By Braden Jones
Canadian Baseball Network
DUNEDIN, Fla. – Riley Adams stands at the beginning of what could be a long and successful catching career.
The 21-year-old Toronto Blue Jays prospect begins this spring coming off of a successful first season for the class-A Vancouver Canadians where he batted .305 in 52 games with 35 runs batted in.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Adams was not always found behind the plate, growing up as an infielder and making the transition to catcher in his sophomore year of high school.
“I was a shortstop my whole life. I went to high school as a shortstop,” Adams said, standing on the grounds of the Bobby Mattick Training Center. “After freshman year on the varsity team we didn’t have any catchers. The coach asked me if I wanted to give it a shot, and I just went with it.
“Thankfully the coach at the time there was a former catcher and had a lot of information. He was able to help me out a ton. If it wasn’t for him I don’t know if I would be here today.”
Embracing his role as a catcher has come with new challenges for the young prospect.
“The biggest thing with catching is flexibility,” Adams said, referring to his adjusted training techniques. “When I went to college at the University of San Diego they really stressed yoga a lot. Whether you like it or not, it really helps with your flexibility and get into different deep positions.
“In high school, I played basketball, which helps you stay athletic. It gave me a break from baseball and wasn’t really taxing on my body. The longer you stay with it, your body will have little aches and pains every now and then, but staying flexible and being athletic are my two biggest things.”
While ensuring the development of his technical skill is moving forward, Adams also emphasizes the importance of developing his leadership presence.
“Being a catcher has basically forced me to be a leader. Everyone looks toward you that way. You are basically the coach on the field,” Adams said. “In order to be successful as a catcher you definitely have to be a leader. It definitely took me some getting used to when I first started doing it.”
Along with his development as a leader, Adams credits his early experience in martial arts – he has a double black belt - in helping him maintain his discipline and translate that over to baseball.
“I would have to credit a lot to my parents. When I was really young they got me into karate, and karate requires a lot of discipline,” Adams said.
“Making sure you follow the instruction of your master, and sticking with it also helps your leadership skills. A lot of leadership skills and discipline I learned along the way I would have to credit to karate.”
With the bulk of his career still ahead of him, Adams looks to stars of the game now for inspiration and motivation.
“Buster Posey is a player right now that I look up to the most. I have talked to former major-league teammates of his and they have nothing but amazing things to say,” Adams said, of the Giants catcher. “Just his leadership, and obviously he is an amazing player.
“I think the biggest thing with him is what he does off the field and how he builds relationships with pitchers. The way he handles himself with his team and takes a leadership role. You have seen the success of the Giants over the last decade, and he is a guy I definitely try to model my game after.”