From the time he offered to put on the shin guards, face mask and chest protector when he was 8, Mike Crowley has been a catcher.
"I've loved it ever since," the Chesterton senior said. "You're involved in every pitch. I've played other positions, but I always wanted to be a catcher."
Also a quarterback in football, Crowley learned along the way about taking charge on the field, an asset that Trojans coach Jack Campbell rates as valuable as Crowley's strong hitting and backstop skills.
"He just has tremendous leadership qualities and there's no better place to have a guy like that than at catcher," Campbell said. "He's a true leader and captain on this team. He's an emotional leader and one of our hardest workers. He's just very mature for a 17-, 18-year old kid. You can sum up all those things and call him a true coach's player."
Unfortunately for Crowley, he picked up something else that goes with the position -- bad knees. He started having problems early last April and had to undergo arthroscopic surgery that dry docked him for the rest of the season. Ironically, it was performed by his first State Park Little League coach, Dr. David Musgrave.
"I don't want to say it was a great thing for me, but I had to try to make the best of it," Crowley said. "I really learned a lot about the game not playing. Sitting back and watching, I got more of a coach's perspective of what they're looking for -- hustling, doing the little things right. Doing the (score)book, I picked up tendencies. I picked up coach's signs from the other dugout."
Crowley spent the down time in the weight room, working on his upper body. As soon as he could, he was out in his backyard batting cage, taking pitches from his dad Mike. Crowley got back behind the dish in the summer with the Indiana Chargers, preparing himself for his senior season.
"The day football was done, I couldn't wait to start playing baseball again," he said. "I wanted to get into baseball season."
After a little time off to have cartilage cleaned up in his other knee, Crowley was back to it.
"All winter, we preached, just work hard, find a way to win," he said.
To date, that's what the Trojans, a surprising 12-4 (7-1 in the Duneland), are doing, and Crowley's been integral to that success.
"Very few people have run on us," Campbell said. "He's got a great arm. He's really an outstanding receiver. Mike knows the right things to say to the umpire, to keep them on our side. When somebody's struggling on the mound, he talks to them in a way of encouragement, but also to focus and be competitive."
Whether it's with well-chosen words or his defense, the Huntington University-bound Crowley considers it his job to be a security blanket for his pitchers.
"I've got to make them look good," he said. "I'm trying to be a leader. I have to give them the confidence to throw an off-speed pitch in the dirt with a runner on third, that I'm going to keep it in front of me. Our pitchers are just dominant right now. They're really coming together. The team's playing great."