World Series 2022: Phillies’ JT Realmuto showed why he’s the best receiver in MLB

HOUSTON — Between the two biggest swings of his life, JT Realmuto was pierced in the face.

Fortunately, the Phillies the receiver wore, you know, a mask at the time. But when that sixth-inning foul ball ricocheted Chas McCormickit punched Realmuto in the jaw so squarely that the front part of his two-piece helmet came off and fell into the dirt behind home plate.

Realmuto, whose two-running RBI brace in the fifth inning had just tied the game, completing Philly’s boisterous five-run comeback, took a moment to pull itself together. As he cocked his head to his chest to catch his breath, the ref walked to the mound to give Realmuto a break. But almost immediately skipper Rob Thomson and the club’s athletic trainer came out of the visitor’s dugout to check their safety net. At that point bench coach Mike Calitri yelled at the reserve receiver Garrett Stubbsletting Stubbs know that he might need to prepare.

But as Calitri and thousands of Philadelphians feared the worst, Stubbs didn’t budge an inch.

“Yeah, I knew JT wouldn’t get out of this game.” Stubbs said post-game. “This guy’s arms would have to drop to get him out of this game”

Luckily, it turned out that Realmuto’s stinger was “just” a hard blow to the chin and not a potential concussion situation. After being evaluated by the medical staff, he remained in the game.

Two hours later, he homered an opposing field laser beam homer in the 10th inning to give the Phillies a 6-5 lead and perhaps the most notable victory of their unlikely October run.

“That ball put me right in the jaw.” Realmuto admitted post-match. “It will probably not be very easy for me to have dinner tonight.”

“That’s a Phillies win right there.”

Phillies catcher JT Realmuto breaks down his game-winning home run in the 10th inning of Game 1 of the World Series.

While those bumps, bruises and knocks to the chin are normal for any backstop, what’s not normal is Realmuto’s ability to the plate. No other receiver that does good defensive bops like Realmuto’s bops. And Game 1 showcased the range of his talents – 10 innings caught, three runs driven, a revolving door of relievers handled expertly.

Such is the life of the best receiver on earth.

Just minutes after the last outing on Friday night, Realmuto hit up the visitors’ weight room at Minute Maid Park. And as is the case after every game he plays, home or away, won or lost, in April or October, Realmuto trained. Three sets of three different exercises. About 15-20 minutes total. Sometimes upper body, sometimes lower body, but always something, no exceptions.

While his teammates open cold drinks or talk to the media or take showers, the 31-year-old catcher is in the gym, making sure his body can handle nine more rounds of squats the next day.

The post-game scene after Game 1 was no different. Those four and a half hours of very stressful and grueling baseball were in the rearview mirror, old news. The preparation for match 2 had to start, and start right away.

The glory of a moment like his go-ahead in Game 1 begins hours, weeks, months earlier. Long before the lights came on and the cameras rolled.

“He’s an absolute specimen.” Stubbs said of his compatriot. “But he’s in the weight room every day, in the training room getting treatment every day, making sure he’s ready to go.”

Realmuto itself offers a much more humble and realistic assessment of its situation.

“I’m running with so much adrenaline right now that I feel pretty good every night.”

Catching is strange work; it’s part coach, part advanced scout, part therapist, part three hour yoga class, oh and you gotta knock too. But for Realmuto, who so far this postseason has caught every inning for the Phils, it’s even more important.

As a group, big league catchers reached 0.226/0.295/0.367 in 2022.

Realmuto, on the other hand, hit .276/.342/.478 while leading all catchers in games started and innings behind the flat. Man is a unicorn, an anomaly, an athletic specimen. He squats for three hours then hits like an All-Star. That’s why he’s such a crucial and unsung part of this Phillies team. This is why they have become so dependent on its reliability.

David Robertson, right, and JT Realmuto of the Phillies celebrate after their Game 1 win at Houston. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

And even though he hadn’t collected a signature moment before his performance in Game 1, Realmuto lurked in the shadows. If not for her first single in NLCS Game 5, Harper’s historic home run would have been of the solo variety. But sooner or later the October spotlight arrives for everyone, and on Friday night Realmuto was the reluctant star.

And in the early hours of Saturday morning, while his peers joked around listening to crude music in the locker room, Realmuto was back where he felt most comfortable, the weight room, preparing for the eventual tomorrow’s discomfort.

It’s a receiver’s life, and none, as he proved in Game 1, is better than Realmuto.

Jake Mintz, the louder half of @CespedesBBQ is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He is an Orioles fan living in New York and as a result leads a lonely existence most of October. If he doesn’t watch baseball, he almost certainly rides a bike. Follow him on Twitter @Jake_Mintz.

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