A tough catch: Notre Dame catcher Kristen Barwick not shying from playing arduous position

Notre Dame's Kristen Barwick (14) plays catcher during Notre Dame's game against Festus in the 29th Annual Jackson Varsity Softball Invitational Tournament Saturday at the Shawnee Park Sports Complex.
Jacob Wiegand ~ Southeast Missourian

Catching is said to be the hardest position to fill on any youth baseball or softball team.

The Pinkman Academy in northern Virginia has been training players and coaches since 1992.

Pinkman says catcher is the most dangerous and most poorly trained position in the game.

Catcher is the only position requiring a vision-reducing mask, a chest protector and leg guards.

It is the only one in which the player spends virtually all her time in a crouch.

Along with the pitcher, the catcher is the only other player involved in every play.

Kristen Barwick, a standout senior catcher for Class 3 Notre Dame softball, agrees her position can be a little hard on the body.

“That’s probably why when I do reach base, I have to take a pinch-runner most of the time,” Barwick said.

Softball provides a “courtesy runner,” someone off the bench who can run the bases especially to give pitchers and catchers a bit of a break.

The players who have been so relieved from running the basepaths then return to the field in the next half-inning.

In Notre Dame’s 10-4 win Saturday over Festus at the Jackson Invitational, Barwick received courtesy runners in both the first and third innings after reaching.

“When there is a long inning, my knees get a little worn out,” admits Barwick.

Barwick says she does leg strength training. It helps. So does the sheer repetition of crouching, catching the ball and throwing it back to the pitcher dozens of times a game.

“I feel like I’ve been doing (catching) for so many years, I don’t feel (the aches) anymore,” Barwick insisted.

Barwick is a rare left-handed throwing catcher.

In major league baseball, the last lefty to play the position was little-known Benny Distefano, who caught three games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1989.

The knock on a left-throwing catcher is she is at a disadvantage in making a throw to third base.

Nonsense, says Barwick.

“Everyone says it’s so difficult,” she said. “I don’t think it makes that much of a difference, to be honest.”

Barwick is a central reason why the Bulldogs improved to 19-4 this season and took second in the 20-team Jackson Invitational at Shawnee Park Sports Complex Saturday.

The team around her is similarly outstanding.

Hailey Kutz, the former Southeast Missourian Player of the Year, has been effective on the mound.

Notre Dame has reliable hitters capable of spraying singles in bunches and launching the long ball.

The Bulldogs are also opportunistic once they reach safely.

“We turn them loose on the bases,” veteran Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett said. “We like to be aggressive.”

It seems to be working for the Bulldogs in 2019 and Barwick intends to enjoy it.

She says this season is the end of the line for her.

“No, I probably won’t play in college,” Barwick said. “I love softball but since I’m intending on the medical field, I won’t have time for it.”

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