Some players ease their way into playing with the best.
Andrew Sicinski isn’t one of those players. And it made him a much better catcher.
Sicinski is a senior on the Father Judge High School baseball team, but before he became a varsity starter as a sophomore, he had a chance to help out some well-known pitchers.
“I worked out at Sluggersville with Chuck Bushbeck and he would call me when he wanted to work out pitchers,” Sicinski said. “I caught great ones. They brought in Steve Phillips, who was drafted out of high school by the Texas Rangers. He would top out at 97 (miles per hour). Dan Hammer, too. He would hit 90 to 92.
“The first time I did it? I was scared. But after five or six, you get your timing down. It’s fun because you see the ball tail. It comes in so fast. Then I caught Chuck Kelley at Judge the past two years. I’ve caught a lot of great pitchers. It definitely helps you get better because you’re able to see their stuff. Their pitches move.”
Sicinski is now ready to catch for the Crusaders in his final year of high school baseball. And while he might not be catching many 90-mile-an-hour fastballs from his teammates, he has high hopes for this year. Especially after how his junior season ended.
Judge made the playoffs last year and in the quarterfinals knocked off defending Catholic League champion Neumann-Goretti in come-from-behind fashion.
“That was the best experience of my life, it was such a great game and we beat a very good team,” said Sicinski, who had a big hit in the comeback. “That was such a great win. That definitely motivates all of us for this year. We know what it’s like to win in the playoffs, and it felt really good.”
The Crusaders are one of many teams that have a chance to celebrate when the weather turns warmer. Losing Kelley, the Catholic League Most Valuable Player, is a big loss both at first base and on the mound. But while Kelley is at La Salle University, the Crusaders will look to win a championship.
They have the right leader, and he thinks they have the right mix of players to do just that.
“I think with our lineup, we’re going to win a lot of games,” said Sicinski, who grew up in Wissinoming and now lives in Morrell Park. “The Catholic League is always good, but a lot of teams lost good seniors. We did, too, so we have a lot of work to do, but we should be able to win a lot of games.”
Then he thought about the pitching staff.
The Crusaders have inexperienced hurlers, for the most part, but take it from someone who has caught some good ones, the young guys have good arms.
“I want them to put the pressure on me, I love it, I just want them to go out and throw,” said Sicinski, who has called the game since he was a sophomore. “It’s tough to pitch in the Catholic League, but they are good. I really think they’re going to help us. It’s not easy, but once they learn how the league works, I think they’ll be really good.”
Sicinski really wants to leave Judge with a championship. But he knows he’ll have more chances to win baseball titles in college.
Next year, he is earmarked to attend University or Maryland-Baltimore County, where he will continue his baseball career. While he is unsure about what he will major in, he’s considering criminal justice and/or business.
“It’s a good school, I’m looking forward to it,” said Sicinski, who played football and basketball growing up. “I talked to the coach, they either want me to play catcher or third base. I’m hoping I get to play catcher, that’s my natural position. That’s where I want to play.”
And it’s not just because he likes the position.
The catcher is the team leader, and Sicinski is now the man at Judge. Last year, he was one of four captains on the team, but he is the only one who returns to the mix this year.
Though he knew how to be a leader from his days playing catcher, he learned a lot last year playing with an experienced group.
“It was good because we had so many seniors,” Sicinski said. “They listened to me, not because I was a captain, but because they respected me. And I learned from them and respected them. They were great leaders. We had a good team of players, but I think we won because we had such a good group who liked playing together. And we loved playing for the coaches.”
He expects that same attitude to carry over to this year.
It’s a new group, a younger group, but the chemistry is once again very good.
“Everyone is working really hard and playing well,” Sicinski said. “I really think we can do it. Anyone can win the Catholic League this year, and I think we have as much as anyone. If we do what we need to do, we can definitely do it.”