By Kevin J. Stone, Contributing Writer
HUDSON – Just a few short years ago, Mike Chaves Jr. was playing baseball for the Hudson High School varsity team, helping the Hawks advance to the sectional final.
Fast forward a few years, and Chaves is now looking to create a life for himself at the highest levels of the game of baseball.
Recently, the third baseman turned bullpen catcher for the Orleans Firebirds of the historic Cape Cod Baseball League got to catch the eighth inning of a game. On August 3, Chaves then started a game.
Just a few weeks ago, he was playing for the Worcester Bravehearts and just a few months prior to that, he was wrapping up his junior season at Worcester State.
“I’ve pretty much worked my way up from the mailroom,” Chaves said in a recent phone interview.
He said he first secured the bullpen catching spot after connecting with the Orleans’ manager through Twitter.
“I ended up going in and doing that,” he said.
“The Cape is not out here inviting guys to have fun,” he continued. “It’s extremely competitive and one of the best leagues in the country. I’m not saying I’m one of the best players in the country obviously, but when it comes to catching some of the talented guys out here, I’m extremely confident in my abilities.”
Gaining high-level attention as a Division III college baseball player, Chaves now wants to take his newfound connections and use them as a way to elevate his status in the game.
“I want to play as long as I can,” he said. “There obviously comes a time where you can’t play because the physical stuff starts to go, but I’m getting this opportunity to connect with other schools.”
Worcester State does not have the Masters program Chaves wants to pursue. So, he said, he’s potentially looking elsewhere.
“I’m making a push to find a place to try and compete at the highest level I can and keep challenging myself,” he said.
“I really do enjoy the bullpen catcher gig,” he continued. “I would love to do it at a very high level, even up into the big leagues if the opportunity presented itself. The way I kind of want to go about it – and again, there’s always a way to get in, it’s not just always A-to-B – having the connections with players down the Cape who will probably be at the next level. I want to get my Master’s in counseling and sort of combined the bullpen catching, counseling and sports psychology.”
It’s all about moving up the ladder and doing it the right way for Chaves. Ultimately, it may lead to him being at the forefront of the critical role mental health plays in baseball.
“I think it’s a big deal that’s going to emerge, at least in baseball, with the mental game stuff,” Chaves added. “Being able to be like a mental skills counselor for baseball players and have that baseball mindset. The end goal would be to work in an organization and catch ‘pens if I can, but I’d love to be able to help players be better between the ears as well.”