Hard-nosed Buck catching on nicely with Mets
John Buck doesn't want any attention.
"The best catchers, I think they thrive on not being talked about," the Mets backstop said, "because if you're doing your job behind the plate, you're really not getting noticed. You're giving everyone else the glory -- whether it be the pitcher throwing a complete game [or something else].
"You don't really hear about, 'Oh, John framed so many great pitches and stole so many borderline pitches.' There's so much to our job, you really can't expect everyone to recognize it. So if you're going unnoticed through the game as a catcher, that's generally what we want to be. It's the 'unnoticed factor.' That means you're doing a great job.
"Usually, if you're getting attention [behind] the plate, it's usually because something went wrong," Buck said.
But Buck is getting attention for his actions both behind the plate and at it -- and according to Buck himself, he's getting it for all the wrong reasons.
See, John Buck is good at his job.
Defensively, he's an excellent catcher. And with a bat in his hands, he has grown into an adept hitter, defying the all-defense, no-offense stereotype for catchers.
Buck was traded from Miami to Toronto in November 2012, only to be shipped less than a month later to the Mets. The thing is, Buck was perceived as little more than a catcher to warm the bench until phenom prospect Travis d'Arnaud was fully primed for the big leagues.
It didn't take Buck long to foil that plan. By the end of April, he'd amassed nine home runs and 25 RBIs.
While his stats may have slowed down a bit since then, his reliability has not. At 32, Buck lends an air of veteran wisdom to a rebuilding Mets clubhouse featuring such fresh faces as rookie right-handers Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.
Still, Buck admits catchers are an undervalued bunch.
"[Catching] is a mental grind," he said. "I could be 0-for-4 [at the plate], but my most important job is not to be upset about being 0-for-4. It's to be full of energy and getting a zero at the end of the day [in the scorebook for the opposing team] and realize that my 0-for-4 has nothing to do with the course of the game.
"That's why people freak out about the [Brian] McCanns, the Joe Mauers, the [Yadier] Molinas. They are very special humans. And if you're a baseball person, you realize that. If you get a catcher that can give you a little bit of offense, that's always icing on the cake, because it's definitely first and foremost to have a good defensive catcher behind the plate running things," Buck explained.
It's that mental know-how that earned catchers' gear the moniker, "the tools of ignorance," a reference to the grueling physicality of crouching behind the dish for nine whole innings.
Buck, however, has taken the phrase "tools of ignorance" to a whole new level. It's the name of his company, founded with his father-in-law and brother-in-law.
Buck is more than just a catcher, he's also an inventor.
"It actually started with a Glove Guardian, a device that I kinda came up with one day in Spring Training [with the Marlins]," Buck said. "We were all pulling our gloves out of the bag, and I said, 'How do we not have something that goes in our catcher's bag that protects our most valuable asset -- that is, our glove?'"
So Buck crafted a few Glove Guardians -- hard-shelled cases to protect a catcher's mitt -- for all the catchers in camp with him. That's when his idea hit the big time -- it was featured on the Miami edition of Showtime's "The Franchise."
Suddenly, Buck was receiving Facebook and Twitter messages left and right from people who wanted a Glove Guardian of their own. Soon enough, "Tools of Ignorance" was formed to give the product a platform.
Now, Buck's expanding the company to accommodate an entire line of baseball products -- Game Signs (fingernail stickers Buck wears to help pitchers see his signs), bat wraps and more. Buck said fans can expect more products to come out next year.
"I can't reveal my secrets, because they're not patented," Buck said with a laugh.
The bottom line is that Buck enjoys inventing almost as much as he loves his day job.
"I have, this offseason, gone to a couple of conventions," he said. "That is something that I like and enjoy. It's a part of the game that I don't have to deal with every day normally, but I feel like I do have the credentials to go ahead and add my own ideas; either to add to make some products better or to come up with my own if it's not out there, since, I guess, I do deal with baseball on an everyday basis."
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.