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MLB All-Star catcher Realmuto started as young wrestler
By Bryan Van Kley, WIN Publisher
Somehow, one of the best athletes to come out of Oklahoma’s famous Smith family quit the sport of wrestling to go out for basketball … and lived to tell about it.
This is the same Smith family of 10 children who most wrestling people know quite well. The family included four boys: six-time Olympic/World champion John, who coaches at Oklahoma State, four-time NCAA champ Pat, National Wrestling Hall of Fame director Lee Roy and Mark, a two-time All-American.
But this particular athlete, who “jumped ship” from wrestling for a brief time for the court, has done OK for himself.
Meet 27-year-old All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Statistically, Realmuto ranks as the best catcher in Major League Baseball. And, he says he owes much of who he is as an athlete to his time as a wrestler. Growing up in Del City, Okla., Realmuto is the nephew of the four well-known Smith uncles. His mom Margaret is one of the six girls from the group of 10 kids.
Wrestling was Realmuto’s first sport. He started at the age of five or six and wrestled all the way through eighth or ninth grade on the club level.
However, it was in seventh grade when his family moved 15 minutes to the Carl Albert High School district, which Realmuto gave up junior high wrestling to play basketball since that’s what “all” his friends were doing.
“I’m about the only boy in the family who got out of the wrestling world. They shunned me away for little bit,” Realmuto said with a laugh. “I still regret not wrestling through high school.”
Making his first MLB All-Star Game this year, the anchor of the Miami Marlins’ team remembers many Christmas parties and other family get-togethers where all the young boys would be on the living room floor wrestling.
Realmuto’s family battles included tangling with current OSU assistant and two-time NCAA champ Chris Perry, as well as cousins Zach and Matt White. J.T., or Jake as his family calls him, said Mark Perry, the current coach of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club and also a two-time collegiate champ, was a bit older and took it easy on them during the family tournaments.
Fast forward 20 years and Realmuto is now leading all Major League catchers in most statistical categories. Considered by many one of the most important stats, he leads all catchers in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) at 4.1. The number compares the win-loss percentage of the team when he’s playing compared to a reserve in his spot. It takes into consideration both hitting and defense. As of Sept. 11, he was hitting .287, with 20 homers and 70 RBIs.