Pro Perspective: Andy Etchebarren
- Baltimore Orioles, 1962, 1965 - 1975; California Angels, 1975 - 1977; Milwaukee Brewers, 1978.
From West Coast to East Coast
Andy Etchebarren was born on June 20, 1943 in Whittier, CA, which is in the Los Angeles area.
Etchebarren excelled in sports as a kid. As a two sport athlete in high school, Andy turned down Football scholarships to pursue Baseball.
He was signed out of high school by the Baltimore Orioles in 1961 for a signing bonus of $85,000. Andy made his big league debut the next season at the tender age of 19, in a late season game against the Kansas City Athletics in Baltimore.
After his MLB debut, he spent the next few seasons in the minors. Andy was an excellent defensive catcher but he needed more time to improve his offense.
Andy's time finally arrived during the 1966 season. He became a primary catcher for the Orioles in 1966 and ended up playing in 121 games. That season, Andy made the AL All Star team (note: he also made the 1967 AL All Star team).
He caught every inning of the 1966 World Series for Baltimore, in which the Orioles won in 4 straight games over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Interestingly, Andy was the last big league batter to ever face the legendary Sandy Koufax (source), which happened in the sixth inning of game 2 of the series.
Andy would spend the next nine seasons sharing duties behind the plate, playing for many very good Baltimore teams during this span. He appeared in three more World Series with the Orioles (in 1969, 1970 and 1971), winning in 1970.
Angels and Brewers
After many exciting years in Baltimore, Andy's contract was sold to the California Angels at the trade deadline of the 1975 season. Being from southern California, the move to California to play for the Angels was like coming back home for Andy.
With the Angels, Andy caught notable pitchers Nolan Ryan and Frank Tanana, among others. He also served as an official player-coach for the Angels in 1977.
Following the 1977 season, Andy's contract was sold to the Milwaukee Brewers. He only appeared in 4 games for the Brewers in 1978 due to injuries, then he hung up his cleats.
All told, Andy finished his career with a .235 batting average in 948 MLB games. He made two AL All Star teams, led the league in Caught Stealing in 1966, and had multiple top 3 finishes among AL catchers in Caught Stealing %, Putouts, Assists, and Range Factor/Game (catchers).
Andy took a short break from Baseball after retiring. He eventually went back to Baseball as a minor league catching instructor, roving minor league instructor, minor league manager and big league bench coach.
His last stint in Baseball was in the independent Atlantic League where, notably, he served as manager for the York Revolution.
Andy fully retired from Baseball after the 2012 season ended for the Revolution. Unfortunately, Andy passed away on October 5, 2019 at 76 years old.
Q&A with Andy Etchebarren
Andy Etchebarren was a former big league catcher who had experience with multiple MLB teams. He played with multiple Baseball Hall of Famers - names like Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, and Nolan Ryan.
I wrote Andy in August 2019 seeking his feedback on my regular questions for pro catchers. He responded in September 2019, graciously signing two cards for me and answering my questions, as seen below.
Like everything in the Pro Perspective series, I wanted to share Andy's feedback with readers in the hope that his perspective will help catchers looking to improve their game.
Here are Andy's responses to my questions, as you can also read in the image below.
Question 1: What is your favorite memory from playing in the major leagues?
Answer: 4 World Series and 2 All Star games. Playing with some of the best players to ever play the game.
Question 2: What do you think is the most important skill that a catcher should have?
Answer: Arm strength and quickness to make the throw to second base.
Question 3: If you could give only one piece of advice to young catchers hoping to one day play professionally, what would it be?
Answer: Practice, practice, practice. Dedication. Hard work. Don't ever give up. Don't ever let anyone tell you, you are not good enough.
Andy's advice is inspiring, especially considering that this was written roughly a month before his death.
He was preaching the value of hard work and consistent practice, things that anyone can do if they want it bad enough. I appreciate this as it is wise advice not only for catching but in all walks of life.
Also, take note of his advice under question #2 to improve your pop time and arm strength. He believed these were drivers for success behind the plate.
Thanks for Reading
We're glad you stopped by to read this article. We have many other articles from pro catchers in our Pro Perspective series, which we'd encourage you to also check out.