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Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Major League spring training camps will open for pitchers and catchers in mid-February in both Florida and Arizona. Former Lipscomb Bisons standout Caleb Joseph, drafted in 2008 in the seventh round by the Baltimore Orioles, will be back in Sarasota, Fla., this spring, but where he will spend the summer is a question mark at this point. After spending some time taking batting practice with Paul Phillips, a former professional baseball player and a first-year assistant with the Bisons, Joseph paused to talk for a few minutes with Lipscombsports.com for a modified version of "Where Are They Now?"
Patience is considered to be a virtue for most, but in his quest to play Major League baseball patience has become a necessity for Caleb Joseph as he deals with the ups and downs of the minor leagues.
"There is a lot of instability and that is what makes the minor league life extremely tough," Joseph said. "They can call you in after a game and send you up or down. You are literally chasing a dream.
"Unless you are a first rounder, or you really, really overachieve and hit .400 every year, you have to grind it out. You have to play your cards right and be doing well at the right time when a guy goes down with an injury or gets traded."
Joseph loves playing baseball, but he is quick to point out there are a lot of misconceptions about life in the minors such as the pay scale. In the majors players make six-to-eight figures, but in the minors the salaries are in the low five figures. He mowed lawns for part of the offseason and worked for UPS as well in an effort to make some extra money.
Joseph, preparing for his sixth season in professional baseball, doesn't know what the spring or summer will bring. He has spent at least part of the last three seasons in Bowie, Md., but has played in four cities in the minors.
"It is tough to mentally get accustomed to an area when you move a lot," Joseph said. "I have been living out of suitcases the last six years. It is hard to get into a routine of life.
Like all minor league players he makes sacrifices while hoping to get that phone call to go to "the show". Joseph looks to God to direct his life and has faith that he will reach his dream.
"It takes one little break," Joseph said. "That is where faith comes along. If I could make it for one day in the big leagues I could leave and be good with it."
He called Phillips, a former pro catcher, and has been picking his brain for advice while working out the past few days.
"Paul has been an unbelievable help," Joseph said. "He has been there and done it. We have established a good relationship.
"I was excited when Lipscomb hired him. What Paul brings to the table is invaluable. I am going to him as a professional and asking for his help. Just think what his experience is going to mean to Lipscomb's players."
Joseph's life will change dramatically before he gets to spring training. He and Brooke Cannon, a former volleyball player at Trevecca Nazarene University, plan to be married Feb. 2.
"She will go with me to spring training," Joseph said. "When I find out where I am going to be we will drive there together."
Joseph spent most of last season in Class AA with the Bowie BaySox and 22 games in Class AAA with the Norfolk Tides in Virginia. He batted .272 overall for the BaySox and was particularly strong after his return to the team. He also had 12 home runs, 17 doubles and 48 runs batted in. He batted .206 at Norfolk, but he thinks that stat is a little misleading since it is based on only 68 at bats.
"I did pretty well offensively last season and I hope that puts me back on the map," Joseph said. "You can go from prospect to suspect overnight.
"There is always somebody coming up behind you. You constantly have to reinvent yourself. I am very excited about this season because I did finish strong last year.
He closed out his time In Norfolk sitting on the bench for several games before returning to Bowie. It was during that time that he seriously evaluated his options.
"When I was sent back down I could have hung it up mentally," Joseph said. "When you get demoted there are two ways you can respond. You can say 'poor me', or you can look in the mirror and realize that you need to starting figuring some stuff out.
"You have to start looking at the facts and the body of work that you have produced in pro ball. It just hasn't been good enough and as consistent as it should be. During that time in Norfolk I realized I had to figure it out…period. I watched a lot of video and got a lot of advice from big leaguers."
All positions are competitive, but catchers have to show consistency on several levels from defense to hitting to an ability to relate to pitchers and understand the strategy of the game.
