Getting a helmet tap for hitting a home run is a familiar feel for Ohio State commit Andres Suarez (51).
Catching is a position with seemingly unlimited demands, be it athletic ability, endurance, strength, intelligence or leadership skills. Not every catcher can boast all of the above qualities. But those who do often succeed at a high level.
The intricacies of the position can be compared to flying an airplane. If your catcher does not push all the right buttons and guide his crew through all of the specific and intricate stages of a game, there can be no soft landing.
Diamond Jacks Super 16U catcher Andres Suarez has gotten so good at providing that soft landing for his pitchers and teammates, Division 1 programs were drawn to him before he played a game his sophomore year of high school.
Suarez, now a junior at Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pa., gave his verbal commitment to Ohio State University last November. Interestingly enough, the 5-10, 185-pound bull behind the plate may have made his most significant developmental advancements since that date.
“This year, Andres has taken his ability to the next level,” says Travis Anderson, Diamond Nation’s director of catching. “He’s always had the talent but he’s now turned the lights on. He’s locked in and can now be that guy that leads a team. He’s playing well more consistently.”
Steve DiTrolio, Diamond Nation’s director of recruiting, agrees.
“The Buckeyes are getting a special player,” says DiTrolio. “Andres continues to do things at the dish and behind it that you just don’t see from a high school catcher. His ability to steal an out on the bases is the best I’ve seen at the high school level.”
Suarez was drawn initially to the Big Ten by his dad, Alfredo Suarez, who was graduated from Purdue.
“My dad going to a Big Ten school was a major part of the process for me,” said Andres. “He explained to me that the Big Ten is arguably the best overall Power 5 conference because of the very strong academics at all 14 institutions, unparalleled support of its student-athletes and the significant amount of resources spent each year on research.”
It sounds like Suarez did some homework on the Big Ten himself and it was Ohio State and Purdue that checked the most boxes before the Buckeyes won him over.
“Ohio State baseball has a long winning tradition and the best coaching staff anyone can ask for,” he said. “Coach Greg Beals has had a lot of success and has great plans for the program in the future. The Ohio State athletic department culture puts a tremendous value on the words student-athlete. The school spends tremendous resources to ensure their student-athletes are successful in the classroom and also provides post-graduate support.” Beals’ Buckeyes won Big Ten titles in 2016 and ‘19 and he boasts 546 career victories.
But baseball was just part of the equation for Suarez during the recruiting process.
“What made Ohio State special and the right fit for me was they had my major of interest,” says Suarez. “I’m very curious and interested in learning about aviation and Ohio State has a great aviation program.”
Suarez truly learned the catching position from the ground up and he has been exposed to the field of aviation since he was a youngster. Alfredo Suarez is a pilot for a major airline.
“What sparked my interest in aviation at first was seeing how interesting it was being a pilot,” says Andres. “I saw videos of views from the flight deck and also the places pilots get to travel to and visit. I was fortunate enough to fly an airplane with a student at Liberty University. That was the most amazing thing I ever experienced.
“Naturally having the first-hand experience of my dad being a major airline pilot certainly gives me a front row seat to what it takes to be a pilot, as well as the challenges that come with it.”
A challenge is something Andres Suarez has always embraced and anyone who has donned the gear behind the plate can attest to the physical and mental hurdles one must overcome to become proficient at the craft.
“Andres dropped down to one knee and that seemed to clean up his receiving a little bit,” said Anderson. “It allowed him to work below the baseball and his defense really took off. He works hard and he’s the type of kid you can push a little, ride him for the right reason. He likes the challenge and won’t quit. He knows he’s being pushed for the right reason.”
Anderson played professional behind the plate so knows what it takes to succeed there. He is not soft on his catchers and is, in fact, known for pushing them. Suarez has responded to that approach. “Now Andres understands it’s all for the better,” says Anderson.
“I’ve made a lot has changed within the past year maturity wise at the plate,” says Suarez. “I worked a lot with coach Anderson on how to manage the game from behind the plate. He taught me that the catcher is the captain of the ship and needs to be the leader behind the plate.”
Anderson says, “Andres parents are great. They really turned him over to us and allowed him to be coached the right way. It’s a two-way street and they know we are doing what’s best for him.”
Suarez’s hitting has developed overtly, as well, during the past year.
“I worked a lot with coach Kevin Cust on my approach at the plate and how to have discipline at the plate,” said Suarez.
Suarez also brings specific physical and athletic attributes with him to the position.
“He’s built like a fire hydrant,” said Anderson. “He has big strong legs and a strong back. He’s always had bat speed and power. With his development and maturity, his physical power is coming into play. We are seeing that on a more consistent basis. We all knew it was coming.
“I just enjoy watching him play. He communicates well. He’s put in a lot of hard work on his own and in the weight room. His arm strength is good and he gets the most out of his body and ability.”
Suarez has learned that leadership cannot be forced.
“To me it’s more than just telling my teammates what to do,” he says. “It’s also building trust for a bond with them so they can trust you during the game.”
Prep Baseball Report (PBR) New Jersey likes what it sees of Suarez as well. A report filed shortly before his commitment to Ohio State, and before another year of significant development, read, “…right-handed hitter starts from a square stance and initiates his swing with a controlled leg-hang stride. Displays present power with an ability to create backspin. Registered a bat exit velocity of 93 mph and ran a 7.15 60-yard dash. Polished receiver flashed quick feet and quick transition with pop times of 2.05-2.12 on throws of 78 mph from the crouch. Advanced all-around skill set makes Suarez one of the top catching prospects in his class statewide.”
For now, Suarez focuses on his fall work with the Diamond Jacks Super 16U team and looks forward to his junior season at Freedom that follows a sophomore campaign lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m most looking forward to playing with my (Freedom) teammates again,” Suarez said. “They’ve been my teammates since we first started playing baseball in grade school. I just can’t wait to get another chance to go to war with them.”
We can’t wait to watch.