Fort Lupton’s Julissa Galicia is among a select group of softball players that does something no one else can do on a softball field.
She can see the entire field every play from her position as catcher for the Bluedevils.
“It doesn’t put any extra pressure on me,” she said. “It actually helps me to help the whole team get in position to get out our outs.”
Galicia started playing T-ball when she was 4. She played second base. She started playing catcher in a different fashion from some.
“As I moved up each year playing baseball, one game – when I was 8 years old and playing for the rec center – our catcher got hit with a ball and was taken out of the game,” Galicia said. “Our coach put another boy at catcher, and he immediately got hit with a ball in the same inning.”
There weren’t any extra catchers, so the coach asked if anyone wanted to play that position.
“I raised my hand, and the coach looked at my dad in the stands. He shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘If she wants to,’” Galicia said. “The coach helped me put on the gear, and I ran out with my fielders’ glove. Because I am left-handed, they did not have a catcher’s mitt I could use.”
She finished the game and ended up catching for the team for the rest of the season.
“That was the beginning of my love for catching,” Galicia said. “It was until I turned 10 that my dad bought me my first set of gear and glove. That was the year I tried out for my first competitive softball team and made the team.”
Catchers are responsible for relaying the type of pitch and desired location.
“As I receive the ball, I also have to present, or ‘frame’ the pitch so the umpire can decide if it’s a ball or a strike,” Galicia said. “Many times, pitches are on the corner of the plate – high or low – and it is my job to angle my body and globe as I receive the ball so the umpire calls it a strike.”
Sometimes, her high-school coach, Albert Vasquez, will let Galicia call the pitches. Galicia has to know what types of pitches the staff can throw and which ones the pitchers are delivering with more consistency.
If the count is no balls and two strikes, Galicia wants her pitcher to throw a pitch that isn’t close to the plate.
“I have to have a very close relationship with each pitcher,” she said. “I also have learned to look at the batter’s stance to determine what pitch to call. If they are standing too close to the plate, I will call an inside pitch. If they are standing too far away, I will call an outside pitch.”
Galicia also has to visit the mound and talk to her teammates who are also her friends.
“Sometimes, it’s just a word of encouragement or a joke to calm them down,” Galicia said. “Sometimes, it’s to let them know what they are doing with their release or stride that is causing them to miss their pitch. This conversation isn’t always easy. No one likes to hear what they are doing wrong.”
Catchers have to work a lot with pitchers to know their release points and strides.
“I can see the spin on the ball on their release and know if it is moving correctly or not,” Galicia said. “This takes time to build a relationship with our pitchers. I do this by going with them to their pitching lesson and catching for them. I listen to what their coaches are teaching them and try to use that during our games to help.”
Galicia is a left-handed catcher, which makes things more difficult for plays at the plate.
“My glove is on the inside of the field. If the throw is off target, I have to move my body to get the ball which, sometimes, causes me to have bigger collisions with the base runner trying to score,” she said. “I love that part.
“On the other hand, it is much easier for a left-handed catcher to pick a girl off first base. They have a clear path to first with a right-handed batter.”
She played outfield with her competitive team for two years. She’s also played first base. But catching beats all.
“I like that I am involved in every play on the field. My teammates have to trust me,” she said. “We play with bruises from getting hit with the ball. We play with sore arms from throwing every ball after each pitch. We have sore lefts from squatting all game. When the pitcher gets changed out during the game, we have to make the adjustment for the new pitcher.
“With all of this, I am always ready to play the game and love every aspect of being a catcher,” Galicia said. “My favorite catcher is Paige Halstead from UCLA. She is an amazing catcher, a great teammate and works harder on being a great catcher than anyone I have seen.”