TUCSON - When Koyie Hill was a senior at Lawton (Okla.) Eisenhower High School, he occasionally would work out with the best-known major leaguers in his hometown, Butch Huskey and Kelly Stinnett.
Stinnett had a key to his junior high gym, and the three would take turns in the indoor batting cages.
"We'd go hit at night, and he'd show up a couple of times and hit with us,'' Stinnett said.
"He was the best high school player in the city that year, maybe the state. I was trying to get him to go to my junior college (Seminole), but he already had an offer from Wichita State.''
Eight years later, the circle remains unbroken. Hill and Stinnett are in the same hitting group this spring, two of the three top contenders for the Diamondbacks' two catching openings. Chris Snyder completes the picture.
"That's a position that certainly isn't settled,'' manager Bob Melvin said.
"We really like Snyder. We really like Hill. We think both those guys have a chance to be everyday catchers.''
While the D-Backs seem to be leaning toward giving the starting position to one of the younger players — Hill is 25, Snyder 24 — and keeping veteran Stinnett as a backup, Melvin said there is nothing to preclude both youngsters from making the roster.
"I take the same approach this year I would as if I had a five-year deal. I come into spring training to win a job and prove that I belong here,'' said Hill, who spent the month before camp opened working with the pitchers and coach Glenn Sherlock at Bank One Ballpark.
"I don't want to get caught up with other things outside of just playing baseball,'' Snyder said. "Whatever happens happens.''
Both Hill and Snyder benefitted from major league time last season after strong minor league seasons.
Hill, acquired from Los Angeles in the Steve Finley trading deadline deal July 31, seemed to be hitting his stride — a four-hit game followed by a three-hit game eight days later — before suffering a season-ending broken right ankle in a collision at home plate Aug. 16.
Snyder was recalled from Class AA El Paso, made his major league debut three days later and was a semi-regular the rest of the way, playing in 29 games. He hit .240 with five home runs in 96 at-bats. Hill hit .250 in 36 at-bats before the injury.
Stinnett hit .305 with three homers in 59 at-bats with Kansas City before missing the final four months of the 2004 season after undergoing Tommy John ligament replacement surgery. He signed a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training this season.
Melvin is emphasizing the catcher-pitcher relationship this spring and likes what he has seen from both young catchers in that regard.
"We want a lot of dialogue between the pitchers and the catchers,'' Melvin said. "We want to cultivate that relationship to where these guys are on the same page, so you kind of listen in and see how they are interacting. Both of them do that very well, and Kelly is a big help to them as well.''
D-Backs catchers threw to the bases Monday for the first time this spring.
"Everybody talks about Koyie Hill's arm being a ‘plus’ arm. You could see that right away,'' Melvin said.
"You just get a little more of an idea, but once games start, that's when you really make your evaluations.''