Q&A with Former MLB Catcher Bob Kearney [Bio & Interview]

Pro Perspective: Bob Kearney

Former Mariners catcher Bob Kearney

Pro Perspective: Bob Kearney

Teams

  • San Francisco Giants, 1979; Oakland Athletics, 1981 - 1983; Seattle Mariners, 1984 - 1987.

 

Texas Roots

Bob Kearney was born on October 3, 1956 in San Antonio, Texas. He played high school ball locally, at Jay High School in San Antonio.

From there, Kearney went on to the University of Texas where he played college baseball for the Longhorns

He was selected out of college by the San Francisco Giants in the 14th round of the 1977 draft.

Kearney began his professional career that year at the Rookie league level for the Great Falls Giants. He then spent all of '78 and most of '79 in the minors, and was promoted to the big leagues late that season.

Becoming a Big Leaguer

Kearney made his MLB debut for the Giants on September 25, 1979. It was a home game at Candlestick Park against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

After the late season call-up in '79, Kearney spent the next season at the AAA Phoenix Giants. 

The following season he was traded to the Oakland Athletics, and he spent most of 1981 and '82 with the A's AAA club, the Tacoma Tigers. 

In 1983, Kearney finally got an opportunity to get some serious playing time in the majors. He appeared in 108 games for the '83 A's and hit .255/.312/.372 with eight home runs.

Time as a Seattle Mariner

After proving his worth in 1983, Kearney was sent to Seattle during the offseason in a multiplayer deal with the Mariners.

He went on to spend the next two seasons as the Seattle Mariners' primary starting catcher.

Kearney did an excellent job defensively for the Mariners, leading all AL catchers in 1984 in putouts (823), range factor/9Inn (7.16), and range factor/game (6.66). He finished second in the league for defensive games (133) and caught stealing (47). 

Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays during a 1984 game in Toronto

Seattle Mariners catcher Bob Kearney, pitcher Mark Langston and Lloyd Moseby of the Toronto Blue Jays react after Kearney tagged Moseby out at the plate. This was during a 1984 game in Toronto.

Despite his solid defense in '84 and in 1985 - where he led all AL catchers in fielding percentage (.995%) - Kearney steadily received less playing time for the Mariners. This was due in part to subpar offensive numbers. 

After a slow start offensively in 1987, Kearney was released around the all star break. It would be the end of his MLB playing career.

In total, Bob Kearney hit .233/.274/.346 across 479 big league games. He had a career .987 fielding percentage and a 42% caught stealing average.

Q&A with Bob Kearney

Bob Kearney is a former MLB catcher with over 3,500 innings spent playing behind the plate in big league games. He has played on the same team with legendary players like Rickey Henderson and legendary managers like Hall of Famer Dick Williams.

I wrote to Bob a few weeks ago asking for input on my questions for pro catchers. He took the time to sign my 1986 Topps card and answer each of my questions, and he added an extra story to my Q&A sheet (see below for the highly entertaining story).

Bob Kearney autographed signed card, 1986 topps

Like the others in this Pro Perspective series, I wanted to share Kearney’s feedback with readers in the hope that his responses will help catchers who want to improve their game.

Here are Bob Kearney’s replies to my questions, as you can also see in the image below.

Question 1: What is your favorite memory from playing in the big leagues?

Answer: Many so many. Share 1 on back. 2nd M’s (Mariners) vs Yankees. Man on first takes off, (Mark) Langston crosses me up, had slider called. He throws pitch out. I throw out the runner and he has this big smile as I walk out to ask what the hell and he said “I knew you could (adjust) to it. I saw he had a jump on me.” That is respect.

Question 2: What do you think is the most important skill that a catcher should have?

Answer: To be able to work with your pitcher. A great commentator - calling the game. Working to block all balls and knowing your pitcher and opponents. Guiding your pitcher and keeping him out of trouble (in a) game situation. Quickness and a strong arm. I had a 1.7 turnaround to 2nd.

Question 3: If you could give only one piece of advice to young catchers hoping to make it to the next level, what would it be?

Answer: Be complete: a fanatic in working out. Dominate.

Letter and Q&A from former MLB catcher Bob Kearney

Kearny doesn’t provide just one but many actionable areas for catchers to work on. The pitcher-catcher relationship, game calling, blocking and quickness, just to name a few.

He also communicates a certain culture you need to stand out. Being “a fanatic in working out” for example points to the importance of hard work and it speaks to how you should take your conditioning seriously. 

Kearney’s Extra Story

In addition to the responses to my questions shown above, Kearney also gives a personal story from his big league career that was sure entertaining to read. It’s about one of his favorite Baseball memories when he looks back on his career. See below.

1984 Spring Training Mariners. I am standing at the urinal peeing and Phil Regan aka (The Vulture) comes in and asks:

Phil: “What do you think of Mark Langston?”

Me: “Why are you asking me, you’re the Coach that’s your job.”

Phil: “You will be catching him.”

Me: “He will win you 16 - 17 games.”

Phil: Surprised - “how do you know?”

Me: Finished peeing. “He throws 87 with great control of his fastball and (is) not afraid to come inside. His change and curve is not (too) good, will use (them) just to show. But his slider is outstanding and he can be 3 and 0 and come back with 3 sliders and strike the batter out.”

“The problem with Mark is to teach him to pitch and not try to strike out 27 batters. (That was really easy - pitch (the) game and let (the) batter strike out and strike out the batter when needed and you will get double figures each outing I told him.)”

Phil went in to the office and then they called me in and told me I was to tell him he (Langston) made the club. I red tagged him and told him to go to the office. Cloud of gloom. He had the biggest smile when he came out.

(Langston) won 17 that year striking out over 200.

P.S. Phil wanted to know also how I knew he threw 87. They told no one. I said “I catch him”.

Former Seattle Mariners catcher Bob Kearney story about Phil Regan and Mark Langston

Thank you for Reading

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