Ram tough

When you think of Division I baseball most don’t think of Western New York. With the spring high school season only being 14 games long, a lot of players have to rely on showcase tournaments to show off their skills for coaches and scouts.

It’s a risky proposition, sometimes, only because if a player has a bad game, or weekend, then their dreams of playing college baseball at the highest level could be over. On the other hand, if a fringe prospect has an outstanding tournament he will be on everyone’s radar.

But, it’s just not showcase tournaments. You also need to know people in the right places. Maybe it’s a coach that coach at one place, but then took a job somewhere else. If the coach, or coaches, like you than much they will see if you’re interested in joining the team.

Will Carlone had options. A standout on the St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute baseball team, Carlone was in the middle of his recruiting process when he answered an unexpected phone call. The call came from former Canisius College baseball coach Mike McRae.

After more than 10 year leading the Golden Griffins, including a 2013 NCAA tournament birth, McRae took a job as the pitching coach at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in September. One of his first calls was to Carlone, who was more than happy to answer the phone.

“I got in contact with VCU in September. Coach McRae, who was the former head coach at Canisius College, had just taken a pitching coach job at VCU and got in contact with me,” stated Carolne. “I knew some of the good things he did at Canisius. One of the conversations was about the recruiting process and where I was at. He said VCU is a top-tier university and can offer me a great education and get the opportunity to go to the College World Series. I went on a visit and realized that what he said was all true. The facilities are top of the line, and their academics are very strong with a wide variety of majors, as well as opportunities. It had a great atmosphere, and I saw myself being a part of that atmosphere.”

Carlone, who also pitches, projects to be a corner outfielder. The senior has good power to all fields and a strong arm. His arm helped him get on the mound for the Marauders last season. Colleges coaches like the fact that he is a two-way type of player.

It seems more and more baseball players are becoming that in high school and college. The fact that Carlone can do both is called upon makes him more appealing to coaches – especially with baseball scholarships being like they are.

“I project myself as a corner outfield and corner infielder. I like hitting. I got to pitch a good amount of innings this year,” stated Carlone. “During the recruiting process I told schools that I project as a hitter, but I will keep pitching until I can’t compete anymore on the mound. In school I’m more of a starter, and in travel ball I’m more of a relief/closer type guy.”

Ah, yes, the recruiting process. For some they will tell you it’s hell. For others, they will say it was one of the best experience of their lives. Carlone was able to get his commitment out of the way before his senior year – which is normal.

Some players try and get their verbal commitment out of the way as fast as possible – and coaches want a commitment from players earlier and earlier. The only advantage of getting a commitment out of the way early is the fact they can now concentrate on the season. Everything else is all-ready done.

“It takes pressure off and then puts it back on. Seeing kids around you committing to schools is very stressful, so to commit relieves some of the stress caused by the recruiting world. But, If you commit that means it only gets harder. There is always another step, a higher level. The road doesn’t end here, you still have to finish out your high school career. It puts more pressure on you in games in situations. Say you have a bad game, and the other kids on the opposing team go “That kids going to VCU? He went 0-4 with four strikeouts.” Don’t let that bother you, we aren’t immortal, we will have bad games, and good games as well,” explained Carlone. The recruiting process is very crazy. I’ve heard of kids that are committing to a college during their eighth grade year. It makes things so stressful. Some schools take different approaches to recruiting, some like to get to know a kid personally and tell them what their school has to offer academically and athletically wise. Talk to schools that want to get to know you and are successful, no matter who it is. Some kids are so set on their dream school that they don’t want to talk to other colleges. That goes for all sports.”

With his college choice in the rearview mirror, Carlone is set on having a great senior season. St. Joe’s is coming off the Georgetown Cup title where they defeated a very good St. Mary’s High School two game to one. Now, he will be able to enjoy what it’s like to be an upperclassmen, and what it’s like to play with his friends again.

Some of Carlone’s friends where on junior varsity last season when the Marauders won it all. This year, St. Joe’s goes from the hunter to the hunted as they look to repeat.

“St. Joe’s Baseball is preparing to defend its title, and have another solid spring. Our spring sports are very fun to watch. We lost a good amount of seniors last year, some getting the opportunity to play college baseball. This year will be one of the more personal years for me. For the past two years I got to see what St. Joe’s baseball meant to the upperclassman. Now, I’m in their shoes. Also I get to finally play with some of my friends who’s are juniors,” he stated. “It’s a privilege to be coached by great coaches, and be able to go to such a great school as St. Joe’s. Not many kids get this opportunity so I’m very fortunate that my family has the luxury of sending me to a great school. I’m looking forward to seeing Niagara commit Alex Zulia, Ryan Sutherland, and Nick Falbo being senior leaders this year. I’m also excited to see some of my good friends such as Will Hearn, Pat McCann, Jack Gilbert, Connor McKendry, and Matt Barrali to step onto the field and compete for another championship.”