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Jose Trevino, the Yankees’ All-Star, Makes Every Pitch Look Good

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Jose Trevino remembers suiting up, squatting down, and catching for the primary time at Oral Roberts University.

He had just come off a first-team freshman All-American campaign as a 3rd baseman in 2013 when the Golden Eagles decided he would move behind the plate. Trevino had only caught sparingly in highschool, but he did as he was told and set as much as receive pitches from this system’s pitching machine — a test of sorts. He swears it immediately launched 100-mile-per-hour fastballs at his untested mitt. All of the while, members of the Oral Roberts coaching staff repeated a mantra.

“All they kept saying was: ‘Catch it. Make it look easy!’” Trevino recalled, laughing. “I’m pondering, ‘I don’t know if I’m built for that.’ Those days were tough.”

That, imagine it or not, is the unlikely origin story of an unlikely All-Star catcher. Trevino is considered one of six Yankees who were chosen to the Midsummer Classic, which will likely be played on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium. Trevino is taken into account an elite defensive backstop, and the numbers back that up: No catcher has been a greater pitch-framer this season, per Baseball Savant’s catcher framing runs and strike rate statistics.

Trevino didn’t envision such a future behind the plate when he first tried the position, but his coaches knew higher. Ryan Folmar, a longtime Oral Roberts assistant and the university’s head coach since 2013, first imagined Trevino catching when the 2 met at a camp for top school recruits.

“Immediately, I assumed: ‘Man, this guy’s a catcher. This guy, I can see transitioning to being behind the plate in some unspecified time in the future,’” Folmar said. “We knew that transition was going to be easy because he was such a very good baseball player.

“He had all of the intangible stuff, leadership qualities and toughness, all the pieces that needs to return with that position. After which the physical part as well. So all of it just form of lined up, all of it just form of fit.”

Trevino worked his way into being the Golden Eagles’ starting catcher that 12 months, but one other switch awaited. He spent his junior campaign at shortstop, filling a team need, and have become a sixth-round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2014. Texas drafted him as an infielder, but Trevino soon realized that his future was catching.

When he arrived at Class-A Spokane in 2014, he unexpectedly found catching gear at his locker. A coach suggested that Trevino ask his agent to overnight a number of recent gloves, and he soon found himself working behind the plate.

Back then, it was a much harder job for him.

“I used to be really bad at it,” Trevino said. “I struggled with it. And I sat down, by myself, and I got a journal out and wrote. Like if I would like to be an enormous leaguer, that is what I even have to do to recuperate. I just wrote down all the pieces I needed to do to recuperate.”

Those journal entries included nearly every aspect of catching, including blocking, receiving, throwing, pitch-calling; “Every little thing,” Trevino said. It helped him develop into a full-time catcher in 2015, and he has been behind the plate ever since.

For all of the early woes, defense wasn’t Trevino’s issue with the Rangers. A Texas native, he played in 156 major league games from 2018 to 2021 — including a career-high 89 last 12 months — and quietly established himself as a metrics darling even when he didn’t provide plenty of value together with his bat.

Trevino’s defense made him attractive to the Yankees when Ben Rortvedt, a young catcher the Yankees had acquired to be team’s backup this season, got hurt in spring training. On April 2, the Yankees swung a deal for Trevino, sending minor leaguer Robby Ahlstrom and reliever Albert Abreu to Texas.

For Trevino, who grew up rooting for the Yankees, it was a dream come true.

“I used to be excited for a change of scenery,” he said. “The Rangers were great for me, and great to me. They developed me, they helped me with all the pieces. I don’t have anything bad to say in regards to the Rangers. I don’t think I ever will. I’m grateful for my time there, but I’m excited to be here.”

Forced to learn a recent staff on the fly, Trevino has done nothing but impress together with his receiving skills. His framing often tricks umpires, stealing strikes for pitchers who sometimes get fooled as well.

“He actually fakes us out a pair times where, because he’s so good back there, I believe that it’s a strike,” said Michael King, a breakout star reliever for the Yankees. “But then I’m going back and have a look at it and it was two balls off. But because he’s so good at making it seem like a strike, it fakes me out. Every little thing’s right there.”

While the Yankees knew what they were getting from Trevino’s glove, his bat was an open query. Over parts of 4 seasons with the Rangers, he hit .245 with a .634 on-base plus slugging percentage, nine homers and 55 runs batted in. He had only 0.5 wins above substitute, per Baseball Reference, and his offense wiped away nearly all the value of his defense.

With the Yankees, nonetheless, Trevino has been a more complete player. He’s hitting .251 at All-Star break with a .714 O.P.S., seven homers and 27 R.B.I. Those numbers should not otherworldly, but, when combined together with his defense, they add as much as 2.1 WAR and have allowed Trevino to displace Kyle Higashioka because the Yankees’ starter.

“He’s been an All-Star, and never simply because he’s considered one of, if not the, best defensive catchers within the league,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s swinging the bat very well.”

It was Boone who informed Trevino of his first All-Star nod. The Yankees shared the conversation on social media on July 10. This time, it was Trevino who kept repeating himself.

Twice he asked his manager if he was being serious.

The emotional moment was considered one of many for Trevino since he joined the Yankees.

Before he died in 2013, his father, Joe, dreamed of his son in the future donning pinstripes. The 2 would practice together, and Joe would imagine Trevino stepping as much as the plate for giant moments at Yankee Stadium.

On May 24, Trevino hit a walk-off single on what would have been Joe’s 69th birthday. Trevino added a second walk-off on June 10, his own son’s birthday.

Now Trevino is heading to Los Angeles, alongside the Yankees stars Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole, in addition to fellow surprises Nestor Cortes and Clay Holmes.

Trevino is thrilled to be a part of the experience. “The child in me is unquestionably excited,” he said. But Trevino also has his sights set on catching even greater games for the Yankees down the road.

“I mean, the All-Star Game is great,” he said. “Like, don’t get me incorrect. I’m grateful for being an All-Star, but that’s not what I’m here for. I would like to win a championship. I would like to win.”

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