Sometimes, the most productive pitcher-catcher conversations have nothing to do with softball.
Deerfield senior catcher Emelia Karkazis came out to the mound several times to talk with the Warriors’ young pitchers, sophomore Kate Bulzoni and freshman Audrey Brenner, on a spring-break trip to Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Kissimmee, Fla.
“I could tell they were nervous in the beginning because they had never played varsity softball,” Karkazis said.
On one trip, she made an exaggerated effort to use her glove to shield anyone from seeing what they were saying.
“When you watch Major League games the pitchers and catchers always talk into their gloves,” she said. “I [jokingly talked] about how cool it is to talk through your glove and that we were in Disney on a nice day when it was 30 degrees back in Chicago.”
Karkazis’ leadership is one reason why Deerfield coach Susan Johnson felt comfortable moving her to catcher this season. Although Karkazis has experience catching, her primary position in high school had been first base.
“She has made the transition seamlessly and has done a great job of bringing along our young pitching staff,” Johnson said. “She really is a positive, vocal leader.”
Karkazis said after some initial apprehension she has quickly grown to love the responsibilities of playing catcher.
“I like being able to communicate with my coach while I’m on the field and relay the signs to the team,” she said.
Added senior outfielder Sami Horwitz, “She makes sure everyone is in the game and is really a huge leader on the team.”
In Deerfield’s opening game of the trip, Karkazis went 3-for-3 with a double. She followed that up with a 2-for-3 performance that included her first homer of the season. Through five games, she is hitting a team-best .467 with two home runs.
The Warriors, who went 3-2 on the trip, also received strong hitting performances from Natalie Behling (.438 BA, two homers, 13 RBI), Leta Berkowitz (.429 BA, five steals) and Carly Frisone (.357 BA).
Johnson said she can already tell that Karkazis is taking a more patient, selective approach at the plate.
“Emelia has matured and understands that teams have a lot of respect for her when she comes to the plate,” Johnson said. “She knows she is not going to get a ton of great pitches, so she has focused on seeing pitches that she likes to hit.”
In addition to the success on the field, Karkazis said the Warriors benefited from the experience of traveling and bonding together off the diamond in Florida.
“This trip is one of the best parts of the season,” she said. “We had so much fun hanging out.”