What some kids consider a torturous wardrobe, Brenden Bechamps thought was cool.
“I started catching as soon as I started little league and instantly fell in love with it,” the Robbinsville High senior said. “I thought it was cool to wear all the gear.”
That’s pretty much the hard part for a lot of guys, but with that being a non-issue, Bechamps was able to move on and enjoy the true perks of the position.
“I liked being involved in every single play of the game,” he said. “From there, I enjoyed working with the pitchers and trying to help them accomplish their goals on the mound.”
He has done it well enough to remain behind the plate for his entire career. Bechamps will be a key player for the Ravens after bursting on the varsity scene with a .345 batting average last season. His first two years were spent on the JV.
“He has been patient, he has been a team guy,” coach Tom Brettell said. “He has worked his butt off and it has paid off.”
Bechamps began playing tee-ball for the Robbinsville Little League, moved on to various travel teams and played for Pond Road Middle School. He most recently played for the New Jersey Marlins but is now completely focused on the Ravens.
‘He is a smart kid, very unselfish and a great teammate… He’s just all around the type of player that you want behind the plate.’
At the start of 2017, Bechamps was slated as a back-up catcher who might play some outfield due to his athletic ability. As it turned out, a starting outfielder got hurt, the starting catcher moved to the outfield and Bechamps donned the gear he loved so much.
“He took full advantage of the opportunity, Brettell said. “He is a smart kid, very unselfish and a great teammate. As a catcher, he is athletic and can move very well. He can communicate with pitchers and coaches. He’s just all around the type of player that you want behind the plate.”
What makes it better, is that he’s the type of player who wants to be behind the plate.
“When somebody is catching, they have to love what they are doing,” Bechamps said. “It’s a tough position. Squatting on every pitch of the game takes a toll on the legs and knees. Dropping and blocking on pitches in the dirt leaves bruises; and getting hit in the face and body does some damage. So a catcher really needs to love what they are doing to be successful, and I do love it.”
Because of the beating receivers take, the mindset has to go beyond being enamored with the position. Bechamps noted that catchers must be tough both mentally and physically.
“Catching takes a toll on the body and sometimes it can be frustrating when a pitcher is struggling on the mound,” he said. “So, I play with a positive attitude and try to boost the pitcher’s confidence to the best of my ability when they struggle. You also need to be a leader and work with every player on the field because everything runs through the catcher. You’re seeing the entire field, everything is in front of you.”
And while defense is mainly what a coach looks for from his catcher, they don’t mind seeing some offense either. Bechamps provided a welcome lift with his bat as a junior, in more than just numbers.
“The energy he brought to us offensively was definitely a welcomed surprise,” Brettell said. “He put the ball in play, he wasn’t trying to do anything special. We have a philosophy and identity as a team. We play small ball and try to put the ball in play. He has embraced that idea and it has shown in the swings he takes. He’s not flashy but he doesn’t have to be.”
Bechamps had another quality not often seen in catchers.
“He ran the bases well and stole bases,” Brettell said. “It was just a breath of fresh air to watch a player compete on every pitch, every at-bat and every play.”
Bechamps’ first two varsity games were against Northern Burlington and Steinert, which were a bit stressful considering both are quality programs and the Spartans are big rivals. Bechamps felt the best way to cope with any pressure was to stick to what he knows.
“My approach has come from things that the coaches have taught me in practice,” he said. “When I’m struggling I stick to my approach and trust it will help bring me out of a slump. Obviously, if a coach sees something or I feel something is wrong, I will adjust.”
He has no problem giving himself up if the situation calls for it.
“If a coach needs me to lay down a sacrifice bunt, I will,” he said. “If he needs me to steal a base, I will. If a coach needs me to do anything to help win a game, I will do it.”
The Ravens, who open the season with three straight tough games against Nottingham and Steinert twice, are looking for plenty of wins after a 14-12 season. Brettell feels this team, more than most that he has had, will need contributions from every player. He feels if they stick to the game plan “they can do some special things. We have no superstars, we have to win as a team.”
He has a solid pitching with seniors Grayson Cooke and Matt “Klepp Dogg” Klepper, juniors Tyler Lehmann, Danny Frascella, Joe Consiglio, Matt Barna and Jack Gilmer, and sophomore Chris Alu. Each brings something different to the mound and all can keep Robbinsville in the game.
They will also have Bechamps to lean on when things aren’t going well.
“I always bring a positive attitude to them to make them perform better,” he said. “I know when I was thrown in against two great teams to start my varsity career, all I needed was some positive encouragement to perform well. Since it worked for me I think it can work for almost all the pitchers as well.
“I usually get on them about hitting their spots when they throw their bullpens. Our guys are all pitchers, not throwers. So I make sure they are executing their pitches well and hitting their spots.”
If history is any indication, Robbinsville’s success will directly correlate with Bechamps’ ability.
“Some of our most successful seasons have happened to coincide with some of the best catchers we ever had,” Brettell said. “Everything that we do goes through the catcher. Brenden is a positive guy. This helps our young pitchers build confidence. In order for us to be successful, we need our young guys to perform. Brenden is perfect for that.”
As for his own game, Bechamps wants to improve on blocking pitches in the dirt and throwing out base stealers. Those are his only individual goals, as his main hope is to make a deep run in the state tournament.
When he’s not playing ball, Bechamps is a member of Project Unify, Virtual Enterprise and the Robbinsville Leadership Core. Last summer he volunteered for Special Olympics. He will major in business in college.
“I am not playing for any college baseball team but it’s definitely something I would want to pursue,” he said.
Whatever happens, he has his coach’s best wishes.
“He has earned everything that he has gotten,” Brettell said. “We wish the best for him because he deserves it.”