Yankees’ Kyle Higashioka ‘cautiously optimistic’ about MLB season

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Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka takes Post readers behind the scenes as he tries to stay prepared for the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic. As told to Ken Davidoff.

Hi again from central Oregon, where it’s not too bad. There are a very small number of coronavirus cases, and people are still able to go outside and ride their bikes as well as other activities and stay apart from each other. There’s a lot of space here. You can go anywhere, even drive 15 minutes, and not be in sight of a single house within 10 miles.

For the most part, I haven’t seen anyone besides my wife, Alyse, and her parents. I had to drop something off at my trainer’s house, so we had a socially distanced conversation. I was outside on the street while he was on his porch.

I’m still cautiously optimistic that we’ll have a baseball season. I think everyone’s pulling for a season. … I’m sure they’ll come to a solution within the framework of this whole thing when it makes sense. I’m still really hoping to play in some way.

Admittedly, I don’t follow the news too much because it can be a little depressing, especially recently. I like to glance at it just to see how we’re doing as a country in terms of fighting this thing, I have a little bit of tunnel vision about getting ready for the season. If I lose that state of mind, I know that my preparation is going to go south.

From a preparation standpoint, the March 12 postponement of action was a little bit of a letdown. I was probably at peak readiness for the season at the time we got shut down. It’s hard to replicate the shape you can get in by catching bullpens compared with working in games. I try to maintain some of my leg strength and endurance when I do my catching drills. A lot of times, I’ll use a 20-pound weighted vest under my catcher’s gear just to add more strength, because my legs are used to carrying an extra load in that position.

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While I’m used to catching now, so much so that I have a feel for how to stay in shape during this crazy time, I took an unusual path to get here. When I first started playing baseball seriously, at age 11, I was a shortstop, although I could play second base and third base, too. I had good hands. I just didn’t have any range.

Kyle Higashioka
Kyle HigashiokaN.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

I joined a travel team run by John Elliott, who operates Quakes Baseball Academy in Lake Forest, Calif. Two years into our time together, when I was 13, we ran a 60-yard dash one day. I think it took me 8.5 seconds, one of the slowest times on the team.

John was like, “Man, you are slow. With your skill set, your tools, I think the best chance you have to make it to the major leagues one day is to be a catcher. They’re not drafting shortstops or second basemen who are running a 60 over 8 seconds.”

Catching was the last position I wanted to play. It took me a full year to get over the fear of foul tips, blocking. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made. Or I guess you could say it was the best decision that was made for me.

Stay safe, and let’s hope that the next couple of weeks bring some good news about having a baseball season.

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