"I have a lot of bursts of big league talent and a lot of bursts of inconsistency," Joseph said. "To play in the big leagues, especially at catcher, they have to know what they are getting.
"There cannot be any question marks. If that No. 1 guy goes down you are in. The first step is to get back to the big league camp and put me back on the radar as a potential option."
Joseph has returned to the fundamentals of the game in order to get noticed by Baltimore manager Buck Showalter and the front office.
"I was very inconsistent as a hitter," Joseph said. "Talking in really broad terms I had to find consistency with my approach and execution. I had to do it the proper, professional, proven way.
"Defensively, I have really worked on throwing guys out. My percentages have really taken off. I have been at or near 40 percent the last two years and that is quite a good feat."
Joseph keeps up with former teammate Rex Brothers, a pitcher for the Colorado Rockies, and his younger brother, Corban, an infielder who played in Class AA last season for the New York Yankees and is on the 40-man Major League roster for the spring.
"It gets frustrating, but I have to remember that my position can take a little longer," Joseph said. "I have to be a little more patient. Baseball is so closely related to life that you learn patience.
"If it is in God's plan I will make it. I am at a point in my life where I understand so much more about that. I am going to give it my best shot, but if I don't make it my life is not defined by this. If it doesn't happen I will be all right."
Nestled carefully in the baggage Joseph carries from town-to-town are the lessons he learned at Lipscomb. He freely admits that no one had a bigger influence on him from an athletic standpoint than Lipscomb baseball coach Jeff Forehand.
"If you want to grow, the opportunities are endless here," Joseph said. "Jeff stayed on me pretty hard. What I didn't know at the time was that he was not on me just because of baseball. I realized later that he was teaching me life lessons like not to be selfish and to think of other people before you think about yourself. He kept us accountable.
"He didn't just say it. He did it. He still keeps me in check. On the surface it may look like we are talking about baseball, but we are really talking about life. I really grew spiritually here and I draw on the lessons I learned in athletics and in the classroom."
Joseph enjoyed a bounty of individual accolades as a player at Lipscomb. But when he looks back at his time on campus, his athletic memories are not centered on his personal success.
"I remember how much fun it was hitting a home run on TV against Georgia in the NCAA Tournament," Joseph said. "I remember all of the 17 homers I hit when I was here. But what I remember the most is we had a great team.
"It is so clichéd, but it is about the relationships. I keep in touch with just about all of the guys I played with here at Lipscomb. At Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's you get flooded with text from your old teammates. That is what means the most."
When it was time to choose a college Joseph didn't rank Lipscomb first on his list. He knew that at Lipscomb he would be an athlete at a school where many of his relatives had excelled. He wasn't sure that was the road he wanted to travel.
His father, Mark, played baseball at Lipscomb under coach Ken Dugan. An uncle, Monte Joseph, played tennis and another uncle, Morey Joseph, played baseball. His grandfather, Gary Waller, played basketball and baseball.
"I have been coming to Lipscomb my whole life," Joseph said. "I have always seen purple and gold my whole life. I remember working as a towel boy and drying the sweat of Philip Hutcheson and John Pierce when they fell down on the court.
"I know the rich history here. I tried to not go to Lipscomb. I wanted to create my own legacy, whatever that meant. But God told me I was going to be here and it worked out better than I could have anticipated. I played as much as I wanted. We won a conference championship. We made history by playing in the NCAA Tournament."
Whatever happens in his pro baseball career Joseph would like to find a way to stay in the game. One of his goals is to live his life, on and off of the playing field, in a way that will bring honor to his family and the university.
"When I am in Allen Arena for a basketball game or a volleyball match I walk by the Hall of Fame," Joseph said. "I see those names. I would be lying if I didn't say I wonder if I have done enough to be there.
"I know I can play in the big leagues, and I am going to play in the big leagues. The Orioles have made it clear they haven't given up on me and I haven't either."
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations for Athletics.
Caleb's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.