If not for baseball, Brody Binder might have been a college football quarterback.
Instead he signed college scholarship papers with Troy University, where he hopes to continue refining his skills as a catcher.
"Since I was a little kid it was baseball. I played football when I couldn't play baseball," the Ooltewah High School senior said.
Binder started playing competitively as a 4-year-old. Football was at best a backyard thing until Owls football coaches saw him throwing a football in a freshman physical education class. He became a two-year starter at quarterback and was good enough that recruiters were watching him in practice and on video, although they knew he had committed in June to Troy baseball.
"I had a couple of schools interested, but then I signed with Troy," he said.
Binder hasn't touched a football since the Owls were eliminated in the playoffs by East Hamilton. However, the three years of football actually improved his baseball ability.
"Throwing the football as much as I did helped my arm strength," he said.
Playing football, especially at quarterback, also helped develop leadership skills, Ooltewah baseball coach Brian Hitchcox believes.
"He had never played football and he had never been a catcher until his freshman year. He was learning probably the most difficult position in each sport, and for that he deserves a lot of credit," Hitchcox said. "He never complained. He never shied away from working hard. He dedicated himself to being good at both."
Binder has blossomed as a catcher, and his throws from home to second base have been timed from 1.83 to 2.0 seconds.
"He's way better defensively," Hitchcox assessed. "He has pretty much been ready batting-wise since he was a freshman. He won't chase pitches and he doesn't mind taking his walks. Defensively he's improved blocking pitches but also receiving the ball, throwing and being in control of the game. He is a more complete catcher."
He also is repeating a philosophy Hitchcox first employed with Sam Eberle, the former Notre Dame standout who signed with San Francisco after a successful career as a catcher for Jacksonville State.
He's batting leadoff.
"I definitely like it," Binder said. "I get more at-bats and also see a lot more fastballs. If they walk me, we can always use a courtesy runner and let him steal a couple of bases, although we haven't been doing that lately."
That also is by design.
"Brody's a plus runner," Hitchcox said. "Bat him in the middle of the order, and maybe the guys behind him are younger and not getting the respect. After that first at-bat, hitting leadoff doesn't really matter."
He likes having a premier hitter leading off, and Binder hasn't disappointed. Coming into this week he was hitting .468 with nine doubles, a triple and a home run.
And it's enough to attract some pro scouts.
"That's something I'd really have to sit down and talk over with my parents, but I would think anybody would sign if the money was right," he said.
"He's the prototypical catcher," Hitchcox added. "He's athletic enough that even if guys didn't project him as a catcher his bat could allow him to play a long time. And there's no transition from metal [bats] to wood for him. He probably hits it better with wood."
While that possibility is out there, it would likely take a lot to keep Binder from Troy, where his brother, T.J., is a redshirt freshman and a hard-hitting, waiting-in-the-wings third baseman.
Contact Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765. Follow him at twitter.com/wardgossett.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...