Trust, Confidence Power Bond Between O'Hoppe and Silseth
On Sunday, August 21 at Toyota Field, Rocket City Trash Pandas starter Chase Silseth had uncharacteristically allowed back-to-back home runs as the visiting Chattanooga Lookouts jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the fourth. While he had a moment of disappointment in the dugout later in the game, Silseth knew his teammates had his back, specifically his battery mate, catcher Logan O'Hoppe.
An inning later, Rocket City clawed back into the game with a two-out rally to get on the board. The Lookouts then made a pitching change before O'Hoppe stepped to the plate with two outs and two runners on base. The Rocket City catcher, who had been with the team for just 17 days at the time, followed by crushing a deep fly ball high over the fence for a go-ahead three-run homer to turn the game around. When O'Hoppe returned to the dugout after his trot around the bases, the most excited man there was his battery mate.
"I hadn't had a pitcher be that excited," O'Hoppe said of Silseth's reaction when he got back to the dugout. "He always makes you feel the love. Everyone brought the energy that day. That's a perfect example of why we worked together so well."
The home run was the turning point of the game, as it put the Trash Pandas in the lead for the first time in an eventual 6-5 victory, giving Rocket City five wins in the six-game series against their North Division rivals.
"As a team, we picked each other up all season. Whoever it was I was going to be pumped for. But especially with Logan, with the two of us working together to get guys out. It was an awesome moment," Silseth recalled. "In the moment I tried to be fun with it. He hit a home run, and I was pumped for him and pumped for the team. He fired me up."
Ranked as two of the top prospects in the Los Angeles Angels system, O'Hoppe and Silseth are looking forward to working together for a long time, with the bond they formed in Rocket City translating to Major League success for the Angels.
"Working with him is great. We are on the same page a lot," Silseth said. "Going into pregame meetings, we had a similar mindset on how we were going to attack hitters. We knew in what situations what we had to do and he kept me straight when I was starting to get upset and show some bad body language."
That chemistry was put to an early test on August 5, with O'Hoppe catching Silseth for the first time in the catcher's second game for the Trash Pandas. In the sixth inning with Rocket City leading 4-1 at Toyota Field, an errant fastball from Silseth hit Tennessee right fielder Yonathan Perlaza.
Perlaza took a couple steps toward the mound and looked like he wanted to confront Silseth. But he quickly thought the better of it after a step or two and with O'Hoppe keeping things calm near the plate. It wasn't how O'Hoppe thought his Trash Pandas tenure would begin.
"I'm not happy that it happened that way," O'Hoppe said. "But selfishly, I wasn't too upset that it happened because I could put it all out there and defend them right away. That was my first little test to prove to these guys that I was there for them."
O'Hoppe and Silseth embrace on the mound following a strong start. Javier Sanchez/Rocket City Trash Pandas
Another moment that tested their bond was during an August road trip when Silseth was frustrated with the quality of the baseballs being used in the game.
"Don't worry about that," O'Hoppe said that day, according to Silseth. "You just focus on me and let's go."
"When you have that confidence behind the plate, it gives you more confidence to do what you need to do," Silseth said. "It gives me confidence in what he's putting down and I trust him fully."
One more example of that chemistry between pitcher and catcher was during a road game when the pair couldn't quite agree on what pitch to throw, as Silseth explains:
"There was one time when I threw two straight sliders and got two straight swings and misses. The guy had bad swings on it. He put down another slider sign but I wanted to throw a fastball up. So I shook him off. Then he put down another slider sign but does it more aggressively and harder. So I thought, 'Alright, let's go.' I threw it, and it was another terrible swing and we got the strikeout and he goes, 'I told you so.'"
After arriving in Rocket City, O'Hoppe caught six of Silseth's final seven starts of the regular season and Silseth's only postseason start. In those seven games with O'Hoppe behind the plate, Silseth went 4-0 with a 2.85 ERA, striking out 51 in 41.0 innings together.
Meanwhile, O'Hoppe launched 11 home runs at the plate and was the Southern League's best player during his time in Rocket City and was rewarded with his first promotion to the big leagues at the end of September.
With the beginning of that bond formed in Rocket City, the duo are now in Arizona preparing for Spring Training, with each looking to earn a spot on the Major League roster. They'll have a great opportunity to improve their connection, as the pair are now living together as they get ready for the 2023 season.
"Working with him is extremely incredible," Silseth said. "Now that we're living together, we can build that bond a little bit better, have fun, and know that we can rely on each other in the future."
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