Caron setting example for Carson High | NevadaAppeal.com
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Caron setting example for Carson High

MIKE HOUSER
Appeal Sports Writer
Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal Carson Senator varsity pitcher Josh Caron, 17, throughs a practice pitch Friday afternoon. 3/31/06
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Watching Carson High School pitcher Josh Caron throwing from the mound against the Mustangs at Damonte Ranch High School last Thursday was a bit like watching a video game.

Caron was on. His slider – as the players now say – was filthy, and he was cutting down the Mustang batters with the apparent ease that only a digitized pitcher can do. His father, Pat, was keeping track of his pitch count and had his radar gun trained on him.

Caron was keeping ahead in the count and throwing in the mid-80s – right where Pat felt he should be on such a cold, windy day.

“He throws consistently around 87-88 (miles per hour) and he can hit 90,” Pat said. “But he doesn’t need to be doing that. He should be throwing 84-85 in the cold. You don’t want him to hurt his shoulder or elbow. He doesn’t need to pump it up throwing a one-hitter.”

But before Damonte managed to eek out that one hit – a slow roller to short one out into the sixth inning (Carson won 10-0) – Caron, who walked only two batters, was the picture of composure as he was working for a no-hitter.

At least he looked to be from the bleachers.

“He’s fun to be around, but he takes his baseball seriously,” said friend and fellow pitcher Nick Smallman. “He gets intense during games. There was no one talking to him on the bench. After he walked a batter and Coach (Steve Cook) walked up to him, he was all, ‘What are you bugging me for? Stay away from me. I haven’t even given up a hit yet.’

“After the first inning (of no-hit ball), you don’t want to talk to him or get in his way. All they asked him was stuff like, ‘Are you OK? Are you feeling all right out there?’ If it wasn’t a game like that – where he was throwing great – he’s normally more approachable.”

It is one of baseball’s unwritten and most stringent rules: If a pitcher is in no-hit territory, make yourself scarce. Above all, do not talk to him. And even if a tornado is approaching, never – ever – mention it if he has a no-hitter going.

“Yeah, it was an awkward moment, pitching a one-hitter or whatever,” said Caron, who by all accounts is an easy-going guy. “You walk one or two, you don’t want the coach freaking out and giving you the 50 Questions routine. You’re trying to keep your head in the game.”

During the post-game interview, Caron did a good job of playing off how important getting that no-hitter would’ve been to him. Reached by phone a few days later, it wasn’t hard to read between the lines.

“It would’ve been nice, but things happen,” Caron said. “It was a heartbreaker. It was a little dribbler. A one-hitter. Everything worked out.”

But dig a little deeper. It wasn’t just the missed no-hitter. It’s not just, as Smallman said, that he takes his baseball seriously. Baseball is Caron’s life.

YOUNG GUN

Pete Caron knows a thing or two about getting things done. At 56, he’s raised five boys – Pete Jr. (36), John (34), Brett (30), Zach (20) and 17-year-old Josh – and from between being an area manager at Carson Power Company to negotiating contracts to being the general manager of Silver Oak Golf Course, he’s someone who’s willing to give 150-percent effort to whomever or whatever he’s focusing on, but he also likes a little reciprocity.

“I’ve always had a strong, positive relationship with my boys, and I expect a lot out of my boys,” said Caron, who has also coached baseball at several levels. “When I was coaching, I’d get to set the bar. Then I’d raise the bar a little.”

Pete said Josh (who also played tennis for the Senators) could’ve played any sport he wanted, and he was a talented gymnast by the age of 5, when an injury and his increasing height caused him to make his first major decision.

Pete said Josh had to choose one sport to concentrate on and that baseball won out. And it was soon evident he had made the right choice.

“When he was real young, he was on the 9-10 year old All-Stars and he hit a game-winning single to win the game,” said J.T. Cockerill, a standout golfer for the Carson golf team, Josh’s best friend and former baseball teammate. “He was younger (9) and pinch hitting and, with the bases loaded, knocked it in. He’s always been that way. In the 11-12 league, he was 11. In the 14-15’s, he was 14.”

Pete said Josh played on the only undefeated major team – the 12-year-old Pirates – in Carson City’s history, which complemented his undefeated season as a 9 year old.

As a 15-year-old sophomore, Caron was already a member of Carson’s varsity team. In its annual postseason exhibition game with Feather River Community College, Caron shut down the older players, allowing only one hit over five innings.

Standing 6-foot-3 1/2, Josh spent last summer working out to gain weight and has gone from 170 pounds to 205.

“He always wanted to be the best,” Cockerill said. “He made everyone play better. He was out there (working out) all year since last year. He was in Reno (training) three or four times a week and finding friends to catch for him. He runs a lot quicker now, has lost fat and gained muscle. He was in the gym one or two times a day.

