Jamie Pogue squatting in big-league bullpens
* St. Louis Cardinals bullpen catcher Jamie Pogue (Guelph, Ont.) with all-star catcher Yadier Molina ….
By Alexis Brudnicki
St. LOUIS – A congratulatory text changed Jamie Pogue’s life.
That may sound melodramatic, but it’s not really an exaggeration.
Pogue was living in Virginia, waiting for a green card, and planning to open up a local baseball facility. He’d heard that the area could use a place for young ballplayers to play and he thought it would be a perfect fit for him.
Then he sent a text message to Mike Matheny.
Growing up as a ball player in the St. Louis Cardinals system, Pogue got to know Matheny really well. When his former coach stepped in to manage the club, the 34-year-old thought he should send him a celebratory message.
“I sent him a text to congratulate him,” Pogue said. “And he asked if I wanted to be involved and things kind of evolved from there. I came in for an interview in the middle of December and he offered me a job and I graciously accepted.”
That job, the one that the native of Guelph currently holds, makes him the bullpen catcher for the Cards. The opportunity came as a pretty big shock to Pogue, considering that he wasn’t even expecting a response from Matheny right away, let alone an offering to once again join the franchise.
“I said, ‘I know you’re really busy, I’ll try and catch up in a couple weeks,’” Pogue said. “Within five minutes he had responded and said, ‘Hey, do you have any interest in being involved?’ That was extremely surprising to me and I’m very thankful and gracious for it.”
Pogue’s bullpen coaching career began at the 2009 World Baseball Classic when the Canadian was summoned to perform such duties for Team USA. He took the opportunity he was given, and although it wasn’t with the host team at Rogers Centre he still had some fun with his fellow Canucks.
“Team Canada didn’t express a need for someone to help and the U.S. team did, and obviously with it being in Toronto, I was there,” he said. “I thought it would be cool to be around those guys, especially on the U.S. team there were some really big-name players.
“It’s funny, before the game started and the day before, Team Canada practiced after we did and I have a lot of friends over there. So we had gotten done and they were coming out and I was talking to some guys and Stubby Clapp ran around me. I didn’t see him.
“He jumped on my back and ripped my U.S. hat off and threw it in the stands and put a Baseball Canada hat on. That was pretty cool. I’m Canadian through and through.”
Pogue has plans to come back to his home country this off-season, though he no longer resides in Canada. He continues to work with the Ontario Blue Jays, however, something he has done since 2004. He is currently the director of college placement for the youngsters.
“The kids that graduated this year, I found them schools to play ball in the U.S. and the plan is to keep doing that, at least for the next year or two, because I still know the next couple classes of kids that are going to come out,” Pogue said. “From there, we’ll see.
“They’ve expressed some interest in bringing me up in the off-season to get to know the new kids and the younger guys, so it could be something that continues for a long time.”
Helping younger generations of Canadian baseball players is a task that has been incredibly satisfying for the catcher. He’s been impressed at the increase in opportunities for players from north of the border and is happy to have a role that allows him to assist them.
“It’s pretty cool to be able to have that kind of impact and input into someone’s life,” he said. “Things have changed a lot from when I went to school. Back then there were eight to 10 kids a year from Canada being able to play in college. Now, to be able to find all those Canadian kids schools to play at is very gratifying.”
Pogue uses the contacts he’s made throughout his career to help him in finding post-secondary homes for the Ontario Blue Jays.
“I know a lot of former teammates and coaches from college and pro ball that are either coaching in college, or I have good friends that are coaching in college, that put me in contact,” he said. “A lot of times it’s just cold calls.
“I call people and let them know who I am and who we are. The Ontario Blue Jay name carries a lot of weight. We go to a lot of good tournaments in the US and a lot of college coaches are very familiar with the program. So that helps out a lot too.”
While Pogue is still in the beginning stages of his coaching career, moving in a forward motion is always on his mind. For a bullpen catcher, becoming a manager is a seemingly prevalent and attainable goal, one that Pogue shares with his counterparts.
“You have to think about it some,” he said of someday managing. “At the same point, this is year one. I’m trying to do as much as I can and learn as much as I can and talk to as many different people as I can and kind of broaden my baseball knowledge and then see if we can parlay that into something down the line when I can’t squat behind the plate anymore.”
When that day comes, Pogue will have the teachings of some impressive mentors to help him out, namely a few members of his current organization who have already had a big impact on him.
“I’m going to have to go with three guys, one being Matheny,” he said. “Mike Aldrete, the bench coach, I work fairly closely with him, doing stuff inside, lineups and that kind of stuff. Then John Mabry would be the third, the assistant hitting coach. He’s really kind of taken me under his wing and he involves me in a lot of things.”