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Tuesday, September 22, 2009Former Lipscomb catcher Caleb Joseph appears to be heading to his first ever Major League spring training camp with the Baltimore Orioles in February.
Joseph was in Baltimore a couple of weeks ago to accept the Elrod Hendricks Community Service Award representing the Orioles minor league system. Andy MacPhail, president of baseball operations for the Orioles, told Joseph at that time that he has earned a trip to the Major League camp.
The first reaction by Joseph was a fear that maybe MacPhail was confusing him with another player. Joseph finished his second pro season as both a mid-season and postseason All-Star in the advanced Class A Carolina League for the Frederick Keys in Maryland.
“I’m pretty sure I am going to be going,” said Joseph. “I’m not sure if it will be a week or two weeks or three or four. It is a good experience.”
Joseph is back wearing a Lipscomb baseball hat and uniform this fall as a volunteer assistant coach.
“I do whatever they ask me to do,” said Joseph. “I throw batting practice. I hit ground balls. I rake the field.
“I’ve got nothing else to do in the offseason. It is good for all of us. I feel like I can help the players a little bit if they have some questions. And they help keep me sharp. It makes you feel good to be able to come here every day and hang out with your buddies.”
Joseph has received a great deal of publicity for his play on the field as well as his lifestyle off the field. He often spends the night in the clubhouse after a game, getting up around 8 a.m. to attend a children’s baseball camp, visit a school or some other community-related activity.
“Any publicity is good publicity in the minor league,” said Joseph. “We have had such a good core of guys going up to the Orioles from the minor leagues that it is easier to get noticed now.
“You want to get up in the mornings. I would get up, go to camp and then go to the ballpark. That can wear on you. You have to prioritize your time. But you can make an impact with the kids. To be able to give anything back is great. It is more rewarding for us when a kid comes up to you and remembers that you talked to their class.”
Joseph often helps the Keys clubhouse manager with his postgame chores ranging from washing uniforms to scraping dirt off of cleats.
“I am usually the last one out of the clubhouse,” said Joseph. “I don’t have a T.V. in my apartment so I might watch a hockey playoff game on the clubhouse T.V. It would be 10:30 or 11 before I knew it so I would just crash on the couch.
“It was the first year for our club house manager. I would help with the uniforms. I would help clean cleats. We had a bunch of 20 to 21 year olds who would leave their plates after eating dinner so I would help straighten up.”
That was like old times for Joseph who spent 2003 through 2005 with the Nashville Sounds as an assistant clubhouse manager.
Joseph shared a two-bedroom apartment with three other teammates this past summer. Stretching the budget of a minor league player can be difficult, but money is not the driving force at this stage of Joseph’s career.
“You are living the dream,” said Joseph. “We are definitely playing for the love of the game now so that one day, hopefully, we can make a lot of money.”
Joseph plans to stay close to home until January. Then he plans to attend the Athletes Performance Institute in either Arizona or Florida in preparation for spring training.
Last January Joseph spent time at the API location in Pensacola, Fla. His goal was to put more solid pounds on his frame to become a more formidable catcher.
“They train professional athletes for all kinds of different sports,” said Joseph. “Quite few guys from Baltimore go there.
“All your workouts are ready for you and you have a personal trainer. At the beginning of the week you work out three meals a day in advance. The portions are based on how much you want to gain, maintain or lose. It’s pretty cool and it works.”
Last year Joseph weight 175 pounds when he started at the institute. He left weighing 193 pounds. This time around he expected to weigh in at around 184 pounds. He wants to go to spring training weighing more than 200 pounds.
“It is important to be physically strong though out a 140-game schedule, “said Joseph. “I am waiting on a few phone calls, but I think that is going to take place.”
Joseph set a four-year goal for making a Major League roster when he signed. He has two seasons left. He likes the position he is in at this stage of his career. He played in 104 games last season, second highest on the team, and batted .284. He led the Keys in home runs with 12 and in runs batted in with 60. He was second on the team in hits with 108 and in doubles with 23. He also had two triples and a .460 slugging percentage.
“It’s a good sign as long as you are moving up each year,” said Joseph. “There is an absence of good catchers out there. Staying with it and staying healthy are the main things.”
Even under the best of circumstances catching a full season can wear a player down.
“I started 100 games. You are going to wear out. It may in the last 20 or last 15 games, but you are going to wear out. I experienced it for the first time this season.
“At about game 70 or 80 when you go to the on deck circle to get ready to bat you still feel like you have your shin guards on. It’s hard to explain. But you still like you are wearing your gear. If you can hit a little bit, call a good game and receive a good game you have a good shot at making it. It is really the quickest way to get to the big leagues.”
Playing for the Bisons prepared Joseph for many of the challenges he has faced in the minors, especially the mental ones.
“You can really work on guys mentally and that is what Jeff Forehand does as a coach,” said Joseph. “Playing the next play before it happens… anticipating the next play. That is what the great players do.
“I really learned that here with coach Forehand. Mentally I am completely prepared and that is the biggest difference between college and the minors. Physically in college you can’t prepare for playing 140 games. But mentally you can be there.”