By STEVE KRAH
In baseball, sometimes you find a position and sometimes it finds you.
Josh Ludy recalls the day he became a catcher.
“I was about 10 and looking at these plastic batting helmets,” says Ludy, 28. “I don’t know why, but I put one on backwards and decided I wanted to be a catcher.”
The next thing you know, Josh had talked his parents into getting him a set of gear and he was a backstop from then on.
Even with all the bumps and bruises that come with the job, that’s where Ludy wanted to be.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” says Ludy. “You just get numb to most of it.”
Sure, he pitched and played the infield a little at Jay County High School in Portland, Ind., where he graduated in 2008, but it was as a catcher that he shined.
Ludy was first-team Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 4A All-State as a senior and participated in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series with Jay County head coach Lea Selvey on the North coaching staff.
“That was one of the best times of my life,” says Ludy of his college baseball days. “We had great guys who wanted to win.”
Among those was Max Muncy, who put up impressive numbers this season for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Steve Smith was then head baseball coach at Baylor.
“Awesome guy,” says Ludy of Smith. “There was never any question about the way he was doing things.”
In four seasons with the Baylor Bears, Ludy played in 170 games and hit .321 with 21 home runs, 35 doubles and 121 runs batted in.
Hitting .362 with 16 homers, 15 doubles and 71 RBIs for a Baylor squad that went 49-17 and enjoyed a 24-game win streak, Ludy was the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year and an All-American catcher while graduating with a psychology degree in 2012.
Ludy was selected in the eighth round of the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies.
He played two seasons in the Phillies system (2012-13) and 17 games with the Oakland Athletics organization in 2014.
That same fall, Josh got married and wife Erin got to really experience the traveling baseball life.
The first two years, the couple moved often.
“She’s been there pretty much the whole time,” says Ludy of the woman he met at Baylor. “She’s been all over the country with me. She’s awesome.
“It’s nice to be the same place for a little while.”
Now living in O’Fallon and co-managing a gun shop in the off-season, Josh is able to come home to see his wife and first children — a 6-month-old daughter named Laurel.
Ludy played for River City in 2015 and was going to retire when the Rascals convinced him to come back in 2016 to serve as a player/hitting coach. He did that again in 2017.
Not active as a player in 2018, Ludy came back as long-time River City manager Steve Brook’s hitting coach.
“My life’s been centered around the game,” says Ludy. “I like being out on the field everyday.”
His duties with the Rascals included getting to the stadium early to do individual work with players. He also threw batting practice, hit fungous and sometimes made mound visits.
Having witnessed both MLB-affiliated and independent pro baseball, Ludy sees the differences.
“The high-end talent is not there (in indy ball),” says Lundy. “But there are a lot of guys who were really good college players. A lot of hitters have been released from affiliated ball or been passed up in the draft.
“There’s less structure as far as your daily stuff (in indy ball).”
Not getting talent from a parent organization means indy teams must find their own and sometime a player’s time with the club doesn’t even allow for a cup of coffee.
“We’ve gotten rid of guys in less than a day,” says Ludy. “Sometimes they only pinch-run and they’re gone.
“It can be pretty cut throat sometimes. There’s only so many roster spots available. It can be a swinging door sometimes.”
Ludy calls Brook’s position a “tough gig.”
“We have our budget lower than most teams in the league,” says Ludy. “It’s hard to find guys who will take less.
“But we’ve had pretty good success doing it.”
The Rascals went 52-44 and lost in a divisional series to eventual Frontier League champion Joliet in 2018. River City went 50-46 in 2017, 49-47 in 2016, 56-40 in 2015 and 61-35 in 2014 — losing in the finals the in ’14 and ’15.
While working and conducting some private lessons, Ludy is sorting out his baseball future. He says he should know soon what 2019 has in-store for him.
Ludy, who was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., grew up just blocks from the youth baseball park in Portland.
At 14, he played travel ball for the Indiana White Sox then spent three summers for USAthletic before the one with the Indiana Bulls.
Josh is the son of Max and Sheri Ludy. His father is a superior court judge in Jay County. His mother is a social worker. A half-brother, Kyle, lives in Indianapolis.
Josh Ludy, a graduate of Jay County High School in Portland, Ind., and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, hits the baseball for the independent River City Rascals. (River City Rascals Photo)
Josh Ludy has been with the independent River City Rascals in O’Fallon, Mo., since the middle of the 2014 baseball season, first as a player then a coach. He is a graduate of Jay County High School in Indiana and Baylor University in Texas. (River City Rascals Photo)