Mesoraco continues to do his part in giving back

ST. MARYS —Major League Baseball Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco, a Punxsutawney native, recent- ly visited with area youth during a stop in St. Marys as the guest instructor at a catching clinic held at Beimel Baseball.

During the clinic, Mesoraco spent time instructing players on catching fundamentals emphasizing throwing, blocking and receiving.

Players also had the opportunity to ask Mesoraco questions. They were each given an autograph and had their individual photos taken with the MLB catcher.

There were multiple sessions during the clinic, divided into younger and older players.

Mesoraco opened each session by speaking to the players about his baseball career and the importance of hard work, no matter what field the youngsters choose as a career.

"There's really no substitute to getting better other than going out there and playing, so I just try to stress play as many games as you can, and if you're not playing, you should be practicing and working hard there," he said.

Mesoraco shared that his most memorable moment to date as a Major League Baseball player was when he earned his first hit during a matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sept. 3, 2011.

"Everybody says St. Louis has the best fans in Major League Baseball, not as good as the Reds fans — but they really follow the game and know the game well," he said. "It was a real special moment because it was my first at-bat, and I hit a double. I got to second base, and everyone was clapping.

"It wasn't a standing ovation, but it felt like that to me, where everybody was paying attention to the game, and they knew it was my first hit. Everybody was clapping almost until the (next) batter got in the box. It was something I'll never forget."

The 23-year-old Lakeland, Fla., resident said another moment which stands out occurred in 2007, when he was drafted into the majors.

Mesoraco and his Punx-sutawney Area High School baseball teammates had just won the state semi-final in Altoona and went to a nearby sports bar to eat and watch the draft.

"We had the place just filled up from people from Punxsy. It was a pretty special moment," he said.

Spectators watched the draft on a television projector screen. Just two minutes before the Reds announced their choice of Mesoraco, he received a call informing him of the Reds' interest in him.

"I didn't tell anybody, it was just me, my dad and mom who knew and were ready for the picture. Then it just showed up on the TV screen. So it was pretty awesome," Mesoraco said. "You couldn't have planned it any better; it was ridiculous."

In addition to being the 15th overall draft pick, 2007 proved to be a banner year for Mesoraco, as Punxsy won the PIAA State Championship in baseball, and he was named as the 2007 Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year.

Additionally, Mesoraco set a number of school records at Punxsy, including those for walks (91), runs (122), hits (101), doubles (25), home runs (18) and stolen bases (35). He is only the third catcher taken by the Reds as their first draft pick.

According to Baseball America, Mesoraco was at one time ranked as the top prospect in the Reds organization.

When asked if he ever thought he would be a Major League player, Mesroaco replied that he had always hoped.

"I never really sat down and said I was going to be a major leaguer, but as I got older and got better and better, that was where I wanted to be, but I didn't know for sure. I knew I had an opportunity, so I worked even harder," he said.

Mesoraco said it became evident to him that he could have a career in baseball during the summer of his senior year in high school.

"I knew I was pretty good," Mesoraco said. "I was traveling at the time, playing against some of the best players in the country and being pretty successful, so I knew there would be an opportunity to get drafted.

"Anytime you're drafted into the minor league system, there's obviously a chance to do better and improve to get to the major leagues."

Mesoraco began playing baseball when he was five years old. At age 14, he was playing 70 to 80 games a year. Growing up, he said he played wherever his team had a weak spot, including shortstop, center field, catcher and pitcher.

"I just kind of did everything. It makes you more versatile, plus I think it helps out your overall game," he said.

This year marks Mesoraco's fifth season playing in the Reds' organization.

In 2008, he played with the single-A Dayton Dragons and in 2009 was invited to Major League Spring Training camp after only two professional seasons. That year, he played for the single-A Sarasota Reds.

In 2010, Mesoraco worked his way to the top, starting with the single-A Lynchburg Hillcats, being promoted to double-A Carolina Mudcats and ending his season with the triple-A Louisville Bats.

In 2011, Mesoraco was added to the Reds' 40-man roster and played in the MLB Futures Game.

He was ranked number 45 among the top 50 prospects by entering the 2011 season.

Mesoraco joked that it's not uncommon for him to be thrown out of a game at least once a season, typically due to arguing with the umpire.

While in Dayton, he was tossed after being involved in a brawl, but other times, it has been due to the umpire saying something to him he didn't like or call not going his way.

He explained that while some players "do stupid stuff" and get thrown out five times a season, other players are more mild-mannered, never say anything and don't ever get thrown out.

"Being a catcher, you're working with the umpire so much that it's tough not to get in an altercation at least once through 162 games. At some point, you're going to get into an altercation," Mesoraco said.