Boise Hawks’ Campbell Wear shines at finer points of catching

Many catchers take the label “defense first” as a slight. But not Boise’s Campbell Wear.

The 6-3, 205-pounder sees it as a compliment. Because he knows without it, he would never have been drafted. And he’d never be suiting up for his second summer as a pro.

“Catching is a defensive position,” Wear, 22, said. “Usually a lot of coaches think the offense is a bonus. Obviously, you want to do well offensively and help your team win. But defensively, handling the pitching staff and that battery is extremely important.”

Wear started his fifth game of the season Friday in a 10-2 win against Hillsboro, putting on a clinic of skills that rarely make the box score or get noticed until a catcher makes a mistake — smothering balls in the dirt, keeping baserunners honest and framing pitches off the plate into strikes.

“That’s his strength as a player, defense,” Hawks manager Andy Gonzalez said. “He can throw. He can catch. He can call the game. He’s a little quiet, but he’s fundamentally sound defensively. He’s been working on his offensive side, and he’s getting better.”

The Rockies selected Wear in the 27th round of the 2015 draft despite hitting .192 as a senior for UC Santa Barbara in his first season as a starter. But Wear said scouts saw him handle a college pitching staff that included the fourth overall pick in 2015 (Dillon Tate, Rangers), a 2015 fifth-round pick (Justin Jacome, Marlins) and a 2016 fourth-round pick (Shane Bieber, Indians). Proving he can handle professional pitchers offset the lackluster batting average.

Wear attributes his relationship with pitchers to his Spanish — he took three years in high school — and the fact he used to be one. UC Santa Barbara recruited him as a pitcher, but injuries his freshman year forced him into emergency duties behind the plate. He bounced back and forth between the two positions throughout his college career.

“I only threw about three or four innings that actually counted. It just never really worked out,” Wear said. “But that’s definitely helped me as a catcher, just knowing how you’re feeling.

“It’s not always the rah-rah that you need, to get someone fired up. It’s really just talking to them in an orderly manner and telling them what’s real and what you need to do to get this guy out.”

Wear held his own at the plate in his first professional season last year, hitting .256 in 27 games for rookie-level Grand Junction. He is hitting .125 after going 0-for-2 Friday with a hit by pitch and sacrifice fly that gave the Hawks a 3-1 lead.

Gonzalez pointed out due to orders from Colorado, Wear is only playing sparingly, making it hard to find a rhythm offensively. But major league clubs always give those rare catchers that can handle a pitching staff and excel defensively a long rope at the plate.

“Catchers are like a cat. They’ve got like seven lives,” Gonzalez said. “So they stay in the system for a long time, if they can do the catching part, the defensive part. The offense will just come around.”

Michael Lycklama: 208-377-6424, @MichaelLycklama

Hawks 10 Hops 2

The Boise Hawks (5-10) broke out for 12 hits Friday to win the opening game of a three-game home series with the Hillsboro Hops (6-9).

Jacob Bosiokovic and Luis Castro each racked up three hits, and Castro and Garrett Hampson each tripled.

Javier Medina earned the win, holding Hillsboro to one run on four hits while striking out six in 5  2/3 innings.

Boise hosts Hillsboro on Saturday and Sunday before starting a five-game road trip.