It’s his fourth season of varsity baseball at St. Peter’s Prep, so Jack Carey should be carrying himself and acting like a seasoned veteran, like someone who fully well knows what is expected of him.
“He’s the main part of what we do,” said Prep head coach Pat Laguerre. “He’s more than capable of putting us on his back. He’s accepted the challenge. He can be pretty dominant and efficient.”
Carey understands his importance.
“Of course, every year, I’ve wanted to make it my best,” Carey said. “But considering this is my senior year, it’s my final hurrah. I want so much to play to the best of my abilities, both at the plate and on the mound.”
And as the high school baseball season reaches the halfway point, Carey is doing exactly that.
“It’s been a big year for me, both hitting and pitching,” Carey said.
“He’s consistent with his preparation,” Laguerre said. “I trust him to get himself prepared for every game. I basically leave him alone. I don’t want to bother his routine. He’s better at preparing than any other kid I’ve ever had.”
Carey started the season with a fine 13-strikeout performance against Hudson Catholic, then had a no-decision in the Marauders’ extra-inning loss to Loyola of California on their western trip for Easter vacation, then returned home to fire a no-hitter against Old Bridge and earned impressive wins against Bayonne and Ferris.
In defeating Ferris, Carey fired a three-hit shutout, striking out 12 in a 5-0 victory.
“He just goes out and performs,” Laguerre said. “It’s important for this team to have somebody who has the potential to beat anybody every time he takes the mound. I think that takes the pressure off the rest of the team. They all seem to play better behind him. He gives us the added dimension of making us a very good team.”
For his efforts, Carey has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Carey was practically obsessive when it came to his offseason workout regimen. He traveled four times a week to Chatham to work out with personal trainer Nick Brueckner, who also trains Boston Red Sox ace hurler Rick Porcello, the 2017 American League Cy Young Award winner.
“I heard of him through a friend,” Carey said of Brueckner. “He’s known by a lot of people in baseball circles.”
Carey said that he threw a lot as well, even with the wicked winter weather.
“I made sure I threw at least once a week to get a feel for what I had to do,” Carey said.
Carey also spent a lot of time in the batting cages, although that work he did on his own.
“Hitting is not my main focus,” said Carey, who has already signed a national letter of intent to attend Duke University in the fall. “I know that pitching is my future. But I felt good about the way I was hitting the ball. I felt great, both hitting and pitching.”
While his pitching is what garners Carey the most amount of attention, he’s also a very good hitter.
“He’s our most consistent offensive player,” Laguerre said. “He’s too good of an offensive player to not have him in the lineup. He’s done a really nice job swinging the bat.”
Carey had two hits and two RBI in the Marauders’ 17-0 whitewash of defending Ed “Faa” Ford Memorial Hudson County Tournament champion Memorial last Monday and had three hits and two RBI in a win over Ramapo. Carey is hitting a robust .556 this season.
“I’ve always known that I’ve been a pretty good hitter, but I never expected this,” Carey said. “I just try to hit the ball hard and put it in play. I’m very happy with the way I’m hitting.”
But as the season winds down, Carey is more focused on his work as a pitcher.
“I feel like any team I go up against, I have a good chance of winning,” Carey said. “I know most of the teams we’re going to play now. I’m pretty confident and my teammates have my back at all times. I do feel a sense that I need to dominate. I just have to keep a level head and just throw.”
Carey said that he’s worked hard developing a two-seam fastball that has a different kind of movement than his regular fastball or his biting curve and devastating change.
“I am throwing the two-seam fastball inside more and the walks are down,” Carey said. “The first three years, the walks were up, but I’m really happy that the walks are way down. I’m keeping the ball down and the two-seam fastball has become like an out pitch. That’s probably the biggest change I’ve made since last year. I also think I’m hitting my spots more. I just keep doing what I have to do. I think the mental game has helped me as well. I’m getting that first-pitch strike and that’s helped my whole approach.”
In recent games, Carey has been watched religiously by the Major League Baseball scouts, who attend his starts armed with the Juggs radar gun to monitor his velocity. Pundits have projected that Carey could be a draft pick as high as the third round in next month’s MLB Free Agent Amateur Draft.
“I definitely notice them [the scouts] there, but once I get in a groove and get in my rhythm, I don’t pay much attention,” Carey said. “I throw like there’s nobody there. I have to admit that it’s great to see them there.”
“He knows the guns are there,” Laguerre said. “The gun gets to a lot of kids. We don’t say anything to him about it. He knows he’s being watched. He’s throwing in the low 90s [miles per hour on the gun] and throws without a lot of effort.”
Carey said that he does read the articles and posts about the possibility of being drafted.
“I definitely look at those things,” Carey said. “I’m not going to lie. I read everything. But I feel like I have to prove myself every time I go out there. I guess I have to prove myself even more now. As for the draft, I feel whatever happens, happens. I just have to roll with it right now. If the opportunity proves itself to be worthwhile, then it will happen. I’ll do whatever’s best for me. Whatever I choose, I’ll do the right thing.”
Meaning that Carey will wait to see what happens with the draft and listen to the offers. Whatever team takes Carey, they would have to compensate him for his college scholarship, which is worth approximately $250,000.
All in all, it’s been a great senior year for Carey, one that he hopes will end with county and state championships.
“I have to say it’s been a great year,” Carey said. “I’ve had a smile on my face all year. All the hype has really got me going and made me high on baseball. It’s a great feeling. No one is going to take that away from me. I’m having a great year. I’m set on college. When I signed [with Duke in November], it was like a major weight was lifted off my shoulders and helped me relax. It’s been nice going out there every game and my next four years are set. I just hope I can help the team go further than we have.”
Laguerre loves Carey’s approach.
“He just goes about things differently than others,” Laguerre said. “He has a good sense of maturity. He’s handled everything well. He takes ownership of the game when he’s out there.”
And Carey has a chance to go out as one of the best pitchers in Hudson County history, in an area that has been totally rich in pitching talent over the years.
“It’s really been a fun year so far,” Carey said. “I’m not letting anything get to me this year.”
Sounds like a young man with an extremely bright future, one that will either take Jack Carey to major college baseball or a life in professional ball after next month. – Jim Hague.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.