Ain’t no one going to outwork Joseph King.
As the recent Woodside graduate started his summer baseball season last week with the Pacific Union Financial Capitalists — more commonly known as the Puff Caps — he found himself catching one day and serving as a closing pitcher the next.
This echoes King’s senior season at Woodside, where the two-way standout and lifelong catcher earned Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division Player of the Year honors, and also doubled down on his surname by claiming the title of Ocean Division strikeout king.
“He’s a kid, if he had it his way, he would never come out of the game,” Woodside manager Dan Rogers said. “But you don’t see [someone play both pitcher and catcher] very often and, to see it at that level, to have success at both positions, it’s something you just don’t see very often.”
It was three years ago when King’s teammate, pitcher Jamie Kruger, earned 2016 Daily Journal Baseball Player of the Year honors. King remembers Kruger’s senior season well, because he was called up to the varsity squad two weeks into his freshman season to handle the Wildcats’ ace.
“I wanted to be him,” King said. “I wanted to do what he had done.”
Mission accomplished as King has been named the 2019 Daily Journal Baseball Player of the Year.
His performance as a position player alone made him a contender for the annual honor. King not only won the team triple crown for the Wildcats, he also claimed the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division batting crown with a .476 batting average, all this while serving his fourth season as the varsity squad’s starting catcher.
And not only did King prove a clutch hitter, it was as though the bigger the situation, the more relaxed he approached his at-bats.
“A lot of guys at his age don’t have that approach,” Rogers said. “He’s comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and I think that’s why he’s successful. … I can honestly say I have never seen him uncomfortable at the plate.”
Excellence as a hitter/position player is only half the story though. King actually split catching time with sophomore Garrett Faure this season, but only because King also anchored the Wildcats’ starting rotation, posting a 5-4 record with a 1.51 ERA and a PAL Ocean-best 102 strikeouts.
King is relatively new to pitching, but when a right-hander has the ability to sit low 90s with his fastball, he’s bound to find his way onto the mound. As a junior, he logged just four innings. But through the summer to follow, he went from refining his heater with Nor Cal 2019 Prime, a travel squad out of Marin, to earning a spot in the Area Code Games, the most heralded high school prospect showcase in the nation.
“He’s still learning a lot about pitching,” Rogers said. “I think he wanted to do it because he knows where his talents are, and he stepped up there. But he’s had so much success as a catcher, trying something new might have been a challenge for him.”
King pitched in one game at the Area Code Games, but the glimmer in his eye while talking about two doubles he recorded at the plate was undeniable. While King tied his Woodside teammate Owen Crevelt this year for the team lead in home runs with three, it’s King’s gap power that sets him apart. He showed that by ranking second in the CCS with 14 two-baggers.
“I consider myself a catcher that can hit,” King said. “I do not consider myself a power hitter.”
King’s all-around baseball tools have earned him a Pac-12 Conference roster spot, though he will not be heading north to Washington State as per his original commitment. King de-committed to the campus in Pullman, Washington, and instead signed a new National Letter of Intent this past Saturday to play at Cal.
Cal’s track record for developing catching talent speaks for itself. The Golden Bears’ most recent starting catcher, Korey Lee, was a first-round draft pick of the Houston Astros earlier this month. In 2016, Brett Cumberland was a second-round pick of the Atlanta Braves. Andrew Knapp was a second-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2013.
“I want to be able to catch every day,” King said. “I don’t want to be put into the corner as a [pitcher only]. Not yet.”
Woodside has something of a long catching tradition itself. And the Wildcats will be looking for history to repeat itself with the 2019 varsity call-up of Faure, who was one of just two sophomores on the otherwise all upperclassman roster.
Much like King was called up as a freshman to handle “one of the best prep pitchers I ever caught” in Kruger, Faure was handpicked by King to be his personal catcher this year.
“We brought him up and he’s played a lot of baseball; and the best way to get better at baseball is just play a lot of baseball … and I thought he’d be fine on varsity,” King said. “And he played really well.”
For all King’s baseball tools, his feel behind the plate is as advanced as any. So, a ringing endorsement from him, for a catcher, is as good as gold.
“I’ve caught guys that throw really hard,” King said. “And it’s not easy.”
No, it isn’t. King just makes it look that way.