Before the season began, it seemed like Caleb Joseph was destined for another year at double-A Bowie. Another year of giving the "real prospects" some live action practice. His name had been thrown around as a possible back-up in Baltimore but he would be a distant runner-up.
As fate may have it, one mention of discomfort in Matt Wieters' elbow and an underwhelming Steve Clevenger led to the unlikeliest of call-ups, making Joseph a 28-year-old rookie and, at this moment, the starter for the Baltimore Orioles. As you once wrote in someone's year book, what a long, strange trip it's been.
Name: Caleb Martin Joseph Number: 36
Born: June 18,1986 (28 years old) in Nashville, TN
Height: 6'3" Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Drafted: 7th round by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2008 amateur draft
School: Franklin High School (Tennessee)
Lipscomb University (Nashville, TN)
Contract: ($500,000 in 2014, rookie, free agent: 2020)
Became an Oriole: drafted
Caleb didn't want to go to Lipscomb University. It was a school right in his home town of Nashville. His father had attended the school in the 80s, playing baseball and basketball for the Bisons. His grandfather, on his mother's side, had played baseball there as well.
"I wanted to try and go somewhere bigger," Joseph told MLB.com's David Wilson. "I tried hard not to go there and I really didn't have any other offers."
According to the Lipscomb University athletics website, it does seem that Arkansas, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt each took a look at Joseph. However, none were motivated enough to offer a scholarship. Lipscomb it was and it turned out to be a positive decision.
After playing mostly shortstop in high school, Joseph switched to catching in college because it would allow him to play immediately. The shortstop at Lipscomb was Tadd Brewer, a young man who was two years older than Caleb and who would go on to be drafted by the Angels, but never make it to the big leagues.
In his final season at Lipscomb, Joseph led the team to it's first Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament and they won the championship, qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.
After just three years, Joseph was drafted by the Orioles. It was no surprise as the Orioles showed the most interest, followed by the Diamondbacks. Back in 2008, Joseph's college coach said that the O's came to see him "two or three times" and that their "cross-checker" scout even gave him the OK. He was set to head to Baltimore.
But that first game in an Oriole uniform was a long way away.
His career down on the farm began normally enough. He torched through short-season Aberdeen and high-A Frederick in two seasons. After 2009 he was named the Orioles tenth best prospect and the best defensive catcher in the organization. Onward he went to Bowie, double-A, the fast track for the majors.
There he would spend most of the next four seasons, playing 428 games and breaking the club record for number of games played. Not exactly a number you want your name next to for a minor league squad. His only refuge was a 22-game stint with Norfolk in the middle of the 2012 season. However, he only managed to hit .202 there without a single home run. Back to Bowie it was.
Those two years in Bowie, 2012 and 2013, were arguably the best of his minor league career. Especially 2013 where he hit .299 with 22 home runs, 97 RBI, made the Eastern League All-Star game, and won the home run derby at the event. He was even named Eastern League Player of the year. However, he still would not warrant even a September call-up.
In fact, the Orioles left him off of the 40-man roster. But they were not alone in their indifference towards Joseph. No other team selected him in December's Rule Five draft in which the O's chose Michael Almanzar.
It seemed that Joseph was set to stay at Bowie another year and was reaching his breaking point. That is where his wife, Brook stepped in.
In January, Joseph married Brooke at a ceremony in Nashville. The couple had met one another through mutual friends they knew from college. Caleb's proposal took place in front of friends and family at the Botanical Gardens in Maryland several months before the wedding.
Brooke pushed Caleb to keep playing. He wanted to quit and get away from baseball. He felt his age and the uncertainty of a minor league baseball life was getting to be too much.
"I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that, just about once a week, I thought about hanging it up," Joseph told the Baltimore Sun.
Lucky for him, he kept pushing. And for that, he is quickly becoming a fan favorite and someone that the Orioles need to keep around, at least when Kevin Gausman pitches.
- His catcher's ERA is 2.72 (league average is 3.79)
- Joseph is a baseball addict. He didn't have a favorite superhero as a kid because his parents would only let him watch sports. He would spend hours in front of the television watching the Atlanta Braves on TBS and the Chicago Cubs on WGN
- His favorite player growing up was Fred McGriff
- Joseph was once a clubhouse attendant for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds (Brewers affiliate). He once ran into Adam Jones at a Sounds game. Jones was playing for the Mariners affiliate, Tacoma.
- When Joseph was with Frederick, he would sleep in the clubhouse a lot of nights. His apartment didn't have a television or internet so he would watch games at the stadium and sleep on the couch.