COLUMBIA — Missouri's Trevor Coleman says he couldn't catch a cold when he was practicing for the first time with the Tigers in the fall of 2006, generally a problem for a catcher.
Three years later, Coleman now speaks and catches like a student of the game after being the Tigers' starting catcher since before Big 12 Conference play started that freshman season.
"He gets in trouble when he cuts it off and chokes the grip a bit," Coleman said of freshman pitcher Ryan Clubb's change-up pitch.
Besides catching on Tuesday night, Coleman hit a home run and an RBI double and drew three walks in five plate appearances in the Tigers' 8-1 win over the Indiana State Sycamores.
Coleman also said Clubb is more successful pitching from the arm slot that he throws his change-up from. He talks about how to get hitters out and how if you're going to throw a lot of fastballs that in college you have to locate your fastball or it's going to get hit all over the ballpark.
Senior Scooter Hicks relieved Clubb in the fifth and used his fastball to get the Indiana State (20-12) hitters out. It was Coleman calling for all the fastballs behind the plate.
"Thankfully, we were able to put them in all the right spots and they couldn't do anything with it," Coleman said.
Coleman also helped Clubb work through his first start for the Tigers (18-19). Clubb pitched 4 2/3 innings, gave up no runs, one hit and he struck out one.
"He's a great catcher," Clubb said. "He definitely knows how to call a game. Being a freshman, I don't know the guys as well as he does, so I just tip my hat to him and just listen to him."
Tuesday night, Coleman knew he had to help Clubb calm his nerves and guide him in the right direction. Each pitcher has a different mentality when pitching. Coleman works with freshmen pitchers who are nervous and inexperienced at the college level and he works with major league talent pitchers like Kyle Gibson who has matured as a pitcher so much that he can just roll the ball out to him and have him take care of business.
"Freshman walks out there in his first collegiate start and maybe he needs a little pushing or needs to calm down because he's so hyped up," Coleman said. "You have to know that personality and know how he's doing before the game and during the game in order to best address his needs."
Coleman must know the strengths, weaknesses of not only each pitcher on the Missouri pitching staff but also the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing hitters. During practice, Missouri pitchers carry around a toolbox with balls and rubber cords to stretch with. As catcher, Coleman knows what each pitcher has in his toolbox.
"You have different tools to work with and it all depends on the situation and on the hitter," Coleman said. "There's a lot of different variables that go into it."
Coleman has never had the best batting average, but he brings a lot of positives to the plate. To start, he can hit from both sides. In his first two seasons, Coleman managed to get on base more than 40 percent of the time. Tuesday night, he reached base five times. When he does make contact, he hits for power and is tied with Greg Folgia for the team lead home runs with five.
"I'm going up there with a mindset of battling and getting dirty and doing whatever I have to do to get on base," Coleman said. "I got into counts I could hit and I got pitches that I could hit."