FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox catching prospect Christian Vazquez was relaxing in the clubhouse before Tuesday’s game against Rays when he heard Jose Molina was in the Tampa Bay lineup.
Vazquez immediately popped out of his chair, almost as if he were getting ready to throw to second base.
“Jose is here? I have to go see him,” he said.
For the 23-year-old Vazquez, the Molina brothers are his baseball role models. Vazquez grew up in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, about 20 minutes away from Bengie, Jose, and Yadier.
He has worked out with the Molinas during the offseason, with Jose in particular becoming one of his mentors.
“There is lot to learn from them if you’re a catcher,” Vazquez said. “I listen to everything they say.”
Molina is proud to pass on the baseball lessons he first learned from his late father, Benjamin.
“It takes a little bit of trust,” he said. “It take a little bit of belief on both sides. The only way to do that is to be 100 percent positive.
“It’s awesome to see those guys you work out with making strides and getting better each year.
“Some day you’re going to see [Vazquez] here. That’s the most important thing.”
Puerto Rico has a proud legacy of catchers. Along with the Molinas, Sandy Alomar Jr., Javy Lopez, Jorge Posada, Pudge Rodriguez, and Benito Santiago hail from the island.
Add it up and they have 38 All-Star Game appearances, 25 Gold Gloves, and 12 World Series rings.
“I don’t know why that is,” said Molina, who was 2 for 2 with a double in an 8-0 victory against the Red Sox. “For me, it was easy because I saw guys like Benito and Sandy when I was coming up and they were in their prime.
“It was easy for me to choose what position I liked. I didn’t run fast, like I still don’t, so to play shortstop or third base, it was kind of tough.
“Those were the guys I wanted to be like. You start working when you’re young.”
The same was true for Vazquez, who as a child watched an instructional video made by Rodriguez and was inspired to catch.
“I look up to those guys, all of them,” he said. “A lot of things I try to do, it’s from watching them. The more I can talk to somebody like Jose, the more I can learn. You watch him catch and he does everything the right way.”
Vazquez treasures his relationship with Jose Molina but has patterned his style more after Yadier Molina. Like the St. Louis All-Star, Vazquez has a strong arm and a quick release.
“Tell me about it. He’s something special,” Jose Molina said. “He has the technique, he has worked hard on it. But he also has a gift. He has a great arm.
“I used to have an arm like that but I’m older now. Christian, he has the kind of arm that can change a game.”
Vazquez took a major step in his career last season when he hit .289 with with a .376 on-base percentage for Double A Portland. That earned Vazquez a late-season promotion to Triple A Pawtucket and he is expected to start this season there.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said Vazquez is advanced enough defensively to play in the majors now. The Sox want to see continued development offensively. But his defense is such that league-average offense would suffice.
Vazquez could get his chance this season. Starting catcher A.J. Pierzynski is 37 and backup David Ross will turn 37 this month.
Jose Molina may play for the Rays, a division rival, but he’s rooting for Vazquez.
“I like helping out a kid like that,” said Molina. “He’s from the island and he wants to learn.
“I don’t care which team he plays for or which team I play for. I don’t see it that way.
“I see the progress he can make as a catcher and play in the big leagues. That would make me proud, just to help him a little bit.”
Vazquez hopes to say hello to Yadier Molina Wednesday when the Red Sox play the Cardinals in Jupiter.
“There are so many great catchers from Puerto Rico and I’m glad I know a few of them,” Vazquez said. “Hopefully I’ll get my chance. I feel like I’m getting closer.”Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.