Prep baseball: Carson's Basinger signs

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 4, 2011

By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — It still felt more like winter than spring back in 2008 when freshman catcher Joseph Basinger reported for Carson workouts with earrings dangling on either side of a wide grin.
“Not on my field!” coach Chris Cauble barked, quickly turning the husky kid around in the general direction of the parking lot.
In truth, Cauble didn’t limit himself to “not on my field.” As a college grad, his vocabulary was more creative and descriptive.
Basinger got the message.
“He was one cocky freshman,” Cauble said, chuckling at the memory. “But I never saw the earrings again.”
The swagger never left, though, even after Basinger demolished his left knee playing football his sophomore year.
“Just blew it out,” Basinger said. “Tore every ligament in there. I was worried, really worried about being able to play baseball after that. But I did what I had to do. Four months after that, I was back playing baseball.”
Basinger looks like a football player, like a college linebacker, but most of his past and all of his future is in baseball.
He signed recently with Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory. He should be a factor there for the next two years.
After that, if he hangs in there and handles the classroom stuff, a lot can happen for him on the diamond.
“Joseph is happy about Catawba Valley, and I’m happy he’s got a chance,” Cauble said. “He can hit, he runs well, he’s a good receiver and his arm is above average. Who knows? He might get drafted after two years — or even after a year.”
Basinger brings a physical presence to the table, always has. When pro scouts go looking for catchers, he’s exactly what they’re seeking. Tall, broad-shouldered, thick-armed and intimidating.
Ask Hollywood central casting to send over a catcher, and they’d send Basinger.
“A few people tried to run him over when he was a freshman,” Cauble said. “They got knocked back the other way. I knew then he’d be all right.”
Basinger batted .346 as a freshman.
The severity of the knee injury and the presence of Tyler Freeze limited Basinger to DH duties the next two seasons. He excelled in that role — .400 as a soph, .320 with three homers and 21 RBIs as a junior.
There was one torrid, four-game stretch early in the 2010 season in which he went 9-for-13 with nine RBIs. Then he hit a big homer in Carson’s 3A playoff win at Marvin Ridge — the first time the Cougars had ever won a playoff game.
“But I wondered if he’d ever catch again,” Cauble said. “And I knew he wouldn’t be completely happy until he could. Once you’ve been a catcher (that’s what Cauble was at East Rowan and in college at East Carolina and Charlotte), it’s just not the same being the DH or playing first base. The catcher is in the action on every pitch. He missed that.”
Basinger caught opening day of the 2011 season for the Cougars, and it was like he’d never left. He says he’s 100 percent physically now.
“I’m back to being able to do everything that I could before I was hurt,” Basinger said. “I’m not limited in any way. I don’t think about it.”
Basinger was one of the county’s top handful of players as a senior. He wasn’t selected, but he was high on the list of nominees for NPC Player of the Year and Rowan County Player of the Year honors.
Basinger had a five-game flurry in which he went 8-for-12 with nine RBIs and a bunch of walks. Then he beat rival South Rowan 8-5 just about single-handed — with a two-run homer followed by a walkoff, three-run homer.
He finished his senior year with a .407 batting average, five homers and 28 RBIs.
“Behind the plate, he was a wall, and he brought that swagger,” Cauble said. “He was a leader. He brought the team up. That’s going to be hard to replace.”
Statistically, Basinger was the second-best offensive player in Carson history, behind only Gunnar Hogan.
Basinger is Carson’s all-time home run leader with nine. He’s second in doubles (19), RBIs (67) and hits (84) and ranks fourth in career batting average (.356).
In American Legion ball, Basinger made an impact. As a three-year regular for the South Rowan team, he had eight homers, 52 RBIs and batted .331.
His worst summer offensively was this year. He wore down in the heat, catching virtually every night after backup Cory Deason suffered a knee injury.
“I was tired and sore, but I feel great again now,” Basinger said. “I took a few weeks off, but now I’m hitting the weights again.”
It looked for a while after graduation that Basinger, who prefers bricklaying and welding to English Literature, might head straight to the workforce, but teammates, coaches and friends convinced him he had too much talent to abandon baseball. Bricklaying is still going to be there down the road, but the window of opportunity closes quickly on athletes.
“Some guys I’ve played with (Randy Shepherd and Dylan Walker) liked Catawba Valley, and I took a visit up there, walked around and really liked it,” Basinger said.
“They offer courses I’m interested in like turf management, and the baseball coach (former Lenoir-Rhyne coach Frank Pait) is a great fellow. He said there will be a lot of competition for playing time, but that’s fine. Competition will make me better and the guys I’m competing with better.”
Pitt Community College in Greenville, which has one of the South’s top junior college programs, expressed interest in Basinger late in the summer, but by then his mind was made up.
His first class at CVCC is Aug. 15. His first fall practice will come not long after that. He’ll show up with the swagger — but without the earrings.