Upton accepts leadership role at Hinds

Published 12:02am Sunday, March 16, 2014

RAYMOND— Caleb Upton has one of the “sweetest” swings Cathedral High school baseball coach Craig Beesley has ever seen.

The former Green Wave star’s swing helped him play in 41 games and amass 42 hits as a freshman at Hinds Community College last season. But before the season began, Upton was contemplating his decision to play baseball instead of football, wondering if he made a mistake.

“I didn’t think I was going to crack the lineup,” Upton said. “I worked hard, even harder than I did in high school. It was a total change from high school actually. In college, it’s a 24/7 type of thing.”

Once the thought of sitting the bench in junior college set in, Upton felt he would never play baseball again. As he saw it, his baseball future was in jeopardy, and he started pondering the possibility of playing football at a different college.

“It was a moment where I thought my career was going to come to an end,” Upton said. “I never in my wildest dreams thought it would come to that.”

The once ESPN High School Player of the Week for his 532 passing yards and five scores against Stringer in 2011 didn’t give up. He worked diligently at practice and earned a spot in the lineup.

Along with possessing that great swing Beesley spoke highly of, Upton possessed great work ethic. Beesley said his disciplined approach at constantly improving was undoubtedly the best he’s ever seen. Though Upton struggled initially, Beesley had no doubt Upton would eventually succeed.

“I felt like he would be one of the ones who could adapt his swing because he’s a hard worker and is willing to do whatever it takes to be successful,” Beesley said.

As a sophomore, Upton is one of the leaders of the Hinds baseball team. After hitting .333 as a freshman, Hinds head coach Sam Temple grabbed Upton before the season and told his quiet worker to accept a leadership role in his sophomore campaign.

“That’s one of the things Coach Temple really wanted to see out of him this year,” Beesley said. “He pulled him aside and (Upton) was one of the ones he planned on leading his team.”

So far Upton has been one of Hinds’ hottest hitters. Over the previous weekend, Upton recorded seven hits during the course of two days, playing games against Kishwaukee College in Illinois and Arkansas Baptist. He even hit his first home run of his junior college career against Arkansas Baptist. The home run was crucial, as it tied the game in the seventh inning.

“We actually lost the lead the inning before, so we were down 10-9 with me leading off in the bottom of the seventh,” Upton said. “The second pitch in the at-bat I connected.”

Luckily for Upton, he never had to transfer and chase a football career after failing to pursue a baseball one. His pride has him believing that he could have made a team, but he’s proud of the way things have turned out. Still, he can’t help but reminisce about playing baseball and quarterback for the Green Wave in high school.

“I actually do miss it a lot,” Upton said. “I went through a time during my freshman year where I would just see those lights come on at the football field and think about Friday nights again.”