ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Former University of New Mexico catcher Mitch Garver set a new gold standard for all future Lobo catchers by being named an All-American and one of three national finalists for the Johnny Bench Award in both 2012 and 2013. This season the Lobos' new catcher is trying to follow in Garver's footsteps.
Junior Alex Real was named to the watch list for the Johnny Bench award, which is given annually to the top catcher in college baseball. UNM head coach Ray Birmingham has often referred to it as "the Heisman Trophy for catchers."
He also said his current backstop is more than deserving, and he's also talented enough to win it.
"The last two years Mitch Garver was the runner up, and I think this year Alex Real could win it," Birmingham said. "He's that good."
Entering this weekend's Mountain West series against UNLV, Real is hitting .347 (17-for-49) with four doubles, a triple and 11 RBIs. He's slugging .469 and is second on the squad with 11 runs scored and a .484 on-base percentage, which is aided by his team-high nine walks and four HBPs.
The Anthem, Ariz., native's defense has been just as good as his offense so far this season. He has thrown out two of the seven attempted base stealers against him, has eight assists from behind the plate and has not committed an error or passed ball yet this season. What is equally impressive is his work with the UNM pitching staff, which is enjoying one of its best starts in decades. The staff has a 3.85 ERA and is holding opponents to a .240 batting average.
A memeber of the 2014 Preseason All-Mountain West Team, Real is the only catcher from the conference on the initial list, which is composed of 72 backstops from around the nation. The list will be narrowed down to semifinalists on May 15. Ballots will be sent to the national voting panel at the end of May for a vote to determine the three finalists, which will be announced on June 3. A final vote among the national committee will occur during the College World Series, after which all finalists will be brought to Wichita and the winner will be announced at the 17th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet on June 26.