Garrett Stubbs doesn’t look like a typical major league catcher, but he has proven that he belongs for the Phillies

LOS ANGELES — Just about every time Garrett Stubbs steps onto a baseball field, he’ll hear some comment about his size. He heard a few on Friday night, while he was shagging balls in the outfield at Dodger Stadium. Fans in the left field bleachers started calling him a little leaguer. They told him he’s not big enough to play in the big leagues. They told him he didn’t deserve to be there.

Most of the time, Stubbs will ignore them. This time, he turned around with a playful grin.

“Maybe if I was your size, I would deserve to be here,” he shot back.

The Phillies’ backup catcher is used to the jeering. He’s always been undersized. In his freshman year of high school, he stood at 5-foot-2 and 100 pounds. Today, he’s listed at 5-10 and 170 pounds, one of only two MLB catchers since 2010 with that build. Some players wear their baggy uniforms by choice. Stubbs wears his uniform baggy because that is how he falls on his body.

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He knows his height and weight make him an outlier. Throughout his career, Stubbs has been dissuaded not just from catching — a position typically held by taller and stockier players — but from playing baseball all together. And to be fair, he does have his physical limitations. Stubbs won’t be able to hit a ball at 110 or 120 mph. But he finds other ways to make himself valuable.

He’ll lay down a bunt or hit a line drive. He doesn’t have an imposing presence behind the plate, but he does have athleticism, which he uses to block balls, present his target well, and make pitches look good. He has quickness and arm strength, which helps him throw base runners out at second base, and his defense metrics reflect this. In 40 big-league games, he has a 40% caught-stealing rate. In 342 minor-league games, he had a 42% caught-stealing rate.

Stubbs was traded by the Astros to the Phillies in November of 2021, knowing full well that he wouldn’t be getting a lot of playing time behind starting catcher (and resident workhorse) JT Realmuto. But he earned a spot on the active roster in spring training, for the second time in his big-league career, and has made the most of the opportunities he’s been given. Stubbs has only played seven games thus far, but has hit .294/.333/.471 over that span.

He’s quickly become a glue-guy in the Phillies clubhouse. The pitching staff loves him, and Stubbs takes pride in building clubhouse relationships. His former catching coach, Ed Herrmann, always emphasized the importance of these intangibles. Stubbs has remembered and lived out that lesson throughout his career.

“He knew I was undersized for my position, and for my sport, but he told me to rely on the six inches between my ears,” Stubbs said. “It’s about being prepared. He always instilled that using the correct technique was going to be the driving force for me.

“For a while, I couldn’t throw the ball all the way down to second base. Ed told me to make sure my footwork and my transfer were done correctly and then one-hop it to second base. So, I one-hopped it to second base all the way up until my sophomore year or junior year of high school. Just things like that. We realized that because of my size, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish some things that other guys might be able to, but if I did everything correctly, I could overcome those limitations.”

Realmuto takes pride in starting a lot of games, but he’ll have to take a day off at some point. And when he does, Stubbs will step back onto the field, with his uniform sagging on his shoulders, and he’ll hear those jeers again. The backup catcher sees these moments as an opportunity — a chance to show his doubters what he can do, rather than what he can’t do. A chance to show that he belongs, just as much as the other catchers in this league, who are taller and heavier than he is.

“If I get out there and I do what I know I can do, I’m going to walk away personally feeling good about it,” Stubbs said. “And then, more than likely, they’ll have a different perspective, too.”


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