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Joseph developing into top catcher in O's system

Thursday, July 28, 2011
by Ted Black, Special to LipscombSports.com

On a night in which players and spectators could literally see the hot, humid air that enveloped Prince George’s Stadium, Bowie Baysox catcher and Lipscomb University product Caleb Joseph could not be faulted for being one of the last players to leave the clubhouse after spending all nine innings behind the plate amid virtually unbearable conditions.

Selected in the seventh round of the 2008 amateur baseball draft by the Baltimore Orioles, Joseph has gradually climbed through the minor league system. He spent the latter part of the 2008 season at short-season Aberdeen, spent all of 2009 at single-A Frederick and has been with Bowie since the outset of the 2010 season. Through Wednesday’s game against Harrisburg, Joseph is batting .264 (74 for 280) with 13 doubles, six homers and one triple, scored 34 runs and driven in another 33.

As a junior in 2008 at Lipscomb, Joseph batted .342 with 17 home runs and 89 hits, establishing new school single-season records in both categories that still stand. One year earlier he led the team in batting average (.335), doubles (25), home runs (8), total bases (125), on-base percentage (.395) and slugging percentage (.566), while second on the team in hits (74) and runs scored (45).

Joseph started all four seasons at Franklin High School and was selected to the Tennessee High Schools All-State team in 2005 when he was also chosen as the Mid-state Player of the Year. One year earlier at Franklin, Joseph had earned All-County honors at Franklin and was selected as the Mid-state offensive player of the year. He then chose Lipscomb over the University of Arkansas, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Belmont, primarily for the chance to play early and often at a school in his home state.

"Basically, I chose Lipscomb because I thought they were about to turn the program around,” Joseph said. “I thought that I could go there and play right away. There’s a long family history there. It worked out really well for me. I was part of some really good teams and I got plenty of playing time. It was an honor to get drafted. Everyone dreams of playing in the major leagues. I know Matt [Wieters] is up there now, but I want to stay ready and stay focused, because you just never know.”

Bowie manager Gary Kendall is in his first season with the Baysox, but coached Joseph three years ago when both were at Aberdeen.

 “Caleb does a good job back there,” Kendall said. “For a guy that played three years of college and then  had only one season in short A and one year at single-A, he’s learned the pitchers quickly and made the adjustments. We had him batting 3-4-5 last year, but I think he’s more comfortable around 6-7-8 where he’s been batting most of the year. He’s been hitting up around .270 most of the season and anytime you can get that from a catcher that’s smart and good defensively, you have to be pleased. I think he’s done a great job with the staff.”

Bowie hitting coach Denny Hocking has gained an appreciation for Joseph this spring, although he admitted he would like to see the Lipscomb product adhere to one batting stance at the plate and then stay with it.

 “Caleb knows the game and he works hard at every aspect,” Hocking said. “He’s great with the pitchers and he’s hitting the ball well this year. I would still like to see him be more consistent at the plate. He changes his stance often. One day he looks like Derek Lee and the next he’ll look like Gary Carter. He’s having a solid year behind the plate and at the plate, but I’d just like to get him to develop more consistency with his stance.”

But Joseph contends he is hardly making a rebellious statement by changing his stance.

 “It’s all of matter of feeling comfortable at the plate,” Joseph said. “When you’re batting fourth or fifth the expectations are a lot higher. I feel good batting in the six or seven spot in the order.”

Baysox second-year pitching coach Kenny Steenstra has watched the Baysox staff work with Joseph in 2010 and 2011 and through that span of roughly 250 games he has also liked what he’s seen from the Lipscomb University product.

 “Caleb does a great job working with the guys,” Steenstra said. “He’s very smart and he knows the game and he’s gotten familiar with the hitters. He calls a good game back there and I think he and the pitchers get on the same page quickly. He’s developed a really good chemistry with the entire staff. You don’t see too many of the guys shaking him off during a game.” 

Bowie southpaw pitcher Mike Ballard, a mid-season arrival who did not suffer his first loss with the Baysox until last Wednesday [July 27] morning in a 6-3 setback to the visiting Harrisburg Senators, has quickly gained an appreciation for working with Joseph.

“I’ve only been here since June 2, but he’s great to work with,” said Ballard, who is 5-1 since joining the Baysox staff and had walked only five batters in his first 60 innings on the mound with Bowie. “He does a great job calling a game and he sets up well back there. Anytime you can get on the same page with your catcher before the game starts it makes things a lot easier for both of you. He knows the hitter’s strengths and weaknesses and he understands how to set-up the hitters.”