When you consider that on any given day during the regular season there are a total of only 750 major league baseball players, it is staggering. And then when you consider that roughly half of the guys on a team’s 25-man roster are pitchers, another six or seven are infielders and utility infielders and another four or five are outfielders and utility outfielders, that leaves at best three but more realistically only two catchers per team. That’s 60 total catchers in all of baseball – overwhelming if not impossible odds.
It’s no secret that MLB teams bring an abundance of catchers into spring training camp every year, not necessarily to determine who their primary and back-up catchers will be or that they have any real chance of making the team. Simply put, they are brought into camp to catch the abundance of pitchers that are in camp. This is certainly not a knock on those spring training catchers, it’s just the cold hard truth and a fact of life in the big leagues.
So why, then, would a guy try to make the team at the single-most difficult position to do so?
Because catchers are a rare breed and it’s in their DNA, and because it’s the single-most difficult position to make the team at.
Gorman Erickson, who goes by the nickname ‘Griff’, is one such catcher and make no mistake about it, there is no place on earth that he would rather be right now than in big league spring training camp with the Dodgers.
Born on March 11, 1988 in San Diego, CA, Erickson was selected by the Dodgers in the 15th round of the 2006 MLB First Year Player Draft out of Westview High School in San Diego. He began his professional career with the Rookie League Dodgers of the Gulf Coast League in 2007 and remained there through the 2008 season.
In 2009 the switch-hitting Erickson began to show promise when he hit .305 with five home runs for the Ogden Raptors of the Pioneer Rookie League earning a promotion to the Low Single-A Great Lake Loons of the Midwest League in 2010.
Although Griff had an up and down season with the Loons in 2010, he once again began to show promise in 2011 when he split time between Advance Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga, hitting a combined .293 with 13 home runs and it appeared that he was on his way up the Dodgers depth chart. Unfortunately, Erickson struggled during the 2012 season hitting .234 with three home runs with the Lookouts.
Erickson got a big break in 2013 when he received a non-roster invitation to big league spring training camp, but here again, it was more for his catcher’s mitt than anything else, as he did not appear in any spring training games with the big club.
Now 25 years old, Erickson began the 2013 season back at Double-A Chattanooga where he suffered a late season injury that appeared to have sealed his fate with the Dodgers, as they elected not to re-sign Erickson and he became a free agent at the end of the 2013 season.
But if Ned Colletti has shown us anything, he has shown us that he isn’t afraid to give guys another chance and he did just this with Griff when he signed the 6′-4″/220 pound catcher to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp on January 21, 2014. And while there is every indication that the signing was yet again for his catcher’s mitt, a decent spring could possibly land the very popular Erickson on the Tripe-A Albuquerque Isotopes opening day roster. It will also allow scouts from other MLB teams an opportunity to get a close look at the switch-hitting backstop.
Erickson said that getting that phone call from the Dodgers during the off-season was a huge relief.
“It was great,” Erickson said. “You go from minor league camp to big league camp it’s a big difference. It’s a total honor and it’s great to be part of something bigger. I’m really happy and my family is really happy.”
Even though Erickson knows that his chances are slim to make the Dodgers opening day roster, he isn’t short on desire and he has been working hard to get better on both sides of the ball.
“I’m working a lot with being more consistent in my set-up catching and grooving in my swing a little bit more,” added Erickson. “There’s never a time when you’re totally content with your game even when you are locked in. There’s always something that you can improve upon, that’s just baseball and you’ve got to roll with it.”
There is little doubt that being a rare switch-hitting catcher has been a huge advantage for Erickson and something that he plans to continue doing.
“Last year I had an injury that was kind of nagging,” Erickson said. “I got that taken care of and I’m feeling much stronger, so I’m definitely sticking to both sides.”
While the odds of Griff Erickson making the team may be overwhelming, so, too, is his passion and courage – and you’ve got to love that.