AMSTERDAM — With the Amsterdam Mohawks down 6-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning on a hot Tuesday night, Mohawks catcher Shane Muntz let a pitch get by him — affording him another chance to show off his cannon arm.
As the runner at first base took off, Muntz retrieved the generous bounce off the backstop and fired a bullet to second. The throw was on time and on the money to nail the runner.
A rising sophomore at Wake Forest, Muntz makes good use of his powerful arm. In addition to throwing out runners from behind the plate, he is also a pitcher that comes out of the bullpen, with a fastball that reaches 95 mph.
Los Angeles Angels rookie pitcher and designated hitter Shohei Ohtani took the MLB by storm this season by thriving as both a hitter and pitcher. Ohtani’s success has been groundbreaking in modern times for aspiring two-way players and perhaps could lead to a widespread change of players wanting to become the ultimate utility players.
While Ohtani sits on the disabled list this summer, Muntz, 19, is honing his skills in pitching, catching and hitting with the Amsterdam Mohawks.
“The Mohawks give me a nice place to play and work on both of my crafts,” the Phoenixville, Pa., resident said. He strives to improve on both skill sets this summer to be a more effective two-way player for Wake Forest and to give himself more opportunities to extend his baseball career.
Muntz is coming off his freshman season for the Demon Deacons, for whom batted fifth in the lineup and pitched in 14 games out of the bullpen. He had a .253 batting average, hit five home runs and had 29 RBIs for the season. On the pitching side, he went 1-1 as a reliever with 6.19 ERA and a .232 opponent batting average.
“I don’t know of any catcher-pitchers except me,” Muntz said about the comparison to him at the collegiate level. It is a rarity for a player at the college level to be a position player and a pitcher, it is unheard of to specifically have the combination of a pitcher and catcher.
Ben Anderson caught and pitched for Shenendehowa High School. The brother of Atlanta Braves prospect Ian Anderson is strictly pitching at Binghamton University.
Mohawks manager Keith Griffin has never had a player available to him that can do both.
“It’s a tough combination.” Griffin said, “It’s a difficult chore because the arm swings in throwing are different for a pitcher and a catcher.” Griffin explained. “It’s an abbreviated arm swing for a catcher.”
Muntz started playing both positions in high school.
“I was always decent at both,” he said. “I wanted to continue to do both until I couldn’t.” When he got to Wake Forest his manager, Tom Walter, encouraged him to continue using his dual skill set.
“He was really inviting about the idea and he’s been helping me improve on each,” Muntz said.
Muntz wanted to be a catcher from a young age, being influenced by his grandfather, who caught in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.
“I can’t imagine being a pitcher and a catcher, never mind just pitching and hitting,” Chris Lanzilli said, Muntz’s teammate on both Wake Forest and the Mohawks.
As somebody that has to focus on multiple skills, during practice Muntz is often running around to each unit.
“Sometimes, I am doing bullpen stuff when I could be hitting,” he explained. “Or I am doing catching stuff when I could be hitting.”
Despite putting his energy in a variety of skills, Muntz does not feel that he is put at a disadvantage compared to the vast majority players who focus on playing a specific position.
“I think doing both keeps me athletic, like when I did every sport when I was little,” Muntz said.
While playing at Wake Forest, he plans on sticking with both positions.
“He is just focused on working with the best of his abilities and see where that takes him,” Lanzilli said.
This summer Muntz wants to improve defensively as a catcher and become more consistent throwing strikes, so he can come out of the bullpen more often next season.
Muntz hopes to go on to play professional baseball. He was selected in the 36th round of the 2017 MLB draft, after graduating high school, but opted to attend Wake Forest. Although he is committed to improving as a pitcher and catcher, Muntz does not envision himself trying to become the next great two-way player at the next level.
“I’m going to have to focus on one eventually,” Muntz said. “Whatever team picks me would make that decision for me. I probably won’t have the ability to make that
If it was in his control, Muntz said that he wants to keep pitching and catching as long as he can.
While he still keeps his options open, Lanzilli is confident that Muntz’s talent and work ethic will give him a good chance to succeed.
“I think his abilities will take him a long way,” he said, “whether he picks one or he picks both.”
David Salamone is an intern with The Daily Gazette.