The man behind the mask

Kevin Keneely

Whether it’s crouching behind home plate, making plays in the outfield, or standing in the batter’s box, CJ Brazil endures everything the game of baseball throws at him.

Some people know him as “Sticks” because he wears the number 11, but his mom knows him as Ceeg and every once in a while his teammates will call him that whenever they hear his mom shout it from the stands.

He is easily the toughest man out on the field as in almost every game it seems he gets hit with a pitch or the follow through of the swing of a bat. In some cases, an opposing runner may even take him out at the plate in order to try to score a run.

Being fit and in shape has its ups and downs in terms of being a catcher. Sure it makes him nimble and quick, but his smaller size puts him in harms way of being taken out by a base runner.

This has never worried Brazil; knows what its like to take a hit, as he also played high school football at Blessed Trinity Catholic High School.

“Being a catcher in the game, I feel like that’s just something that you assume. Like when you’re a receiver running across the middle, you kind of assume that you’re going to get hit pretty hard by a linebacker,” Brazil said.

Luckily for Brazil he has never had to worry about this, as it has always been illegal to take out the catcher at the high school, travel ball and college levels. MLB has also come around recently enacting that rule into place prohibiting home plate collisions.

This rule recently caused havoc throughout the MLB as this play at the plate has always been one of the sport’s most exciting plays, next to a base runner taking out a fielder to avoid a double play, but that’s also illegal now.

“I don’t want baseball to start being like football and becoming a little soft and taking out some of the rules,” Brazil said.

Brazil has always been a huge fan of Yadier Molina, catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. Molina is a prime example of a big league catcher who has for many years dealt with these potentially dangerous plays at home plate.

Molina is one of the greatest defensive catchers of all time and has a build that scared anyone trying to come home on him.

2012 was a different story for Molina as Josh Harrison, outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, crushed Molina at the plate forcing Molina out of the game. What makes this story relevant is the fact that Molina, crushed and all, held onto the ball and the runner was called out at the plate.

That’s exactly what Brazil is talking about when he says catchers have to be prepared and assume they are going to get hit. Molina did just that and saved his team a run in the process.

Brazil has had a few injuries himself over the years as he tore his meniscus his senior year of high school in the first region game against St. Pius, rival high school to Blessed Trinity. And then just last year he tore his labrum.

Before these injuries and the reality that he may be just a step or two away from the MLB, Brazil grew up a fan of the sport.

With his parents being from New York he was initially a fan of the New York Yankees, who have won the World Series five times in his lifetime. But as he got older he became a fan of the Atlanta Braves.

Ever since middle school Brazil has been going to Turner Field with friends, family and teammates, which lead to the natural transition to becoming a Braves fan.

“And then you start actually knowing some people who play for the Braves, so it just becomes your home team.”