Reis living a baseball dream
mike feifel/times news Derick Reis prepares to head to the Iron Pigs bullpen during a recent game.
Derick Reis considers baseball and hunting his top two hobbies and it's rare that someone will find the Jim Thorpe grad not involved in one or the other.
Reis, who came up through his high school and collegiate career as a pitcher, now finds himself on the other end of the battery.
Now a substitute teacher in the Jim Thorpe Area School Districts, Reis is living out a dream as the bullpen catcher for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs during their home games at Coca-Cola Park.
The Friday of the team's opening homestand, Reis reieved a text message. It was from Paul Kashin, a friend from his college days at Kutztown and now the Director of Stadium Operations, asking him if he knew of anyone who would be interested in bullpen catching for the IronPigs.
It just so happens that Doc Nieman, who is a catcher on the DeSales University baseball team and was the IronPigs bullpen catcher for the first three seasons, isn't available until his season ends.
"I called him back right away and said I didn't really know anybody, but did he think I could handle it," Reis said recently after putting in a night's work. "I never caught before, but he thought I could do it.
"We got into a conversation about how our assistant coach at Kutztown was a bullpen catcher for the Reading Phillies."
That was all the convincing that Reis needed.
Friday night was a rainout, so his first official night was the next day with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in town.
"My sister had a track meet at Moravian so my girlfriend and I headed right over here afterwards," he said. "The whole ride over I was so nervous and she just kept telling me to relax. I wasn't worried about myself looking like a fool. I just didn't want to tick these guys off.
"Mike Schwimer was the first guy I caught. I showed up, they gave me the uniform and catcher's stuff and said 'how bout it.'"
After catching Schwimer, he went back to the other pitchers and told them that he never caught before. He also told them if there was anything he should be doing and wasn't - that they should let him know.
"It's not an opportunity that you get every day and the pitchers were cool with it," added Reis. "I jumped at the chance just to be in the clubhouse with these guys and just interact with them on a daily basis."
Reis remembered stories that his college coach told him about doing the job at Reading, but admitted they didn't sink until he was actually here.
The first night he worked, they put him in a closet right across from the umpires dressing room.
"My buddy Paul took me into the IronPigs locker room and the first guy he introduced me to was Scott (Mathieson)," said Reis. "He said there's an empty locker between me and Z (Mike Zagurski) so why don't you put your stuff in there. So I did.
"When Zagurski got called up for a bit, Brian Gordon took his locker. Then (Michael) Stutes got called. Now Chance Chapman is back up here so I got bumped to the other side next to (Brandon) Moss so it worked out. It's kind of cool because I got to be pretty good friends with those guys."
Moss and Mathieson are both big hunters so Reis said it's perfect now that he is over next to Moss.
"Scotty took me under his wing from the beginning," he said about Mathieson, who got called up for a brief stint with the Phillies last season. "I couldn't say enough good things about that guy. We hit it off right from the start."
Reis expects Nieman to probably return after this homestand. Still, he has fit in so well that a couple of the players still want him to come around and hang out at the ballpark the rest of the season.
After applying for the head baseball job at Jim Thorpe this year and not getting it, the "Baseball Gods" kept their eye on Reis and didn't leave him out of their sight.
The 2008 Kutztown grad is living a dream. There may even be some hunts in the future for Reis, Mathieson and Moss.
So if you ever get a call to be a bullpen catcher, don't pass up the chance.
Just ask Derick Reis.