Injury to junior college catcher affects roster

Every team in sports must deal with injuries at some point or another, but the Alabama baseball team, which hosts its season-opener this Friday against the Virginia Military Institute, is already feeling major effects.

Wade Wass, a junior college transfer from Pensacola, Fla., who played the his last two seasons at Meridian Community College, was expected to see major playing time right away this season at catcher, but sustained an ankle injury during a scrimmage and will miss the first part of the 2013 season.

Senior Brett Booth, who started all 55 games last season including 31 as catcher, will carry most of the load behind the plate until Wass can get healthy and back in the lineup.

“We’ve talked about depth on our team,” head coach Mitch Gaspard said. “That’s where it falls right back to the one luxury of having Brett as our everyday catcher last year. He is just going to have to be a warrior right now, and he is going to be asked to catch every ball game until we get the return.”

Booth made the switch to catcher in 2012 after playing much of 2011 at third base. He tied for first on the team in home runs (4) and finished second on the team in RBIs (32). He’ll be counted on to play an even bigger role in Wass’ absence.

“It’s a little bit of change getting to dress every couple of days,” Booth said. “But with the injury, people just have to step up, and it’s something you really can’t control. And when the other catcher goes down, just something you have to get back there and keep your body as healthy as you can.”

Alabama will miss Wass’ power at the plate as he recovers from an injury that Gaspard said will keep him out until the second half of the season. Wass was named first team Region 23 by the National Junior College Athletic Association last season. He posted a .427 batting average, hit 23 home runs and added 67 RBIs in his stellar sophomore season.

“It’s unfortunate for both Wade and our team right now,” Gaspard said. “We are just hoping for the best today in terms of the time table of the injury and where we go from there.”

Wass decided to transfer to Alabama rather than make the jump to professional baseball. He was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2012 draft last summer. How he returns will be critical for his draft stock the next time around in 2013.

Meanwhile, Gaspard sees it as an opportunity for younger players to get experience.

“I mean, he was a heck of a player,” Gaspard said. “Long term, if you look at, this can be an opportunity for some guys to step in and hopefully get Wade back. And now we’ve created a little more depth for when he does come back, and he can make our team even stronger the second half of the season.”

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