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Life as a backup catcher suits Mets’ Anthony Recker fine

“I just try to work hard all the time,” said Recker.

Anthony Recker (Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images)

Anthony Recker (Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images)


While starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud was still working his way back after his latest DL stint, rookie Kevin Plawecki stayed with the big league club to split playing time. But with the Mets poised to increase both of their workloads, Plawecki was sent down to Triple-A Las Vegas last week for more seasoning. Although the Mets are blessed to possess two of the games better young catchers, they also have a pretty reliable backup in Anthony Recker, who was recalled from Vegas and has become a specialist at preparing to play once or twice a week.

“I just try to work hard all time. On the field, off the field, studying hitters, always being in the bullpen, being available to catch the starters and relievers when I can so I can work on my craft,” Recker told me in the Mets locker room. “Being in the cage and working on receiving, blocking, throwing, everything. And then obviously offensively working on my swing and just trying to stay as sharp as I can.”

The 31-year-old native of Allentown, Pennsylvania, has remodeled his approach with an eye toward being ready as needed. For that, he has earned the confidence of manager Terry Collins and the pitching staff, especially veteran Bartolo Colon. However, he wasn’t a first-round talent like d’Arnaud and Plawecki. Instead, Recker played his college ball at Alvernia (now known as Alvernia University) —a Division III school in Reading, Pa., with about 1,500 undergraduates—because nobody else seemed to want him.

He received no attention coming out of high school and had tried to walk on to the team at the University of Delaware. Instead, he was cut after one semester. A cousin had gone to Alvernia, 70 minutes away from Catasauqua, where Recker grew up, and without seeing the campus, he decided to go there. Despite Alvernia having only produced one other major leaguer, Wade Miller, a nine-year veteran pitcher and currently an assistant coach at his alma mater, Recker thought that goal of reaching the majors was attainable at the college.

“I always thought it was a possibility because I was told coming out of high school that I was raw but I had a lot of ability and if I worked at it I could have a chance. That’s the one thing I feel like no matter what I’ve always been good at,” said Recker, who hit .412 with 44 homers and 214 RBIs in his college career. “I’ve been a really good worker, that something my parents instilled in me. Like I said they work a lot and they taught me how to work hard and work a lot. So I knew I always had a chance as long as I kept that mentality and I’ve been able to and it served me well.”

Recker represents one of baseball’s rarest breeds—major leaguers from Division III, the lowest level of the NCAA. D-III schools don’t offer formal athletic scholarships and the majority of students who choose Division III don’t aspire to become professional athletes. In fact, just seven players who appeared in at least one major-league game this season came from a D-III program, according to Those players include Recker, Jordan Zimmerman, Chris Heisey, Joe Nathan, Charlie Furbush, Chris Denorfia and Erik Kratz.

Recker became an All-American and hit .461 with 16 homers and 62 RBIs in 2005, garnering enough attention for the Oakland Athletics to gamble an 18th-round pick on him. He was a midseason all-star on three different levels — Class A (Midwest League, 2006, and California League, 2007), Double-A (Texas League, 2008) and at Triple-A (Pacific Coast League, 2011). He also shared time behind the plate with current Blue Jays third baseman and MVP candidate Josh Donaldson at various stops in the minors. But it wasn’t until his seventh pro season in 2011 that Recker got a taste of the big leagues.

“For me it was just the time of my life when I was trying to keep grinding and working hard. Like you said I made some All-Star teams and had some success, so I knew everything was paying off, if was just a matter of time before I got a break,” Recker said. “And I finally got an opportunity to play at the big league level and I was able to prove that I belong.”

Recker made the opening day roster when he broke camp as the backup to Kurt Suzuki in 2012. But after being sent down to Sacramento in late May, he changed organizations twice in two months. The first time was in August when he was traded to the Cubs for catcher/first baseman Blake Lalli. Then, in October, the Mets claimed him when the Cubs tried to remove him from their 40-man roster. After spending the first eight years of his pro career playing in the Midwest and West, Recker was excited about the chance to play closer to home.

“For years I never got to play in front of my family. They work a lot so they didn’t have many chances to come out and see me play out on the West Coast,” said Recker. “So being able to be on the East Coast and actually have an opportunity to play in front of them occasionally and see them a little bit more often has been really nice.”

During his recent stint back on the West Coast with the 51’s, Recker was reunited with former Met and Alvernia College teammate Zach Lutz, who was recently resigned by the organization and eschewed interest from powerhouses like South Carolina and Notre Dame to play for his father, Yogi, Alvernia’s longtime coach. But Recker is back in Queens now in what is his third season for the Mets, a pretty god run for a backup catcher.

Last season, Recker gunned out 37% of all base stealers, including quickster Billy Hamilton. He also seems to have a knack for the big hit. Of his 15 home runs as a Met, ten have either tied the game or given the Mets the lead. He is only hitting .129 this season and he has struggled in limited action. However, the expectation for a backup catcher is not to be outstanding — if that were the case, they presumably would be starting — but rather reliable.

“I think I’m a pretty smart player, so mentally I feel like I have what it takes and physically I know I have what it takes,” Recker said. “So it’s just a matter of staying within yourself when you get the opportunity to play.”

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