Yadier learned from the big brothers
Cardinals catcher comes from a long line of backstops
The Brothers Molina have already accomplished a baseball trifecta: three siblings, three catchers, three World Series rings. Yadier, with the St. Louis Cardinals, is the baby of the bunch at age 26. Bengie, with the San Francisco Giants, is the oldest at 34, and Jose, with the New York Yankees, is the middle brother at 33.
"You got Bengie on the West Coast, Jose on the East Coast and me in the middle," Yadier said. "We pretty much have the country covered."
The brothers stay in touch even though the grueling travel schedule of Major League players sometimes makes that difficult.
"We try to talk twice a week," Yadier said. "We don't talk about baseball. We talk about family."
It is a family filled with catchers DNA. There were shin guards and masks strewn around the Molina childhood home when the brothers were growing up in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. And having two big brothers already working at the craft provided a distinct advantage for Yadier when he decided to become a catcher.
"I started at 15," he said. "I got a lot of tips from them. It was very helpful to have two big brothers doing it. They had more experience. I picked up what I could. I figured they could help me. I felt good about that."
Bengie, as a California Angel, and Jose, as a Chicago Cub, both made the Major Leagues in 1999. Five years later, they were joined by their kid brother, who may be the best catcher of the three.
Yadier is so adept in handling pitchers that Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan, both hands-on guys, pretty much leave the in-game pitch selection to their young catcher.
Molina also is blessed with a strong arm which keeps base runners honest. He picked off four runners in the first three months of this season, pushing his career total to 31 after winning his first Gold Glove last season. Going into this season, Yadier's had thrown out 43.1 percent of would-be basestealers, which led all active Major League catchers. Brother Jose was second at 40.5.
At bat, Yadier is a reliable hitter. He reached the career 500-hit plateau on June 8 a week before he broke up a no-hit bid by Cleveland's Cliff Lee. He was analytical about the eighth-inning double that ended Lee's gem.
"He's the Cy Young winner last year," Yadier said. "I'm trying to do my job, get on base. That's all I'm thinking about. I don't care about his no-hitter.
"You face a guy like that working on a no-hitter, you know he's not giving up. I try to see the ball up, don't chase it down. He gave me a changeup. He tried to get me out with one pitch. He got it up when he wanted it down."
Yadier's hitting has constantly improved, and he reached .300 for the first time last season. Cardinal fans will always remember the two-run homer he hit at Shea Stadium in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the 2006 National League Championship Series, which propelled St. Louis into the World Series.
The Cards won that Series against Detroit. Yadier batted .412 on 7-for-17 to earn his ring and complete the World Series sweep for the Molinas. Brothers Bengie and Jose won their rings with the Angels, who defeated San Francisco in seven games in 2002.
For Yadier, the next plateau will be the All-Star Game. Two weeks before this year's game in St. Louis, he leads all National League catchers in the balloting, and even if he doesn't start, he's likely to be selected to play in this year's Midsummer Classic, which will be in his home park in St. Louis.
"I don't watch the vote," he said, "but that will be a special day for whoever makes it."
The Cardinals hope it will be Molina, the kid brother with the catchers' DNA.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.