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Napoli catches up with old roommate Mathis

Catchers came up together through Angels organization
@Sullivan_Ranger
May 19, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Former Rangers catcher Mike Napoli stopped by to see his old team on Saturday and help celebrate the final year at Globe Life Park. He also had a chance to catch up with former Angels teammate Jeff Mathis, who is now the Rangers' No. 1 catcher. They are

ARLINGTON -- Former Rangers catcher Mike Napoli stopped by to see his old team on Saturday and help celebrate the final year at Globe Life Park. He also had a chance to catch up with former Angels teammate Jeff Mathis, who is now the Rangers' No. 1 catcher.

They are close friends, and it’s a fascinating relationship. Napoli and Mathis were together in the Angels' organization for 10 years, and they basically competed for the same job coming up through the system. Over their last four seasons together from 2007-10, they split the Halos' catching duties and lived together as roommates.

“Ultimate teammate, ultimate gamer,” Mathis said. “He came to play every day and I had to match that. It was a big part of helping me become a big-league player. No matter what, we were always pulling for each other, learning from each other.”

Their relationship is instructive and helps show why Texas signed Mathis to a two-year contract this offseason. Mathis is considered a strong defensive catcher, but he is also an excellent clubhouse leader who works well with pitchers and younger players. The Rangers see him as the perfect mentor for Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Jose Trevino and other young catchers coming through their system.

“Just an overall great human being,” Napoli said. “Great teammate. He is someone who cares. He cares about his teammates. Loves the game. He is a guy who can teach younger players how to go about their business in the right way.”

Both said being able to live together gave them a huge advantage to making the Major Leagues.

“I think that’s why our friendship was so good, because we were fighting for the same spot. But every night when we came home, we tried to help each other in any way,” Napoli said. “We talked about hitting, we talked about defense, what it takes to be a big-league player and what we have to do to get better. I think us being there for each other built our relationship even more.”

Mathis and Napoli probably didn’t have time to turn their situation into a fierce, uncomfortable rivalry -- they were too busy trying to survive under Angels manager Mike Scoscia, who was an All-Star catcher in his playing days with the Dodgers.

“We had to lean on each other and be better and do good, or we would have to mind our Ps and Qs,” Mathis said.

That’s a nice way to say that Scioscia could be especially tough on young catchers. Mathis and Napoli were different. Mathis was superb defensively and working with pitchers, attributes that were important to Scioscia. Napoli had to fight the reputation of being an offense-only catcher.

“I thought he was a very good defensive catcher,” Mathis said. “But he was under a lot of pressure, because he was viewed as an offensive catcher. He really had to work at it.”

The arrangement ended after the 2010 season, when Napoli was traded to the Rangers via the Blue Jays. He flourished in Texas, played in a World Series in '11 and he was an All-Star as a catcher in '12. He eventually moved to first base for health reasons. Mathis left the Halos after the '11 season and continues to be sought after by clubs for his defensive skills.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.