Rainiers’ catcher Ralph Henriquez is one of five backstops who have played in Tacoma this season. Just 24 years old, Henriquez was originally drafted by Houston in 2005 right out of high school in Key West, Florida. As of August 16 he was batting .267 and had 13 RBI. Recently he sat down with Tacoma Weekly baseball writer Karen Westeen to talk about life behind the plate as well as his first few weeks at the Triple A level.
TW: You were born and raised in Key West. Is that still your home in the offseason?
RH: Yes it is. I live there with my parents.
TW: You graduated from Key West High School in June 2005 and were drafted about the same time in the second round by Houston. What was that like?
RH: That was definitely the highlight of my career.
TW: Where were you on draft day?
RH: I was at home with my sister and my parents.
TW: Have you had any college?
RH: No, but eventually I think I want to.
TW: Your career started out in rookie level Greeneville, in Tennessee. Even though you weren’t far from home you were still out on your own at 18. What was that like?
RH: I learned a lot from my dad who was a catching coordinator in the Atlanta organization so I pretty much knew what I was getting into, but still you learn a lot being on your own.
TW: Did you ever play any other position besides catcher?
TW: Why did you decide on that position?
RH: Because my dad caught and he was a catching coordinator.
TW: You’ve played in 27 games since coming up to the Rainiers from Double A on June 30. Did you work with any of the Rainiers’ pitchers before you got here?
RH: I caught a couple in spring training, and in the lower minors, plus working with some others in batting practice.
TW: How do you learn to work with pitchers you haven’t seen before?
RH: You need to trust your abilities to catch new pitchers. Most of these guys are a lot older and more experienced, so I just follow their game plan.
TW: Roger Hansen is the Mariners’ roving minor league catching coordinator. How often does he come through here to work with you?
RH: He’s been here a couple of times in the last month to see how things are going and (between visits the manager and coaches) send reports to him.
TW: Since there is no actual catching coach on the Rainiers’ staff, who works most closely here with you?
RH: I rely on Jose Yepez (one of the other catchers currently on the Rainiers’ roster). He’s older and looks out for me (Yepez is 30). If he sees anything he pulls me aside and tells me you can’t do this, or do this or that.
TW: What was it like when your manager in Double A told you about your promotion?
RH: We had just played a day game when I got called up. It was 104 in Tennessee and freezing when I got here.
TW: Were you surprised to get called up?
RH: Not really. Everybody knew something was going on when Miguel Olivo went down.
TW: After you had played for the Astros and the Mets’ minor league teams for five seasons, the Mariners signed you as a minor league free agent in December 2009. Did you know any of the players when you arrived in spring training?
RH: I came over here knowing nobody in this organization but we all speak the language of baseball, and it was easy to make friends.
TW: Do you feel you help the team more with your offense or your defense?
RH: I’m hoping I can do both. (Note: As of August 13, Henriquez has thrown out 9 of 22 potential base stealers for a caught stealing percentage of .409. Yepez is 10 of 45, .222 CS percentage.)
TW: You’ve played in several parts of the country now. Do you have a favorite place?
RH: I miss home and being near the water, but I really like this area. This weather here is awesome.
TW: What else should people know about you?
RH: I like to have fun, and I enjoy watching college football and the NFL.
TW: Do you have any plans for what you want to do when your baseball career is over?
RH: Not really. I’m just taking it one day at a time.