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It's just a baseball fact of life: pitchers need to warm up before facing opposing hitters. In the major leagues, a professional bullpen catcher is on call to serve as the warmup receiver during or before the game. Bullpen catchers perform other duties as requested by the coaching staff and work fairly long and full days during the season. The anecdotal evidence from several news and sports-page sources reveals that the pay runs from about $30,000 to $60,000 for a seven-month season, including spring training and the regular 162-game schedule. It's not much compared with the monster salaries of roster players and coaches, but the job affords a major fringe benefit: an inside seat on a big league team.
Pitchers preparing to start a game or come in for a relief appearance have to spend time stretching, throwing and getting loose. The bullpen allows them space and time to work on their grip, throwing motion, speed and accuracy. Since catchers on the team roster are either on the field or in the dugout, ready to come into the game if needed, the clubs need catchers to help out in the bullpen. For bullpen catchers, there may be other tasks: throwing batting practice, for example, to warm up the hitters, or chasing fly balls and grounders before the start of the game. The rules don't allow them in the games, but they still have to stay in good shape, as catching for long periods from a deep crouch is tough on the legs, ankles and knees.
Perks and Benefits
For bullpen catchers, in addition to the salary, there's a per diem meal allowance that reached $100.50 for all major league team members in 2015, and, of course, the clubs cover transportation expenses and high-end lodging. Teams that make the playoffs earn bonus money that is shared with bullpen catchers, and a victory in the World Series nets a coveted ring.
A Front-Row Crouch
Many bullpen catchers are retired big leaguers, or players who ended their careers at the college or minor league level. Working as a bullpen catcher gives them a chance to participate with a major league team and make a contribution to the success of professional players.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.