It’s important to be competitive, but don’t let the competitiveness suck the fun from playing the sport because you won’t be playing this sport forever.
Even with his career cut short, missing his junior season due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kevin Cao’s production on the North baseball team has been nothing short of astounding. Through the ups and downs of the team’s performance, Cao has consistently cut through the crowd to emerge as a truly outstanding teammate and player. The following is an interview conducted with Cao, in which he reflected on his career as it comes to a close.
- How would you describe your athletic career at North? What is your best memory and experience?
“My baseball career at North was quite a rollercoaster. There was a lot of uncertainty regarding the baseball season; having had three different head coaches for each year that I played, in addition to the pandemic cancelling my junior year season, there’s obviously a large element of unpredictability in my high school playing career. In spite of the volatility of the baseball program, it was generally a fantastic experience. I had a lot of fun playing and competing alongside my teammates, many of whom I played with ever since I moved here at age eight. Moreover, it was a tremendous experience watching the younger players grow, mature, and develop into better people and better players.
There is not really any one particular “best” memory and experience. It was all a fun time, besides core workouts in the winter of course. Some good memories include:
- Beating South in the first game of my senior year season.
- The time that I ignored a bunt sign (bunting is stupid) and got my first varsity hit during my freshman year. The coaches were obviously pissed, but in the moment, I honestly didn’t care.
- Batting practice in general. I like hitting bombs and having my teammates shag them in the outfield. The reverse also applies. Even though I’m not much of an outfielder, I enjoy running after fly balls that my teammates hit during practice.”
- How did you get started in baseball?
“I got started in baseball when I was 5. I don’t exactly know how it started, but I got hooked on watching the Yankees play on TV for some reason. This was back in 2009, so there was a lot of hype in New Jersey surrounding the Yankees and the Phillies, who both had stacked teams back then. I loved watching players like Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Johnny Damon play, and I even went to Citizens Bank Park to watch Game 5 of the 2009 World Series. The hype surrounding the sport persuaded me to sign up for the little league, which further galvanized my interest and convinced me to stick with the sport.”
- How would you describe your style of play?
“For most of my high school baseball career, my hitting approach was simply trying to swing for the fences (think David Ortiz). This has been my approach for basically my entire life, and it produces a lot of home-runs, warning-track doubles, and flyouts. The only exception to this was during the second half of my senior year, when I decided to just go for line-drive singles. This approach definitely worked, given that I hit .667 for the duration, though I didn’t hit for as much power as before.”
4. Is there a message you’d like to send to your teammates? What about to incoming players?
“I would tell my teammates to not make baseball too big of a deal. Statistically, every baseball player is guaranteed to have a rough streak, and that’s unfortunately how the game works. Slumps will seem like the end of the world. I get that most players are laser-focused on getting recruited to college baseball, but, regardless, there will inevitably be a time when every player is going to have to hang up the spikes, whether that’s at age 18, 22, or 40. It’s important to be competitive, but don’t let the competitiveness suck away the fun from playing the sport because you’re not going to be playing this sport forever.
I would tell incoming players two things: have confidence and be comfortable reaching out to upperclassmen. Baseball is more mental than physical, and a big portion of winning the mental battle is to have faith. You don’t need to be able to hit a ball 380 feet or throw 90 mph to be successful at the varsity level, but you most certainly need to be confident at the plate or in the field in order to even have a chance at this level. Also, given that there will be a new coach next season, the upperclassmen will be the best resource for any new players. It might be intimidating to approach them, but having played with these guys for my last years of high school baseball, I can affirm that they are definitely a helpful source of guidance.”
Cao’s Senior Portrait
As his career with North’s baseball program comes to a close, friends, teammates, and fans will not forget Cao’s ability, drive, and love for the game.