March 8, 2011
Tony Caldwell does not care about numbers. You can tell him that last season was a big statistical year for him. You can tell him that he had a career-high 10 home runs (which he did), that at one point he was riding a career-high eight-game hitting streak (which he did), that he hit .321 against the SEC and finished with a .349 batting average (which he did), that statistically he has improved in every batting category since his freshman year (which he has) and he will still tell you the same thing.
"I'm not really a stats guy," Caldwell said. "I'm just always ready to play and I try to drive in as many runs as I can to help my team win."
Coming off a series win against Radford, in which junior RHP Derek Varnadore threw a two-hit, complete game shutout with 13 strike outs and only two walks. Caldwell credits "Varny" with "the greatest game that I have ever caught" and that it was a lot of fun to watch.
"It's unbelievable, he's remarkable," Caldwell said. "You start the day off, being a catcher, not knowing how the day is going to go and it ends up being one of the easiest days of catching that I have ever had."
He credits Varnadore with being able to hit all his spots and that he delivers well on the three or so pitches that he throws. Caldwell points out that to be in sync with his pitchers, it is important to communicate on the field, but to also develop relationships outside of baseball as well.
"It takes time, but comes naturally after that," Caldwell said. "When we step onto the field, we all are ready to play and we all know that we are trying to accomplish the same mission."
Caldwell started to find his power in 2009, his sophomore year. He was the Tigers' starting catcher for 51 games. He finished with a .281 batting average, nine home runs and 24 RBI. When asked where it came from, he credited the summer he spent in the Cape Cod League.
"I saw a lot of different competition and some really good pitchers," Caldwell said. "I came back to Auburn with the mentality that I was going to work hard to get my chance and hopefully more starts."
Caldwell enrolled at Auburn in January of 2008 and joined the team immediately. He was both eager and ready to get a shot with the team. Sometimes for a college athlete, the transition from living at home to being on his or her own can be a tough one, but it did not take long for him to get used to Auburn.
"Since my first day here it has felt like home," Caldwell said. "I knew it was the right place for me. When all is said and done, I could see myself settling down right back here."
In high school, Caldwell participated in three different sports. He played baseball, football and wrestled. In 2007, his most decorated year, he claimed the Orlando Sentinel Seminole County Player of the Year, was First Team All-Central Florida and First Team All-Conference and All-County for baseball. In football, he led his team in tackles giving him First Team Orlando Sentinel Seminole County honors. Playing multiple sports enabled him to claim the title of Winter Springs High School Male Athlete of the Year.
"It was a fun high school career," Caldwell said. "I had a lot of friends because I played so many sports and the help given to me from my father and brothers helped in raising me as a pretty tough kid."
Caldwell also credits his maturity and fundamental progression to the tutelage of Bill Selby of whom he met during his summer stint with the Cape Cod League. Selby is a former major league infielder and he taught him that having the right work ethic and attitude goes a long way.
"The things he taught me were significant," Caldwell said. "He taught me things on and off the field. He is the type of guy that when you meet him, you feel like you've known him your whole life."
Caldwell calls Winter Springs, Fla. home, where it is safe to wear sandals year-round. He recalls wearing sandals everywhere, even in the winter, but when he moved here he ended up buying his first pair of winter boots. One of the perks of being so close to Orlando, Fla., is being able to go to the theme parks. Caldwell, when home, tries to get to the parks as much as possible.
"When I can make it home, we go to Disney World, Universal Studios and others," Caldwell said. "It's always fun to get home and go to these places with my family and have a good time."
Caldwell is looking forward to what is hoped will be a great season for the Auburn Tigers. When asked what series he is most looking forward to, he said the series against Arizona State here at Plainsman Park.
"My host family from the Cape Cod League is coming, as well as my family," Caldwell said. "It will be a lot of fun to have us all together."
So far this season, Caldwell leads the team in home runs with two, is fifth on the team with seven RBI, third on the team with nine runs and is sporting a slugging percentage of .425, but do not bother telling Caldwell what his statistics are because he is just here to play ball.
by Michael Stagno, Auburn Media Relations
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