Patriots senior Cobb catches college-level bullpen sessions
SHENANDOAH JUNCTION – Texas Cobb has already gotten the jump on catching college pitchers, something the rising senior at Washington High School intends to do in the years to come.
In between playing for a summer travel team based in northern Virginia, the 17-year-old has spent time during the past two months catching bullpen sessions for the Charles Town Cannons, the local collegiate Valley Baseball League franchise.
Exposure to higher velocity pitching and sharper breaking balls only figures to serve Cobb well as he gears up for his final year of high school baseball after helping lead the Patriots to their best season in school history this spring.
“When you’re seeing collegiate pitching and you’re catching it, No. 1 it’s going to make everything in high school look like it’s not coming as hard,” Cobb said. “The curveballs won’t be breaking as hard most of the time. No. 2, it’s fun.”
Washington assistant baseball coach Mike Smith serves as general manager and base coach for the Cannons. Smith said he thought the experience of catching college pitchers would help Cobb further develop the fundamentals necessary to play well behind the plate.
After all, Smith has prior experience implementing such a scenario.
In 2008, while Smith was an assistant coach at nearby Jefferson High School, he also served as an assistant coach with the Winchester Royals, a VBL rival of the Cannons.
Then-Jefferson catcher Brett Moreland spent time that summer in Winchester catching bullpen sessions for the Royals, including eventual league MVP Tyler Thornburg, who is now pitching in the major leagues for the Milwaukee Brewers.
“I know it helped out Brett and I know Tex is going through the same thing right now,” Smith said. “It was good for (Brett) coming into the next season to be able to see that kind of speed and location ability. Those guys are pretty much spot on. You’re able to learn to receive the ball a little better.”
Moreland was named Class AAA first-team all-state in 2009.
“This is a win-win for Tex,” Smith said.
Cobb batted .333 this spring at Washington while catching the overwhelming majority of the innings played for the Patriots.
He improved defensively behind the plate throughout the season and came alive in the batter’s box during the team’s postseason run, including hitting a go-ahead home run against Hedgesville in the regional tournament.
The Patriots finished 23-5 and reached the final four in Charleston, falling to eventual state champion Huntington 3-1 in the state tournament semifinals.
“We didn’t play our best game,” Cobb said. “But it was great to be able to get there. We’d never been there. We’d never had a 20-plus win season. It was a big milestone kind of year, which was great.”
Cobb said he has been working on his overall game this summer as he has been playing for the Renegades, a 17-and-under travel team full of fellow high school players from across northern Virginia.
The Renegades have traveled to showcase tournaments as far away as New Jersey, while also playing at the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and the University of Richmond.
On Monday, Cobb left for Richmond to play in the Triple Crown Sports U.S. Baseball Championships in Henrico County, Virginia.
In 2013, the same tournament featured 72 teams from 17 states, with dozens of coaches attending representing all levels of collegiate baseball.
“That’s good exposure for him,” Smith said.
Cobb said he wants to boost several factors of his game before the 2015 high school season. Among the goals he has set for himself is to bat .400 or better, something Washington received a year ago from rising junior utility player Robert Cross, who batted .400 on the dot.
“I know I’m not the best blocking catcher and I know I’ve got to be better at that,” Cobb said. “I’m always trying to get my pop time (the time taken from the instant a pitch hits a catcher’s glove to the moment it strikes the glove of the middle infielder at second base) faster. That’s a big thing, too.
“(Working with the Cannons) has been a great experience for me,” Cobb added. “You can work around pitches you don’t normally have to get around because it’s not coming that quick. I feel it will help my hitting and receiving in general.”