SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Joey Bart was not nervous about taking a field with big leaguers for the first time. Or about the possibility of hitting in a group with Buster Posey. Or playing in front of thousands of fans when Cactus League games begin next week.
No, the thing that gave Bart butterflies as he checked into his first spring training was a handshake.
The 22-year-old admitted that he was nervous about meeting Madison Bumgarner for the first time. He got that out of the way a few days before the first official workout, and its a good thing he did. Bumgarner had big plans for the top catching prospect in baseball.
Bumgarner will often throw to a young catcher early in camp to get his feet wet, but he wasted absolutely no time with Bart. After players played catch for the first time in 2019, Bumgarner approached Bart, who was getting ready to line up behind the plate for bullpen sessions.
“Let’s go on No. 1,” the left-hander said.
Bumgarner was the first to pitch a bullpen, tucking himself into the first stall, and he threw a lengthy session with Bart, who said he was shocked and called it “pretty cool.” This was no accident. The Giants also hope it doesn’t go down as a one-time act.
Bart will arrive in the big leagues no earlier than September, and he likely won’t be a real option until the middle of next year. Bumgarner could be elsewhere by then, but he spent part of the first day of camp helping a young player get acclimated. Others are doing the same. Posey and Bart took part in drills together and briefly chatted during batting practice. A decade ago, Posey was Bart, and he soaked up everything he could from Bengie Molina. Now, Posey said he wants Bart to know that his future is in his hands.
“One piece of advice I would relay to him is that he’s responsible for his career,” Posey said.
Whenever Posey gives Bart that message, you can be sure he’ll be listening. Bart said player after player has reminded him that he should stick to Posey as long as he’s in camp.
“Everyone around here says he’s a genius,” Bart said.
Posey also serves as a roadmap. The Giants have no intention of moving him off catcher this season or anytime soon, but that day will come eventually, and by then they anticipate Bart being ready to be an All-Star caliber player. It’s hard to find a franchise catcher in this game. The Giants fully believe they’ll have one hand the baton off to the other.
Nothing Bart has done since the draft has altered that belief. He blasted 13 homers in 51 games last summer and spent a quiet offseason training in the Atlanta area. Bart showed up to camp in good shape, towering over the other catchers in camp, and had a strong first day.
There are plenty of veteran catchers in camp, but with Posey coming off hip surgery and Stephen Vogt slowed by shoulder surgery, there’s an opportunity ahead of Bart. Manager Bruce Bochy said he’ll get his top prospect into Cactus League games before he’s sent down to start preparing for the A-ball season.
“I’m going to try to get him in there when I can,” Bochy said. “When you have a competition going on, it makes it a little bit more difficult, but with the number of games we have and split-squad (games) I’ll find ways to get him in there.”
Bart said he’s not setting any hard and fast goals for his spring. He’s here to soak up knowledge, and that process started in his first minutes on the field. Bart didn’t try to stand out as a crowd gathered to watch Bumgarner. He said he focused on making sure his pitcher looked good.
When it was over, the two met on a patch of grass and shook hands again. This time, there were no nerves.
“I told him he looked great,” Bart said. “He was just saying that this was his first one and he was kind of glad to get it over with. I was like, that’s a pretty good first one. I thought he looked great.”