There's no question about the talent Wilin Rosario brings, both behind the plate and in the batter's box. He got a taste of the Major Leagues last year, had an amazing Spring Training and earned a major-league roster spot as the backup catcher.
But certainly there's still work to be done with the 23-year-old Dominican backstop. And that is why Rosario is getting a top-notch educational stint from one of the best all-around catchers in the League while he's adjusting to the facts of playing regularly at baseball's highest level. At age 35, and thirteen years in the Major Leagues, Ramón Hernández has practically seen everything there is to be seen. And he has accepted, selflessly and without hesitation, to become Rosario's mentor.
"I never had any Latin catchers to mentor me, to tell me how things were like, to assimilate all the information I needed to learn how to read," Hernandez said. "I was pretty lucky to have a pitching coach over at the Athletics to help me out, but it was tough, nonetheless." Rosario speaks English, but not with the same fluency as teammates like Carlos González. Therefore, a fellow Latin catcher with the experience Hernández has is a luxury Rosario has and is fully aware of it.
"I take each and every opportunity to learn something new from Ramón," Rosario said. "Wow, this guy knows a lot about this business, and how to handle pitchers, the way we have to conduct the game... it's amazing to see him in action and explain the reasoning behind everything".
One of the pitchers Rosario has to conduct is 49 years old and, with the young Dominican's assistance, has become the oldest pitcher in Major League history to record a victory.
"He's a great catcher, no question about it," Jamie Moyer said in a recent press conference. "It's also very important for young guys like him to have a Latin mentor, someone who can speak the same language, to come from the same culture, and to have similar experiences. Wilin is enjoying that this season and that should help him a lot."
Rosario, with his youth and lack of experience, has to become the conductor for someone who has been pitching ever since the second Ronald Reagan administration. But for Moyer, one of the things Rosario has to overcome is precisely knowing he's in charge, despite the 26-year age gap.
"One of the things he has to accept is that I'm the pitcher, and he's the catcher. I'm going to be conducted by him, and I'm perfectly fine with that because those are the roles we're going to have. I am aware of this situation and he has to gain more and more of that confidence which will allow him to display his full talents," Moyer said.
Rosario is getting a full amount of information at a dizzying speed: pitchers, opponents, batters.. He doesn't have a lot of time to fully assimilate it and herein lies the big challenge in his formation as a bona fide Major League catcher.
Hernandez has been a great addition to the Rockies: a highly energetic player with charisma and imposing presence. He has driven in six runs and hit two homers, making him one of the team's favorite figures in this young season. But with his age, there is a catch.
"I've had knee surgery a while ago," Hernandez told Venezuelan journalist Ignacio Serrano for the El Nacional newspaper, based in Caracas. "When you're 20, you get up out of bed and you can jog your way out of it. At my age, you crawl out of it, before you can even walk. That's why I haven't been able to play winterball for over three years. And I can't play more than four or five times a week".
So Rosario has to become a main player for at least twice a week. It is an interesting transition to watch: the young backstop fully understands that he will be in command and has the tools in order to take full advantage of it.