Being a backup catcher on a professional baseball team has to be challenging.
First off, you might only play once a week, which makes it difficult to develop any sort of rhythm. Yet you also have to know the pitching staff inside and out just in case anything happens to the starting catcher.
It’s a role that takes constant preparation for not a whole lot of glory. New York Mets catcher Tomás Nido is adjusting well to the backup catcher position behind this offseason’s big free-agent acquisition, James McCann.
In his short career, Nido has relied on his Catholic faith to deal with the ups and downs of being a professional baseball player.
Born in Puerto Rico, the 27-year-old attended Catholic elementary and high school in his hometown of Guaynabo. He had just finished his sophomore year of high school before permanently moving to Florida, which must have been a huge culture shock.
When Nido was just 4 years old, his father died from a heart attack. A few years later, his mother gave him a necklace with a crucifix and Virgin Mary medal that his father had intended to give him when he was older.
To honor his father, Nido made a promise to never take it off. Except for a few times in high school where he had to remove the necklace in games by rule, Nido has remained true to his word.
“It’s something personal for me,” said Nido, who was drafted by the Mets in 2012 and spent two summers playing for the Brooklyn Cyclones. “When I pray for my family and talk to my dad in my thoughts, I always try to remind myself and remind him that I kept my promise.”
As a minor leaguer, Nido enjoyed reading daily from a book featuring professional baseball players talking about how they keep their faith strong during a grueling 162-game season. It became part of his pregame ritual — along with taking batting practice, catching bullpens and preparing a game plan with that particular day’s starting pitcher.
“That helped me get through every day because it does get a little overwhelming doing the same thing all the time,” he said. “When everyone is doing well, it’s fun. But when someone’s struggling, it can get a little aggravating and frustrating. If you know God has a plan for you, everything is going to be fine.”
God’s plan right now for Nido is to be ready when his number is called. He worked his way through the Mets minor-league system and established himself as a competent backup during last year’s shortened season. Though McCann is expected to do the bulk of the catching in 2021, having Nido — who does have a little pop in his bat — shows the depth of the Mets roster.
In trusting his abilities and in God’s plan, Nido continues to improve while filling the vital role of backup catcher. Staying ready at all times may come in handy as we advance through a long season.
“My faith has helped me 100 percent,” he said. “It’s helped me talk to God and helped me stay on the right path. No matter how bad I’m struggling, I need to stick to the plan because I’ve done it before and have experienced success.
“My faith has gotten me where I’m at right now and has kept me going.”
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.