Carangelo Takes His Place Behind the Plate
The responsibilities of a catcher go far beyond just blocking the ball behind home plate. The catcher has to track every play and make sure to always be in the right position no matter what unfolds on any given pitch.
For Paul “PJ” Carangelo, Jr., a member of the East Haven baseball team, mastering the catcher’s position has always been and remains his goal. PJ recently finished his sophomore year with the Yellowjackets and, while it was a difficult season, PJ and his teammates learned a lot about both themselves and each other throughout the campaign.
Playing baseball for East Haven was always a dream for PJ. He started playing when he was seven and learned a lot about the game in a short amount of time. By age nine, PJ began playing travel baseball for a few different teams, including stints in the AAU circuit and with Northeast Clutch Baseball. By the end of his freshman campaign, PJ was embracing the fact that he got more opportunities than he expected on the high school diamond for Head Coach Butch Johnson’s squad.
“I was stuck behind the plate to catch and, since then at nine years old, I’ve just loved doing it and have been doing it since,” says PJ. “Coming in as a freshman, I wasn’t expecting to play or anything really, but Coach Johnson gave me the shot to play outfield on varsity.”
Coach Johnson saw the potential in PJ and gave him a chance to gain varsity experience by playing right field during portions of his freshman season. It was a rewarding opportunity for PJ that helped him feel comfortable and develop confidence on the field.
PJ entered his sophomore year dedicated to being that much better and wound up earning the starting catcher’s job for East Haven. Coach Johnson respects the character that PJ brings to the team and the way he handles himself behind the plate. Johnson admires PJ’s ability to catch pop flies around the infield, no matter how high or far the ball sails.
“I’ve never seen a catcher make it look so easy. He’s very knowledgeable of the game,” Johnson says of PJ. “He leads by example. He’s vocal out there, and he’s encouraging to his teammates. Whenever he has something to say, it’s usually for the betterment of the team or for the player.”
While he has solid skills, PJ brings much more than that to the Yellowjackets. The sophomore leads through his play and is always encouraging his teammates. PJ understands that solid team chemistry plays a big role in both his performance and the overall play of the Easties.
“Being off the field and hanging out together with the team and everything. It just makes it go more smoothly with everybody knowing how everyone reacts and does different things everywhere,” says PJ. “Getting to know all my teammates and all their strengths and weaknesses helps because, when we’re on the field, being able to do little trick plays when I’m back-picking or just making sure everybody’s where they have to is everything.”
While the team chemistry strengthened over the course of the season, the Yellowjackets had to navigate a challenging schedule and finished the year with just four victories. Despite the club’s struggles, PJ was happy to be starting behind the dish and took a lot of pride in his defense. PJ’s desire to improve in the batter’s box was emblematic of the overall effort from everyone on the squad.
“I feel like I had an alright season, nothing special. Defense is more of my specialty, but I did alright all-around. As a team, I feel like we really bonded,” PJ says. “As a whole, with getting hot at certain times and everything, we didn’t end with the record we were looking for and didn’t end up making the tournament, but we overall played well as a team. We grinded it out and played hard every game.”
PJ suited up as a catcher for the entire season while still putting in some work in the outfield. PJ knows that there are still improvements to be made heading into next year. A competitive person, PJ will be working alongside his teammates during the offseason in preparation for his junior campaign.
“I always like seeing the hard work that I put in paying off when I’m out there on the field or in the classroom,” says PJ. “All offseason, we work out as a team. I do clinics training to prepare myself up for the team in the spring so that we were ready to go.”
PJ is looking forward to seeing his offseason effort pay dividends next spring. He’s also excited about what’s in store for the Yellowjackets as a whole, noting that they’re a young team with a solid core that has a lot of potential.
“We have a really young team. Our varsity team had multiple freshmen starting, and we had a lot of sophomores and juniors,” PJ says. “Over the next few years, we’re going to have our young team become more mature and ready for this greater competition of all these bigger powerhouse schools and teams.”
PJ is preparing for the challenges that lie ahead for himself and the Yellowjackets. PJ knows that it will take a lot of work for the Easties to collectively improve as a unit, but he’s expecting nothing less than the best effort from everyone as he leads the team from behind the plate. In PJ’s eyes, all the hard work will be worth it once the good results follow as he continues to enjoy a sport that he’s loved all his life.
“Just by getting older and maturing and having those couple years, we’re hopefully just going to play better out there next year and just be ready to go,” says PJ. “Just seeing all the hard work that myself and the team put in come together on the field makes everything worth it.”