PASCO, Wash. — Usually, when a catcher plays another position on the field it’s first base. Someone with athleticism may even get time at a corner outfield spot.
“Centerfield is one of my favorite positions to play because you have the whole field in front of you,” said Driscoll, 21, a left-handed hitting catcher before a recent game.
“It was something I did in college and really enjoyed, but probably won’t be doing it here.”
What Driscoll did in three years for the George Mason Patriots that the Padres expect him to continue doing, is hit. In 628 plate appearances, he posted a career .336/.426/.513 slash line with an unreal 74 walks against only 74 strikeouts. After earning Baseball America’s Atlantic 10 Preseason Player of the year, he didn’t disappoint. Career highs in on-base-percentage (.462) and slugging (.600) propelled him into the first day’s picks.
“You never really know where you will end up,” said Driscoll about the draft process. “I did know that the Padres were very interested. When I talked with my agent, he told me there was a chance that I could go late on the first day and to be ready for it.
“He also told me to be ready to go on the second day, too, so we were not sure. I tried not to get my hopes up, because it never works out the way you want it to, but in my case it did. I was very happy when the Padres took me late on the first day.”
A family affair
While performing as well as he did and being a high draft pick were obvious goals for Driscoll coming into college, his personal highlight was getting to play with his brother, who preceded him to George Mason by three years. In an interview with the Fourth Estate, the school paper, he credited his brother Garett for getting him involved in baseball: “[I] learned everything I know about catching from him.”
“He was a catcher too coming in. He ended up getting a few surgeries and then pitched his last two years. I ended up catching him, which was cool.”
Starting the professional journey
After the Padres drafted Driscoll, he signed quickly and was with the Dust Devils when their season began. He played only a few games before going down with an injury.
“I played in the first three games, and I ended up pulling my quad in the fourth game. Then I was doing a rehab program, and reaggravated it. I worked through it and modified some things, so I was able to get back to it.”
In his first six games back, Driscoll has hit .375/.444/.667 with six extra-base hits. He has only played defense in one game – in right field.
“It was one of those things that I was frustrated that I wasn’t able to play starting my pro career,” Driscoll said. “But having that time off also allowed me to slow everything down like we were talking about last night, it helped me find my swing, to get me back to where I wanted to be at the plate.
“Obviously now there are going to be some adjustments in the field whether in the outfield or behind the plate. In the long run, I think that adjustment time will help me.”
Going forward the Padres see Driscoll catching. As much as he enjoys hitting and running around the outfield, behind the plate is where he wants to be.
“The thing I like the most is being active every pitch because everything is coming at you every pitch. Obviously, the pitcher is throwing, but you are calling the game, and I like having that responsibility and control.”
At George Mason, according to Baseball America, because of his advanced understanding of the pitching staff, he was one of the few college catchers to call his own game. Because there is so much to do, Driscoll believed that being behind the plate helped him avoid dwelling on bad at-bats.
“That is one of the special things about catching. If you have a bad at-bat you have to put it behind you and get right back in the game.
“Having people throw things at you at 90 miles an hour really helps your focus,” laughed Driscoll.