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Matt Carone, a junior at Hand, had a great summer season on the hill for the Madison Junior Legion baseball team. (Photo courtesy of Matt Carone )
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Matt Carone has loved baseball throughout his life. Matt is a huge New York Yankees’ fan who also follows the Minnesota Twins, because his mother grew up in Minnesota. Matt’s parents were also early influences when it came to Matt learning to play the game himself.
“From a young age, around two, my mom would take me outside and throw the Wiffle ball to me,” Matt says. “My dad has kept me driven and was my coach since a young age. He always pushed me to keep going, even though I wasn’t always the best. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
Matt recently finished his first season with the Madison Junior American Legion 17-U baseball team, and he enjoyed the experience of competing against older players. Matt helped Post 79 finish with 22 victories and advance to the quarterfinals of the State Tournament this summer.
“It was definitely different, especially pitching-wise, since the kids were 6-feet tall, massive, and strong. So, I had to outsmart them, keep focused, and not make mistakes, because these kids would capitalize on it,” says Matt, who’s entering his junior year at Hand, where he plays baseball for the Tigers. “The team had a lot of fun and really came together. Us jelling on the field helped us win a lot of games and go far in the playoffs.”
Matt made a big impact for Head Coach Adam Nuzzo’s club. On the mound, Matt posted a record of 5-1 with a 1.89 earned-run average to go with 33 strikeouts and just two walks. Facing Stamford in a State Tournament elimination game, Matt gave up one run in six innings to help Madison prevail and stay alive.
Following states, Post 79 competed in a tournament in Providence, where Matt allowed one earned run in seven innings while “shutting the door on an AAU powerhouse,” according to Coach Nuzzo.
“Matt’s the definition of a gamer and challenges every hitter. Every big-time game we’ve had, he’s come up and has said, ‘I want the ball. I want to pitch,’ and he never seems to let you down,” Nuzzo says. “He’s stepped up and been the go-to guy. He’s the one to get the job done.”
As soon as Matt was old enough to play baseball, he stepped on the field in Madison, beginning with Little League. Matt played third base, but once he started pitching, the mound became his primary focus.
Matt continued pitching through Little League and also played for Madison’s first nine year-old travel squad. Matt has been playing travel ball ever since, and now he competes for the town’s 18-U travel team.
“When I started travel, I liked that it started to get really competitive. My drive for sports took over, and I ran with it,” says Matt. “I’ve always played for Madison, because I’d rather play for my home team. Having a program here in Madison means a lot to me, because I play for Madison—not for myself.”
When Matt entered Daniel Hand High School, he knew that he was going to join the baseball program. He played for the freshman team in his first year and then moved to JV as a sophomore. Now a junior, Matt is hoping to earn his varsity letter next year.
“My main goal is to get some innings on varsity as a pitcher. They’ll be a little short-staffed, and I could be a great addition to roster,” Matt says. “Just being on the varsity team and being around that team chemistry will help elevate my game to the next level. It would be a great experience, even if I don’t get that many innings. But I hope I do.”
While Matt has big goals for his junior year with the Tigers, he still has plenty of baseball to play before the 2020 spring season arrives. Matt is currently a member of the Madison travel team, which plays games on the weekends.
Matt continues training throughout the winter, when the Tigers run an afterschool strength and conditioning program to prepare for the spring. Matt also trains with his travel coaches by working on reps, ground balls, and swings to stay on top of his game.
Matt feels grateful to all of the coaches that he’s had throughout his career, including Nuzzo, JP Peters, Kyle Anderson, and Luke Nearny. Matt has also been influenced by his parents Jen and Ken, along with his older brother Drew, who they just brought to Washington University in St. Louis.
“Coach Nuzzo has a calm presence, and Coach Peters has the intensity that helps us battle through games. Coach Anderson and Coach Nearny have helped me develop as a pitcher to be the best I can be,” says Matt. “My brother showed up to as many games as he could and was on the sidelines cheering. And if he wasn’t there, the first thing he’d ask was how we did, and that meant a lot. He was always supportive and cared about the team and watched me play.”
One of Matt’s favorite things about playing baseball is the people that he shares the experience with. Matt has been playing alongside his teammates for many years, and he credits much of his teams’ success to the bonds that they’ve built with each other.
“We’ve all loved the sport from a young age, and we all love to play together. We’re the best of friends, even outside of the game,” Matt says. “It’s meant so much to all of us. We’re getting ready to move on to next part, but the last few years together should be a lot of fun.”
While watching his brother go through the college process, Matt had the opportunity to visit a few schools, including Miami University in Ohio, on the way home from St. Louis. Matt also has interest in Bentley University and UConn, where his parents went to school. A high honors student, Matt hopes to major in business and wants to continue playing baseball at least at the club or intramural level in college.
“I’d love to keep playing baseball, because it’s a good getaway from school. I’ve always loved baseball, because it’s more of a mental game and, whenever I feel stressed, it takes my mind off things,” says Matt. “Baseball has taught me to stay focused and be confident in my own life. I have always just loved the game.”
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