By Vince Cestone
Andrew Susac is living his childhood dream—playing professional baseball for the organization he grew up rooting for.
Susac is the starting catcher for the Class-A San Jose Giants, a minor-league affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. The determined prospect must start at the bottom before accomplishing his goal – being a San Francisco Giant.
Susac, like many Giants’ faithful, braved the cold winds of Candlestick Park and reaped the rewards of beautiful AT&T Park. As a baseball player from Roseville, Calif., the Giants have always been part of his life.
“Me and my dad always went to Candlestick Park when I was young, and then, AT&T when it got built,” Susac said. “I loved Matt Williams, Will Clark, J.T. Snow. The Giants have been in my blood my whole life.”
The Giants selected Susac in the second round of the 2011 draft (86th overall pick). On the day he was drafted, Susac said his family was elated with him, their rising star.
“The day I got drafted, it was a room full of tears, and everyone was so excited,” said Susac, who debuted professionally in 2012. “It was out of the blue, and you know, I was so pumped up.”
As a young, minor-league player, Susac said he must maintain focus in San Jose, and not beyond, to achieve his goals. He hit just .244 for San Jose in 2012 but had nine home runs and 52 RBIs in 102 games.
Although he said his batting average was lower than he would have liked, Susac can get on base. His 2012 on-base percentage was a respectable .351 and had 55 walks in 361 at-bats.
Susac said he is confident he will figure out his swing.
“Well, [I’m] not showing too much right now, but I’m still getting used to…playing every day,” Susac said. “I’d like to think I hit for power, but putting the ball in play and getting base hits right now is my main goal.”
The Giants’ talented young catcher first experienced success as a 2010 Cape Cod League All-Star.
As a sophomore playing for Oregon State University last year, he led the team in home runs and was second in RBIs. Although the Philadelphia Phillies drafted him out of high school, Susac opted to play college baseball to mature.
“I just thought I had to grow up a little bit, be on my own.” Susac said. “It’s a tough life out here, and I could not imagine doing this at 17, 18 years old. I’m glad I…got some experience being on my own, doing my own laundry…but a college education isn’t bad either.
The college experience paid off. Baseball America rated Susac the No. 6 prospect in the Giants’ organization, and the big club awarded him an invite to major league spring training.
Susac only had three at-bats last spring (1-for-3), but he showed the Giants his skill set. Susac is still learning and strives to improve, especially on his high strikeout total.
Susac struck out 100 times in 361 at-bats and said he is ready to challenge himself to put the ball in play. He is diligently working to improve.
“You don’t have a chance to get a base hit when you’re striking out that much,” Susac said. “Just taking it day by day, keeping the same head, level head, going after it ever day. It’s a different process playing every day, and I’m trying to get used to it.”
Susac has great company at catcher, including Buster Posey and Hector Sanchez. Despite the tough competition behind the plate, Susac said assertively he will remain a catcher.
“I’m a catcher for life. I love catching,” Susac said. “You can’t worry about things you can’t control.”
Although Susac’s offense has not clicked in San Jose, the catching prospect said his defense rarely slumps.
“I would like to think of myself as a plus defender,” Susac said. “I run into little patches where I have to refresh my skill set here and there, but I got a good arm, got a quick release.”
Susac also said he takes pride in his ball-blocking ability, and more importantly, calling the right pitches.
“I block the ball, but calling the game is the biggest part of moving up in the system,” he said.
Susac already reached milestones most aspiring baseball players could only dream. Although he is riding buses and paying his dues in the organization he rooted for as a child, he is just happy to be in the Giants’ system.
“It’s a dream come true,” Susac said. The day I got drafted, it was a room full of tears and everyone was so excited. It was out of the blue, and you know, I was so pumped up.”
Follow me on Twitter @vintalkingiants