Pirates minor league report: Catcher McGuire grows into leader
Kentwood trailed South Kitsap by a run in the 2013 Washington Class 4A baseball semifinals, and a mounting two-out rally by South Kitsap threatened to put the game out of reach.
That’s when Kentwood coach Mark Zender called time and walked to the mound before calmly asking his senior catcher, Reese McGuire, for a plan of attack to get out of the inning.
McGuire turned to freshman pitcher Jordan Jones, told him to spike a curveball and to trust that McGuire would block it cleanly, even with runners on base.
Jones followed the advice, got his strikeout and safely got out of the inning.
Zender still likes to tell that story, and it ends with his team losing 1-0. It’s how he explains the defensive talent of McGuire, who made his debut with Double-A Altoona on Thursday.
“That’s the kind of leadership that he had at that age and the confidence in his ability to do something that most catchers would never do,” Zender said. “I had seen kids who could hit as well as Reese, but as far as a defensive player, it was just at a different level, and I think that’s where it projects now.”
McGuire, selected by the Pirates with the No. 14 pick in the 2013 draft and listed as MLB.com‘s No. 97 overall prospect, hit .254 in 98 games in his first full professional season with High-A Bradenton in 2015. He begins his second full season hoping to carry offensive momentum from a strong Arizona Fall League in which he hit .294 in 14 games as well as build on his first stint in big league camp.
“He showed he belonged, and I think that was a confidence builder for him,” said Larry Broadway, Pirates director of minor league operations, of McGuire’s AFL showing. “Coming into camp this year, he looked good physically with another year under his belt from him being away from home all year and being a young man out on his own. He continues to progress and is in a good spot.”
The 21-year-old is in a familiar spot as the youngest player listed on Altoona’s roster. McGuire, who was born in 1995 and lists Yadier Molina and Buster Posey as catchers he “grew up” watching, regularly played up two years as a kid to be on the same team as his older brother, Cash, a redshirt junior infielder at Seattle University.
“Being the youngest guy on the team has always been a common thing for me, but I try to be a leader, and it just comes naturally,” McGuire said. “The other guys, they don’t treat me differently just because I’m a younger guy.”
McGuire said he enjoyed managing a pitching staff and learning what made each pitcher tick for 98 games with Bradenton last season. He considers game management a strength — Zender said pitch-calling was McGuire’s responsibility while at Kentwood — but one he will continue to grow through game experience.
“I’m learning even more every day, but it kind of goes back to knowing the guy on the bump,” McGuire said. “Every day they go out there, they’re not going to have their best stuff, so you’ve got to know what it takes to get them through that.”
Three years later, McGuire is the same catcher who, as a high school senior, charmed crowds of scouts driving from as far as Portland for each game, Zender said. If there’s added pressure this season, it’s not in McGuire’s nature to let it affect him.
“I feel like I’m progressing really well from both sides of the field, feeling comfortable and confident in myself,” McGuire said. “It’s the same game we’ve all been playing since we were kids. It’s just staying confident in your abilities and playing baseball.”