“It’s just his work ethic. Even in Little League, he’d practice four hours a day, which was pretty unusual.”

Caron worked out this last summer with former Carson coach and current athletic director Ron McNutt.

“As a sophomore he did an outstanding job for us in a relief role,” McNutt said. “We got together in the summer and worked on a few things – his mechanics. Our hope was that it would help him this year. So far it looks like it’s going pretty good for him.”

Caron is 3-0 in four appearances this season for the 10-1 Senators, who are in second place in the Sierra “eague, with an 8-1 league record. He has struck out 28 batters, walked only four and has an earned run average of 0.015. Caron is also batting .525.

Pete, who has diligently kept track of his son’s statistics and done the negotiating with the ever-increasing number of interested college programs, said Josh’s cumulative varsity batting average is .445, and his ERA 1.25.

“He’s a hard worker,” Cook said. “He’s a kid that doesn’t say a lot. He’s a big kid – he’s young for a senior. He has a big, strong body and he’s always had good mound presence. This year he’s assumed a leadership role. He’s a quiet leader who gets stuff done. He’s not a rah-rah guy – we’ve got Logan (Parsley) for that. The kids feel confident playing behind him.”

THE (FATHERLY) RELIEVER

Pete and Josh are an interesting contrast. While Pete is expansive and quite a conversationalist, Josh is low-key and concise.

“He’s silent, I’m long-winded,” said Pete, who also has an MBA and was an electrical engineer. “I was a lot quieter when I was his age. But (over the years) things had to be said in management.

“Sometimes I’m over the top. Sometimes I’m not as pushy. Ask the kids, I’m a butt. I am a butt, but I give it my all – in work, relationships, friendships….”

As in 150 percent all of the time. And in this way, Josh is not unlike his father – at least when it comes to baseball. It’s why he’s attracted such suitors as St. Mary’s, Long Beach State, Hawaii, Nebraska and several other schools.

It’s a fulltime job handling all of the recruitment calls, letters, etc., so Pete has taken on the relief role, if you will, for his son and does what he does best – talk and negotiate.

This leaves Josh to concentrate on his final season of baseball minus the distractions.

“I really try not to think about it much,” Josh said. “I want to get it out of the way. I just let him take care of it until it gets down to signing stuff. I want to get through this year as best I can. Instead of thinking about next year, I want to have a good year in my senior year.”

Cook said it’s working and Caron has kept his mind on the task at hand.

“Absolutely. One thing you don’t want is kids to become complacent with one year to play. Josh comes out and works every day with purpose. He doesn’t sit on his thumbs. He’s still out there working.”

IN CLOSING

Caron has heard all of the talk already. The percentages have been run by him several times, how few players are able to take baseball as far he wants to. And that’s all the way through college and into the Major Leagues. He doesn’t want to just start this game, he wants to take it the distance.

But first things first. Get through this season – and find the right fit at the next level.

“There are a whole lot of schools who make offers, but where’s the right place for him?” Pete said of the challenge in front of him. “In a big school you can get lost in the process. It needs to be a visual school that has great academics, great coaches that can help develop his skills and help him mature.”

“Wherever I go, I just want the coaches to take me to a new level in my baseball career,” Caron said. “At the next level I want to make my game that much better – small changes, little things that you learn every single day. Everything will work out then.”

While he’s going to be a tentative history major, Caron said that could change and that his real ambition lies on the playing field. And as far as those percentages go?

“I’ve been to all of those college camps and they tell you those numbers and that only a small percentage makes it (to the Big Leagues),” Caron said. “But to me it’s just an extra little push to get that extra step out there and be the best you can be. There are only so many people that can do that. It’s an incentive to do better. There are so many challenges in sports.”

Cockerill believes Caron will rise to the occasion.

“I think in college he’ll do real well,” Cockerill said. “He’s real tall and has a lot of natural talent. If he keeps working hard to improve, he has a real good chance.”

People make a lot out of generation gaps when a parent is 20-25 years older than his kid. Pete Caron is 39 years older than Josh.

“We battle a little bit,” Josh said. “But so far it’s been good. We chip away at the stone together. As a father and in the baseball aspect, he’s been a huge part of my life. From Little League, preps, now high school…he’s helping me to get to the next level at college. And once I’m there, I’m sure he’ll still help out. He’s definitely been an important part of my life.

“It’s huge that he’s done all that (negotiating) for me. I don’t know if I’d have half the time to do what he’s done – sending letters to coaches, talking to colleges. His management skills have been a huge factor in negotiating with people. We’re polar opposites in some aspects, but in sports we’re right on track.”

It remains to be seen if Josh can put the Caron in Carson, or be the next Matt Williams and put the Capital City back on the Major League Baseball radar screen. But rest assured, whether it’s at Ron McNutt Field, a Division-I college, or in the Majors, Pete will be there with his radar gun and willingness to help his son succeed.