BRADENTON — The catcher is often called the quarterback position in baseball. You’re the receiver and field general.
But Dan Watson, who spent most of his baseball seasons from tee ball all the way to high school at catcher, switched positions midway through his senior year at Manatee High.
Watson transformed into a pitcher, a spot he now occupies as a reliever for the State College of Florida.
And although he hasn’t pitched much this season for the Manatees, who head to the Juco World Series beginning this weekend, Watson has contributed in other ways this season.
“A big thing that we do in the bullpen, which I kind of started is our self-managing of games,” said Watson, who appeared in five games throwing five innings. “We just watch the game, and then compare what we do in different situations. And tried starting that with some guys, because that really keeps your mind in the game, and so nothing really surprises you.”
The sophomore’s baseball bloodlines run deep.
His father, Steve “Doc” Watson, pitched at SCF before playing in the major leagues.
Now the elder Watson is the pitching coach for the Jupiter Hammerheads — the Florida State League affiliate of the Florida Marlins.
“I kind of just let him pitch,” Steve Watson said. “Because he felt comfortable with his mechanics and that kind of stuff.”
So Watson was able to soak up the game at an early age.
“I’ve always loved the game,” he said. “And having him in the pro game, my entire life, it really helped me appreciate the game. I got to grow up watching the behind-the-scenes and on the field in front of professional baseball.”
One of those rewards from having a father, who was a former major leaguer, was when Watson met Pittsburgh Pirates legend Bill Mazeroski.
The Hall of Fame second baseman is best remembered for his series ending, walkoff home run that made the Pirates World Champions in 1961.
“He did that in 1961, which meant my dad was still a kid,” Watson said. “And that stuff, you see in books or on film and things like that is just that it’s history. And then when you get to meet the guy who did it, and shake a real human’s hands, and talk to a guy who is giving you first-hand memories and knowledge of it just gives you a sense of this is achievable.”
Watson isn’t the typical sophomore.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder is 22-years-old — an age usually when people graduate college.
He finished high school in 2006, was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, but opted to play college ball at South Florida Community College, which didn’t get off to the best start.
“I just made terrible classroom decisions,” Watson said. “I wasn’t academically eligible. I was riding high on the theory of I was there to play baseball, not go to school.”
So after that 2007 season, Watson hit the books to get his grades up and return to the diamond in 2008 at South Florida CC.
But, he said he had some arm trouble, which prevented him from playing. And then he was involved in a car accident in 2009, which also thwarted playing ball.
“I was a mess, basically because I did not have the ability to ask for help when I needed it,” Watson said. “So, I had to come home and get my life together.”
He did, winding up at SCF, where he said he’ll graduate this summer. But first, he’ll head to Grand Junction, Colo., to help the Manatees earn the program’s first national title.