Nogay shining in first year behind the plate for WVU
Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2012 00:03
His head coach simply calls him a winner.
He has started 19 of West Virginia’s 23 games behind the plate this year after entering the season fourth on the depth chart.
Before that, redshirt freshman catcher Max Nogay had never caught a game in his life.
Now he has found himself tied with two juniors, shortstop John Polonius and outfielder Brady Wilson, to pace WVU in home runs.
"He’s getting better and better and better," said West Virginia head coach Greg Van Zant. "He’s a hard worker and this is all new for him. This is his first year seeing Division I pitching and his first year being a catcher. I think he’s done a great job."
Two years ago, the Weirton, W. Va. native was winning state championships as a shortstop in baseball, a quarterback in football, and in the 171-pound weight class in wrestling at Madonna High School.
Then after signing with WVU, he donned the catcher’s gear and spent his redshirt season as the bullpen catcher making the transition behind the plate.
"The idea was the more positions I can play, the easier I can get into the lineup," Nogay said.
Judging by his numbers from his senior year of high school, (.455 batting average, .889 slugging percentage, 11 home runs, 48 RBIs and 47 runs) that seems like a pretty logical coaching decision.
But despite the numbers, the quest to become the starter at the most physically demanding position in the sport was far from an easy road.
"It’s been tough," Nogay said. "I worked pretty hard last year, and coach Sherald is a really good catching coach. I feel like I’m settling in nicely, and I’m getting pretty comfortable back there."
Of course, Nogay is just being humble about his performance so far, which is apparent when talking to Van Zant.
"Going into the season, on the depth chart he was the fourth catcher," Van Zant said. "He’s a winner – he does everything the right way and winners end up getting to the top, so he just took that job. He’s great – I love him."
His coaches have absolutely loved how he has developed so quickly and so naturally and his teammates do as well.
"He’s been doing a great job," said redshirt sophomore left fielder Matt Frazer. "He comes out here and gives us everything he’s got for nine innings every day and you really can’t ask for more than that out of a catcher."
However, the transition hasn’t been perfect and in Nogay’s eyes, continued growth will be vital to moving forward.
"I could have done a few things differently. We could have won a game here," he said. "There’s always room for improvement."
Improving on his .226 batting average is certainly one of Nogay’s goals right now.
"I was slumping before and coach Sherald and I worked last weekend on a different stance," Nogay said. "We tried to do a model of Pete Rose’s stance to incorporate my legs more into the swing and it’s been paying off."
If Nogay’s new stance works out half as well as it did for Major League Baseball’s all-time hits leader, expect to see him finish his college career with some accolades like those he earned in high school.