfortable sticking with him right away.”

In a recent series against La Salle on April 9-10, Remillard batted .380 with two doubles and a home run with three runs scored. During the past weekend series with

Massachusetts, he had a double with two runs scored and a RBI, in which the Owls won one of three games.

“There’s not really much to it,” Remillard said of his game day philosophy. “I just go out there and play every day and try to do my best.”

Before the season began, Remillard said he tried to learn as much as he could from the Owls’ former starting catcher, senior Ryan Ferguson. Ferguson, who’s now an outfielder, helped Remillard with some of his rookie mistakes during fall practices.

“I came in, and I had no idea what I was doing,” Remillard said. “[Ferguson] helped me out a lot.  He was the one who was there for me, telling me what to do during practices.”

Valli said that the switch from catcher to the outfielder for Ferguson has worked for the team because Ferguson was more of an offensive catcher. Valli also said he expected Remillard to eventually earn a starting role.

“[Remillard] always did a great job making sure he caught all the different pitchers, multiple times before the season,” Valli said. “He sacrificed getting in the [batting] cage and maybe cut back on his swings to make sure he played enough defense.”

While opposing base runners try to take advantage of his lack of league experience, Remillard said his own teammates rarely mistreat him.

“I think everyone gets treated around the same,” Remillard said. “I mean as a freshman, obviously you got to carry the equipment. That just comes with being a freshman.”

However, Remillard mentioned there have been a couple challenges in his transition to the college level of play, including adjusting to a longer season and the amount of traveling involved in the schedule.

“You really got to keep up with workouts and stuff like that to keep your body in shape,” Remillard said. “Traveling is fun with the team, but it does take a toll on you.”

Remillard added he is looking forward to the Owls’ (16-16, 3-9 A-10) next road trip to New Orleans for a series of games starting on Friday.

“Hopefully it’s nice [weather] out there,” Remillard said. “Hopefully we win some games and play well.”

<i>Connor Showalter can be reached at</i>

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