Schneider taking role as Thole's mentor
Veteran imparting wisdom onto rookie backstop
NEW YORK -- The left-handed-hitting 23-year-old wearing the chest protector, shin guards, mask and Expos uniform was Brian Schneider, and Schneider was very much the rookie -- Expos red, white and blue and rookie green. It was 2000, and few catchers in the game could throw as well as the Expos rookie, and he was a skilled receiver too. But rookies are, by definition, rough around the edges.
It was left to Lenny Webster and Charlie O'Brien, each a catcher more veteran than Schneider, to apply the sandpaper.
"They helped me," Schneider says. "They didn't have to, but they did. I appreciated what they did for me. And I think it's the right thing to do for me to help whoever I can."
With that in mind, Schneider and Mets bullpen catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. spent 20 minutes on the outfield Friday with Josh Thole, the left-handed-hitting, soon-to-turn 23-year-old rookie catcher now on the Mets' big league roster and in their big league future.
Schneider, his days as a Met probably numbered, is more tutor than catcher these days, partially because of Thole's future and manager Jerry Manuel's evident fondness for Omir Santos. Schneider is not expected to return next season. And educating Thole is what he thinks is appropriate. "It only helps the team," Schneider says.
So Schneider imparts whatever wisdom he can to the plebe, fully aware that chances are good that he won't see the fruits of his efforts in any firsthand way. "It's the right thing to do," he says. "Someday, he can say I helped him, and he can help somebody."
The teaching began in February in Port St. Lucie. Thole, who had played first base primarily in his first 3 1/2 seasons as a professional -- 2005 through midseason last year -- began what he calls brain-picking, and Schneider was quite willing.
"He just needs experience. He's young in catcher years," Schneider says. "Maybe I can tell him something that will cut down how much he needs. He works hard, and when you tell him something, he doesn't blow it off. He does ask questions, and you can tell by what he asks what he knows and that he wants to learn."
In that way, Thole reminds Schneider of the 23-year-old Expos rookie catcher he was in 2000. So he watches his new teammate, the only player the Mets have promoted since Tuesday, the day the roster limit was increased from 25 to 40. And as another catcher, Mr. Yogi Berra, once said "You can observe a lot by watching."
Schneider watches Santos, too. But Santos, 28, had eight years as a professional before the Mets brought him to the big leagues this season. "He has winter ball, the Minor Leagues. He's more advanced than Josh," Schneider says. "But he has Sandy to help him, and that's a perfect fit. Sandy is such a smart coach. And I'll do whatever I can to help him."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.