Throughout the spring and summer months, former draft picks and major league baseball players find a home in the Independent League. Here, these players try to revitalize their careers in order to get their shot at possibly returning to one of the premier ball fields. It’s also a potential jumping point for players who were undrafted free agents and weren’t selected in an MLB draft.
Connor David, a native of Cheshire, CT, is one of those players who was undrafted in 2014 and is now playing for the Bridgeport Bluefish. In his first year with the Bluefish, this catcher is a focused, determined player who is on an unstoppable mission.
David began playing baseball while attending a sports camp at the age of six. The camp ran through the spring and fall, but it was his multi-sport athletic ability to play basketball, soccer, and football that really allowed him to flourish.
Despite his skill, Connor’s love for baseball developed at a later age of nine or ten. He credits the Cheshire Youth Baseball League with helping to mold and allow him to grow as a player. “I fell in love with it (baseball) because I loved watching baseball,” David stated enthusiastically. “I loved watching Derek Jeter. Knowing I’m playing the same sport as him and the other players I loved is pretty cool. That’s why I joined.”
Connor was so agile on the field that he played multiple positions around the diamond, but his arm is what stood out to his Cheshire coaches.
“I had a pretty good arm when I was younger. I’d pitch and played shortstop; I always wanted to play shortstop,” David remarked. “In the youth league, they move you around. For example, the kids with lesser speed would be behind the plate. I wasn’t slow, but because of my arm, I started behind the plate.”
“I was about nine years old when I started catching full time and I really liked it,” the major league hopeful stated. “There was one kid who was wild and I did a good job catching him by keeping the balls in front.” As he matured both as a player and a young man, David knew that his future was behind the plate. His above-average arm and his left-handed bat solidified his decision to make baseball the focus of his athletic life.
David’s continuing growth behind the plate brought him to Cheshire High and American Legion Baseball where he excelled as a catcher. Connor had the honor of sharing the field with other talented players; eight of the nine starters in his senior year went on to play collegiate baseball in Division I, II, or III.
“I think playing with those guys at a young age and really growing up with them helped build a sense of brotherhood and being together,” David remarked thoughtfully. “That’s how you learn to be a good teammate. Being able to grow up around and play with guys you’ve known your whole life helps you develop as a player but more importantly as a person.”
Connor went on to mention a couple of locally high profile pitchers from Cheshire, who he caught and played with since he was young. That allowed him to build a close relationship with these fellow teammates during his time as an amateur catcher.
“Catching Ryan Fowler and Max Slade, a couple of players that I played with since I was young, was great. We had that connection where I knew what they wanted to throw, and they knew what I would call,” David said. “Being able to play with people you like and played with for so long helped establish what we had during our time there and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
That experience led David to the University of Connecticut, where he had the opportunity to share his talents with potential first-round draft players. He regretted his late arrival on campus and not having the chance to play with George Springer, Matt Barnes, or Mike Olt. That did not diminish the praise and admiration he has for the former UConn players, though.
“They played the game right,” David stated. “George Springer, Nick Ahmed, Matt Barnes, and Mike Olt all played the game hard, but what made them really stand out was when they would come back to campus and talk to us. We’d listen.” Connor agreed that these now major leaguers put UConn’s baseball program on the map as one to be noticed.
“We were a small-time school in the northeast, but now, with the NCAA births and two conference tournaments during the last three or four years, I think it really puts these guys (the now major league players) into perspective. They really shaped the program.”
“UConn is a place where guys want to go and play and win, and their knowledge (the former UConn players now in the MLB) is second to none.”
It’s not only the players of whom David speaks highly, but also the team’s head coach, Jim Pender.
“I think what Coach Pender does with his coaching staff is unbelievable,” David stated passionately. “They take guys with local talent and make them into starting players. For example, look at Vinny Siena (a former 2015 Draft pick by the Mets). Vinny had talent in high school, but if he had gone into the draft straight out of high school, I don’t think he would have been the player he is right now.”
“I think he (Vinny) matured a lot in three years.”
“The same can be said for (George) Springer. They said he swung and missed so many times during the fall (season), people were thinking he wasn’t going to click. Sure enough, through coaching and calming his approach at the plate, he turned into a first round draft pick.”
It is a testament to David’s character that he holds his fellow UConn alumni and former teammates and Coach Pender with such high esteem. It also speaks to his attitude to the game he loves. “I’m proud to have said I went there, and although UConn didn’t advance past the regional, I’m very proud of them, and I’m proud to have said I went there.”
David’s resume as a catcher includes catching former 2016 first round draft pick by the New York Mets, Anthony Kay. Again, he referred to having played with Kay “as a pleasure” and had nothing but praise for him.
“He came into school and was dominating. That’s the best way to put it,” David remarked. “He was young when he came in, but what I mean by young is as I’ve played this game and progressed, there is a certain way to play and when you come in and have 90-91 mph from the left side, you want to show it every time you can.”
“When you play twenty games in a high school season, you might pitch seven to eight of those games if that, but in college you’re going to get thirteen to fourteen starts throughout the whole year. With Kay, yes, he was blowing it by guys with his fastball at 90-91 mph and with a good curveball and changeup. What really caught my eye was his demeanor from his freshman to sophomore year.”
“He was a competitor on the mound and a smart one at that. He wouldn’t give in no matter the count or situation in the game. The transition from a competitor, to a smart competitor, to someone who understands the game really is what helped him grow as a pitcher.”
Connor David plays baseball with the humility and pride that is an asset to any team. He knows where he came from and has a clear, determined view of where he’s headed. As he continues his journey through the leagues, there is no doubt that this catcher with character will again give credit to others as he displays respect for the game and all involved (including the media). David has a formula for success: an outstanding resume and a unassuming personality. He is not only a credit to the Bluefish but to any team with whom he plays along his journey. No one deserves a longer shot in the minors than this Connecticut native.
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