College baseball: Blake Cauble is a future coach
By Mike London
FAITH — Blake Cauble’s father, Chris, is the only head baseball coach Carson has ever had and tops the all-time list for high school baseball coaching wins in Rowan County with 328.
So you might think Blake would choose an easier road, something with a little less pressure and a few more dollars per hour.
But that’s not the case. Blake, now a senior student manager for the East Carolina University baseball team, has been doing everything possible to prepare for a high school coaching/teaching career. If there’s ever been a guy who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps, it’s Blake Cauble.
“All the way back, really, I wanted to be like my dad,” Blake said. “When I was really young, when he was still coaching at West Rowan, he had a little West uniform made for me and I was running all over the place in it.”
Chris was an outstanding catcher at East Rowan and was Rowan County Male Athlete of the Year in 1985. Next came honors at East Carolina.
Chris’ first teaching job was at Knox Middle School.
He was an assistant coach for Jeff Safrit on the powerhouse East Rowan team that won the 1995 3A state championship. That would lead to Chris’ first head-coaching opportunity at Concord, an uphill struggle in which he coached just four wins but learned an awful lot about dealing with people and adversity.
Then he got his big break, the chance to coach West Rowan in 2000. His seven successful seasons in Mount Ulla included 136 wins, three regular-season conference championships and a 3A runner-up finish with a 29-5 team in 2004 that was one of the best clubs in county history.
When Carson opened for the 2006-07 school year, Chris made a move to the China Grove school (along with West principal Henry Kluttz) that brought him closer to his home and family in Faith. Chris accepted the challenge, along with his assistant, former South Rowan head coach Dwyane Fink, of energizing Carson’s program from scratch. Blake was 10 when his father accepted the Carson job, and he reluctantly traded in his stacks of blue T-shirts for Carson orange.
Blake stopped growing at 5-foot-7, 145 pounds. His baseball career at Carson was quiet, not because he wasn’t pretty good — he actually was — but because Carson’s pitching staff was loaded. It included two-time Rowan County Pitcher of the Year Dillon Atwell, Rowan County Player of the Year John Daugherty and future Division I player and draft pick Colton Laws.
Blake was a lefty reliever. In nine appearances out of the bullpen as a senior in 2013, he walked only one guy in 12 1/3 innings and went 1-0 with a 0.57 ERA. When Carson clinched the North Piedmont Conference championship that season at West Iredell, the first regular-season title for the Cougars, Blake was on the mound to record the last out. Father and son will always remember that.
Now Blake is closing in on a degree at East Carolina after four years of study. He’s majoring in math education with a minor in business. He has one more college baseball season ahead of him.
During ECU’s season, and that includes fall practice as well as the actual games in the spring that count, Blake has no free time.
“Being a student manager, that’s a full-time job, really,” Blake said. “I’m at practice an hour to 90 minutes before the team arrives. I prepare the field, get the balls out, set up cones for drills. There are a lot of days where it’s a 10-hour day, but it’s a job that I love doing. It’s all valuable experience.”
Blake was a good enough player that he’s also skilled enough to help the Pirates beyond his set-up duties. He serves as a throwing partner, takes practice throws from catchers to the bases and flips balls to the coaches hitting fungos and groundballs. Sometimes Blake gets to hit the groundballs and fungos himself.
His most important physical contribution may be throwing batting practice in the cages. He’s a southpaw who can spin a nasty breaking ball, and not a lot of managers can offer that.
“I threw 400-500 pitches every day in batting practice,” Blake said. “But my arm still feels fine.”
The level of play in Division I college baseball has been eye-opening for Blake. His close friends on the team have included Eric Tyler, a South Rowan graduate who was a senior third baseman this season and will be a graduate assistant for the Pirates in the upcoming school year, and Ryan Ross, a lefty pitcher from Mount Pleasant.
“It’s a crazy jump from high school to college as far as the competition,” Blake said.
One of the more memorable games from last season for Blake came in a loss. Laws, Blake’s high school teammate at Carson, was pitching for Charlotte and he beat the Pirates.
“After the game, Colton came up and hugged me,” Blake said. “Guys were giving me a hard time about it, mostly because he’s a foot taller than me. There was a pretty big height disparity. The other difference is I throw 75 and Colton throws 90.”
Blake gets to make the team road trips if the game is close enough for the Pirates to travel by bus. He doesn’t get to many of the flying trips, but he did get the perk of flying with the team to this year’s conference tournament in Clearwater, Florida.
In recent summers, Blake has gotten hands-on coaching experience with the Carson Junior Legion team. Blake served as the head coach for the Carson team that went 22-9 and made the state tournament last summer. Chris serves as adviser, manager and public address announcer.
“Dad usually sits over in the pressbox,” Blake said. “But if I need help with something, if the infield isn’t positioned right, something like that, he’s there to lend a hand.”
Carson failed to make the Junior Legion playoffs this summer for the first time since the program began. There were tough breaks and there were six losses in games that Carson led in the seventh inning, including backbreakers against Salisbury and East Rowan.
“This will be the first Fourth of July that I can remember that the family won’t be at a baseball field,” Blake said. “But we live in Faith, so we’ll get to go to the big celebration this year.”
In his 11 seasons at Carson, Chris has accumulated four 20-victory seasons and 192 wins and the Cougars haven’t finished below third place in their league since 2009.
Blake is immensely proud of his father’s consistent success and career accomplishments, but he’s confident he can make his own mark.
As a math teacher/pitching coach, Blake should have no trouble securing a job following graduation. His dream is to land in the area, preferably at a school that plays Carson.
“That’s always been the goal,” Blake said with a laugh. “Come back to Carson with my own team and 10-run-rule my dad.”