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Joseph's family tradition propels him to Majors

Catcher honed baseball craft in same college program as father, grandfather

Joseph's family tradition propels him to Majors

BALTIMORE -- Caleb Joseph never wanted to end up at Lipscomb. He thought he'd go somewhere bigger -- maybe Vanderbilt or Arkansas.

When Joseph finally ended up there, he realized that it was always what made the most sense.

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"I wanted to try and go somewhere bigger," Joseph said. "Things got messed up. I tried hard not to go there and I really didn't have any other offers. It was weird how it all happened. I was kind of forced to go there, but looking back in the end, it was definitely where I should've been."

Caleb's father, Mark Joseph, played for the Bisons in the 1980s. His grandfather on his mother's side, Gary Waller, also played there. The Josephs are a baseball family, and the small school in Nashville, Tenn., is their baseball home.

Mark Joseph played at Lipscomb when it was still just Lipscomb College of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Waller, who also played basketball for the Bisons, was a fixture around the program, and Mark grew close with him before he even knew he had a daughter.

Those two ultimately helped bring Caleb -- and his brother Corban, who plays in the Yankees organization -- to love the game.

When Mark graduated from Lipscomb, he, his wife Lori and his children lived in a house that Waller bought. It was even closer to the baseball stadium than the dorms Mark lived in as a student.

"We would just walk down the street, cross Belmont Boulevard right there into the campus and go right there and watch my brother Morey play baseball," Mark said.

Mark would pack Caleb and his two younger brothers up in the double stroller and make the short trip to the stadium. Attending games became a quick, cheap entertainment option for the young children. Caleb estimates that even before he became a Bison, he had been on the Lipscomb campus "hundreds of times."

"I grew up there," Caleb said. "I knew the place inside and out."

Even when they weren't at the stadium, baseball was a centerpiece of Caleb's daily life. When most children would watch Barney or other children's shows as parents, the Josephs could turn on WGN or TBS and keep Caleb entertained for hours with the Cubs or Braves.

When Caleb turned 4, it was finally time to take to the diamond himself. Almost 40 years ago, Waller started the Lipscomb-Green Hills Baseball League for 5-year-olds to 13-year-olds. It wasn't as competitive as the officially sanctioned Little League in the area, but it let Caleb get an early jump on his career.

"His granddaddy, he kind of cheated to let Caleb and Corban start at age 4," Mark said. "You're not supposed to start until 5."

Until he was about 14, Caleb was coached in the league by his father.

He was "very drill-oriented," Caleb said, and taught him all the fundamentals that he needed to play the game the right way. And even when Mark stopped coaching Caleb, he was there to make sure he continued the disciplined baseball that he was taught.

"Even when he stopped coaching, he came to every single game," Caleb said. "It didn't matter where it was. He was at every single game."

Caleb also played his father's position up until his senior year of high school, and he nearly picked it back up in college. He began as a shortstop -- as the most naturally talented player on the team often does -- and when Franklin High School needed a catcher during Caleb's senior year, he offered to switch over.

In college, Caleb stuck with the position because it granted him immediate playing time. He could have played his father's position, but it was then occupied by future Angels Draft pick Tadd Brewer.

Once Caleb got on campus, he was home. He played for the Bisons for three years before being selected in the seventh round of the 2008 Draft.

During those three years in college, the Commodores and Razorbacks each reached the NCAA Tournament three times, but as a senior, Joseph etched his name in Lipscomb lore in a way that neither his father nor grandfather could.

For the first time in school history, the Bisons qualified for the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. And then they won it all. In his final season at his family's school, Joseph led Lipscomb to its first NCAA Tournament.

"It worked out being there. I really enjoyed my time," Joseph said. "I was happy that I ended up going there."

David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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