07/13/2023 9:22 AM
Article By: Daniel Curren
It’s a tense Friday Night in late April at Springs Brooks Stadium in Conway, South Carolina. It’s the bottom of the sixth inning, and the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina are leading the Golden Eagles of Southern Mississippi by a score of 6-3. After a batter slaps a single to center field, a timeout is called on the mound.
“All fastballs in,” the runner on first says to the next batter.
“I'm not somebody that likes to pull fastballs,” the batter thought. “But I might listen to him.”
On a 1-1 count, the pitcher grooved a fastball on the inside part of the plate, and the big right-hander drove it out to left field and into the home bullpen. This put Coastal Carolina in front 8-3 in a game they would go on to win 15-7, and a weekend series they would go on to win 2-1. The scorebook remembers this as a two-run home run by Derek Bender, but the unwritten assist, according to himself, was given to Caden Bodine.
“I had eleven and a half homers this season,” Bodine claimed. “Half of that one went to me.”
This is the dynamic between Coastal Carolina’s catching tandem of Derek Bender and Caden Bodine. After their first year sharing a diamond together, the two have brought their antics to the Bourne Braves.
Bender, the energetic, charismatic goofball of the two, is described by Bodine as a character who always has something to say, and has good insight. Bodine, the mild-mannered, hard-worker, is described by Bender as someone who leads by example. No matter the difference in personalities, the two are an iconic duo both on and off the field.
“I think it's just great that we both are very receptive to each other's mental cues and physical cues,” Bender said. “We know the right thing to tell each other about a pitcher, about some sort of thing we're seeing in the box. I love that.”
The friendship between these two was inevitable. Aside from being teammates in spring and summer, their girlfriends are also best friends. Aside from baseball, they share plenty of off-field hobbies.
“We go fishing together,” Bodine said. “We caught a couple fish together and we hang out.”
“[Bodine] is a way better fisherman than me,” Bender said of his friend. “I have the better spots, but he has a better overall skill.”
But above all else, Bender and Boden share a mutual love for catching. Coming out of high school, Bender was ranked the #3 catching prospect out of South Carolina, and Bodine was ranked as the #1 catcher in New Jersey. The two are in a constant push to make each other better.
The two work on catching drills together and always try to one-up the other. They toss baseballs at each other in parts of the plate that are difficult to receive as a catcher. The goal is to stop as many balls as possible.
“We’ll just go at it,” Bender said. “Who can get it the best, who can get it the quickest.”
The two catching junkies have already made strong first impressions on their coaching staff in their first years on the Cape. 13-year MLB catcher and Bourne Braves assistant coach Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been impressed with what the two bring to the table.
“You know, they have helped me out a lot because the new age of catching up getting that bottom of that zone strike has changed a lot since I was coming up,” Saltalamacchia said. “So I kind of pick their brains a little bit on what they work on. And you know what works with him so I can help other catchers.”
Bender and Bodine have also made a large impact on the field. In 19 games played, Bender is slashing .380/.468/.618/1.076. His .380 average, .470 OBP, and 1.076 OPS lead all qualifiers on the Cape. Bodine is slashing .409/.519/.455/.974 in 12 games played. They are top 2 on Bourne among players with at least 50 plate appearances this season in average, on-base percentage, and OPS. To the two of them, watching the other succeed in the Cape has been no surprise.
“For me, I think it's kind of like, just, that's how it should be,” Bender said. “It’s Bodine, like, of course, he's gonna do well. Of course, he's gonna get on base at a high clip.”
A key to their success and natural chemistry comes in the way they interact. Those who see Bender and Bodine talk to each other without knowing who they are might not immediately see their friendship. The two express their friendship by teasing each other and pushing each other’s buttons. The banter is constant, but they understand it’s all jokes.
“I think it's super fun that we can just like, tease each other and not have it be ever taken personally,” Bender said. “It's just kind of our way of staying friendly and staying loose and just having fun. That kind of dynamic.”
This banter continues on the field.
“We look at it daily. and we're like ‘hey, I'm beating you out today!’ We'll just go back and forth with it, and like, we'll come in like ‘yo, I’m 2-2 today! One- up me!’” Bender said. “I think that's the best part about it.”
“I agree,” Bodine followed. “The only thing you had me on this year was home runs.” He pointed out to Bender.
The success that Bender and Bodine have experienced this summer has been described by both of them as the finished product of what they worked on throughout the school year. They will look to continue their success into next season, which will be Bender’s junior year and Bodine’s sophomore year.