I watched Caleb play ball when he was in high school. After taking over at catcher for his older brother on the varsity team his sophomore season at Lee’s Summit North, Caleb played shortstop his junior and senior years. Lee’s Summit North was only a couple blocks away from the church I worked at for 11 years. I’d regularly go catch a couple innings of baseball on the way home, braving the complex that had bleacher seating in the middle of four fields. I witnessed multiple scary foul ball injuries over the years.
After graduating high school, Caleb was a four-year starter for Drury University, playing for both Coaches Stratton and Nasby. He set school records in most consecutive games started and career RBIs and has a long list of other awards and honors and on the field achievements.
The first spring after my family moved to Springfield, Coach Stratton used to let me shag flies with the team when their home field was still at Meador Park. I survived the left field swamp and almost robbed Caleb of a batting practice home run.
Caleb now plays for the Raptors in the Grip ‘N’ Rip League, the same team as Ryan (Day #100) and Justin (Day #217), which means I’ve played catch with more players of that team than any other in the league. No wonder they are in first place.
He is also the Assistant General Manager at RedLine Athletics Youth Training Center, just off the access road on the way to the Nature Center (4234 S. Reed Ave). Although the official grand opening will take place the first week of October, the sports training facility — football, softball, basketball, baseball, golf, weights, conditioning, injury prevention programs, movement efficiency programs — has been open almost a week now.
Growing up near KC, Caleb is naturally a Royals fan, though Brooks Robinson is the reason behind his number 5. He’s also the godfather to Ryan’s daughter and thinks that Field of Dreams is a classic.
For fun, Caleb used the old Wilson glove, which meant that even my knuckleballs popped and echoed inside the metal walls of the facility. Since he took the old glove, I chose the Wilson I used in elementary school, an 8-inch Mike Flanagan model with a perfect pocket. We spread out twenty yards on the football field and Caleb told me the transformations that took place turning the building into a top of the line training center. He then told me about the various programs and almost made me wish I was back in high school competing for a spot on the varsity team.*
*I topped out at the junior varsity level in baseball.