UH baseball’s Anthony Tulimero redefining the catcher position
The thick eyeblack stands out every time Anthony Tulimero takes the diamond.
It’s of part of who Tulimero is as a player, representing the heart and hustle that he brings every game.
“The eyeblack has been a thing for me since high school,” Tulimero said. “I don’t feel fully dressed without it.”
The Kansas transfer has done more than just look the part in his first year in the UH baseball program. He’s become the Cougars’ leader, both behind the plate and with a bat in his hands.
Opponents’ scouting report on the UH catcher should be simple: Don’t try to run on Tulimero because he will throw you out.
“If they got a guy trying to steal, nine times out of ten he’s going to get thrown out,” said UH relief pitcher Ben Sears when asked about Tulimero’s arm behind the plate.
Tulimero leads the American Athletic Conference with 14 runners caught stealing.
The 6-foot catcher is also a human wall behind the dish, rarely allowing anything to get by him.
There’s no doubt in the mind of any pitcher on the UH staff that Tulimero is going to keep the ball in front of him.
“It’s nice knowing you have a catcher back there who you can trust with any pitch that you throw,” said UH pitcher Nathan Medrano. “If you bounce one in the dirt, he’s going to smother it and block it.”
This is a huge advantage for UH pitchers, giving them the confidence to throw any kind of pitch in any type of situation.
“I trust that guy with everything and I’m not afraid to throw a ball in the dirt with runners on or anything,” Sears said. “He’s just been an incredible all-around player this year.”
All this success stems from the daily work Tulimero puts in, practicing countless situations behind the plate so that he is prepared for everything while also putting a special emphasis on his health so that he can perform to his highest capability every time he takes the diamond under the bright lights.
“Behind the plate, I have a routine that I like to stick to,” Tulimero said. “I like to do the same type of drills pretty much every day. Really taking care of my body is something that is most important to me behind the plate. If I’m not healthy, I’m not going to be able to play at my highest level.”
The work has paid major dividends.
UH baseball head coach had one word to describe Tulimero’s defense — elite.
“You’re talking about an elite guy as far throwing runners out at second base, his receiving and his blocking,” Whiting said.
Raking at the plate
In today’s day and age of baseball, there is not much expectation to get offensive production out catcher position as managing games behind the plate is seen as a catcher’s primary priority.
This does not apply to Tulimero, who takes just as much pride in what he does with a bat in his hands as he does
“I take pride in both sides of the game,” Tulimero said. “I want to be as well-rounded as I can.”
While Whitting expected to get some offensive production out of his catcher, he did not anticipate Tulimero transforming into one of the Cougars’ best hitters.
“(Tulimero) was a kid that we expected to get some offense out of,” Whitting said. “I thought when we signed him we’d probably hit him 7-8-9, but as this thing has kind of played out he’s worked his way up into the four-hole. He’s once of the most offensive catcher’s in the country right now.”
Tulimero credits the work he has put in with UH hitting coach Ross Kivett to develop an offensive routine as the key to his offensive outburst in 2022.
“Offensively, pretty much every day I’m going to start out in the cages and do a few of my different types of drills,” Tulimero said. “I’ve got three drills that I do before I get into bp, take batting practice and then do a little bit of machine work.”
Through April 3, Tulimero leads the Cougars and ranks fourth overall in the AAC in batting average (.369) and on-base percentage (.413).
Following his hero’s footsteps
As a California native, Tulimero has idolized Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Will Smith.
Tulimero sees many similarities between himself and the Dodgers’ catcher. In his first three years in the MLB, Smith has hit .262 at the plate with 43 home runs and 143 RBIs, an offensive production that any major league team would take from the catcher position.
Behind the plate, Smith has produced a .997 fielding percentage, committing only six errors in his young career.
In 2021, Smith produced a career-high 3.5 wins above replacement.
As a result, Tulimero has tried to model his game around Smith’s.
“I’m from California and I really like Will Smith with the Dodgers,” Tulimero said. “I think we have a pretty similar build, about 6-foot, 190, 200 pounds. Just watching him play every day, he’s a good defender and can really swing it.”
While Tulimero still has ways to go before he reaches the same status as his hero, he is currently bringing many of the same things, both tangible and intangible, to UH that Smith has brought to the Dodgers.
Everyone within the UH baseball program recognizes that Tulimero’s production, both offensively and defensively, has been key to the Cougars’ strong start to the season.
“Tuli is the man,” Sears said. “He’s one of the best catchers in the country.”