In the dictionary, the definition of an iron man is a strong man of exceptional physical endurance.
Mississippi State fans that attend the Southeastern Conference Championship game today in Hoover, Ala,. this afternoon, can look no further that No. 29 Mitch Slauter to see what an Iron Man is.
This afternoon marks the 59th time Slauter has started behind the plate for the Bulldogs and equally as impressive…the sixth time this week. The Kansas native has caught virtually every inning of every game this season, save the 10 innings or so when Nick Ammirati spelled him late in games.
By now, one would think the MSU catcher would be ready for a break, but not Slauter.
“I take it nine innings at a time and just roll with it,” he said. “If you approach it that way, not thinking about what’s ahead and not thinking about how much more you’ve got to go, just take it one inning at a time, giving it all you’ve got at the time.”
Slauter's passion for the game is evident. He is emotional with every at-bat, and with every strike out he catches.
“I try to make sure I have the right mentality and feed off my teammates,” he said. “I want to give them energy so I can feed off of that. It just makes everything more fun that way. Winning like this, it is always easy to have energy.”
MSU head coach John Cohen is quick to point out that Slauter isn’t your run of the mill college catcher. He calls him "exceptional."
“Friday we (coaches) called four pitches in the ballgame and we probably called two on (Saturday),” Cohen said. “He's just remarkable. He is so beyond any college kid behind the plate in terms of really breaking down the game and understanding the situation. I think he just wills pitches to happen.”
Slauter doesn’t know about willing strikes. He thinks it is just fun to catch a pitching staff that is lights out right now.
“It is fun knowing that no matter what pitch I call, they are going to execute it,” he said. “They are going to do their job, (and) they are going to get it done. It is a special feeling having that kind of confidence in a pitching staff.”
When Slauter looks back on it, he’s just glad he doesn’t have to face the likes of Chris Stratton, Kendall Graveman, and company.
“It is frustrating for (opponents)," Slauter said smiling. "I can relate, I haven’t had the most success as a hitter and it is frustrating. I know how they are feeling, it is a grind, but it is hard for them to hit guys when they keep executing. When you can change the game the way we do and execute so many different plans, it is difficult for them to perform as a hitter.”
This afternoon Slauter will once again sit behind home plate. This time he’ll catch a freshman Brandon Woodruff for the second time this week.
“He’s got really good stuff, especially when he is in the zone like he was on Tuesday,” Slauter said. “He’s got it going and has some extreme movement and velocity. He is fun to catch because he is a special kid to watch.
“Early on, especially in the fall, he was in and out of the zone and didn’t have a lot of confidence in his stuff. You could tell he was young and now as he has had some good outings and going after people. He’s growing into a special ball player.”