It's a problem any minor league team would love to have. The Charleston RiverDogs have two young catchers talented enough to be in the starting lineup.
Kyle Higashioka and J.R. Murphy are from opposite ends of the country, but both took similar paths to get to Charleston and both hope to work through the New York Yankees' minor league system to one day don the pinstripes.
Higashioka, a 20-year old from Huntington Beach, Calif., began catching when he was 13 years old.
"It was the last thing I wanted to do because I was afraid of catching before then, but my coach (John Elliott) told me if I wanted any shot to make it in the big leagues I needed to become a catcher," Higashioka said.
J.R. Murphy, a 19-year old from Bradenton, Fla., switched to catching in high school.
"I've only been catching since my sophomore year of high school, so it is still a relatively new position to me," Murphy said. "Kenny Bolek, the director of IMG Academy baseball program, brought it up. He thought it would be best for my career long-term."
The similarities don't end there. While listed as catchers, both also serve as designated hitters.
"I just like being apart of every play," Higashioka said. "You are controlling the game out there. You decide what pitches get thrown, the tempo."
Murphy reflected those ideas, saying that he enjoyed being able to control the game and being a leader for the team.
Both enjoy keeping a fast-paced tempo for, not surprisingly, similar reasons.
"I think pitchers perform better when they don't have to wait as long," Higashioka said.
Said Murphy: "You have to be energetic and upbeat. If not, the other players tend to fall asleep, and that is when you make errors."
Both also know that they are competing to move through the farm system, but they don't let that get in the way of their friendship.
"We are competing, but we like to help each other. I can learn things from him and he learns things from me," Murphy said.
Higashioka noted that they both have to do their own things, saying that if they both do well, they will both move up and find a spot somewhere.
Each also had words of praise for the other's game.
"Kyle is really good at taking away the hitter. The way he controls the game, he does a good job. He seems to be on the same page with the pitchers at all times," Murphy said.
Said Higashioka about Murphy's hitting: "He has a short, compact swing with good power. He is just a good guy to have in the dugout."
So when you're at a RiverDogs game, don't be surprised when these two are talking to each other, because it is clearly team and friendship first.
Reach Lake Morris at 937-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out the RiverDogs blog for up to the minute updates.