It had to be the right fit, and didn’t matter if it was Division I, II or III, no matter what school he picked, he was going to try his hardest to make sure he belonged on their baseball team.
Next year he will have his chance as the Newburgh Free Academy senior has verbally committed to play for the Division II Mercy College Mavericks, beginning in the spring of 2022.
“I can control what I put in,” said Caballero, a shortstop and outfielder for the Goldbacks since he was brought up to the team as a freshman. “I know what I can do. It didn’t matter what school I went to because no matter, where I go, I’m going to try my hardest.”
He had several schools to pick from, but Mercy fit him both academically, socially, and athletically. It has the business/accounting major that he’s planning to take, and he liked the honesty of coach Chris Schoen. Located in Dobbs Ferry, Westchester County, the school is also not that far from home.
“The school focuses on academics first,” Caballero said. “The team GPA is about a 3.6 and they hold study groups and make sure they stay on top of academics. At the end of the day, that’s what college is all about.”
The Mavericks were off to a 3-9 start last year when the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the year before they won 21 games and finished one game out of the East Coast Conference Tournament. He also led the team to back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in program history.
Caballero’s 2020 baseball season was shortened due to the pandemic as his junior spring baseball season was canceled, possibly denying coaches the opportunity to see him play. Beyond that, he was disappointed that he and his Newburgh teammates didn’t get to show what they were building toward in 2020.
“I was a little bummed out because you put in a lot of effort and put in a bunch of work,” Caballero said. “I know we really want it. We wanted to show that we could turn the program around.”
He expects to have the opportunity to show that this spring in a shortened baseball season. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association postponed the start of preseason to April 19, meaning the Goldbacks could play as many as four games every week, and doubleheaders on Saturdays.
“We want to show that we’re a competitive team,” Caballero said. “My senior friends are ready to play and we want to lead the team the right way.”
Newburgh baseball coach Scott Seabury said Caballero is the best athlete the Goldbacks have. Despite his small stature, he is their best outfielder and infielder and right up there with the Goldbacks’ best hitters. He’s probably also their fasted player.
This year, Seabury said he expects to hit him either leadoff or in the heart of the batting order.
He’s the Goldbacks’ shortstop, and anchors the infield, although when he came up to varsity as a freshman, he played center field, but he was such a good outfielder that it was difficult to move him off that spot.
He also works hard at his craft.
“He’s the type of kid that stays after practice almost religiously,” Seabury said. “He takes extra swings. He’s always begging me to take extra swings every practice. I think being able to play multiple positions will help because he can play anywhere in a pinch.”
He said it’s possible without the pandemic he goes on to play at a bigger school, but he has no regrets about where he’s going.
“I never want to make excuses about why I’m here,” Caballero said. “I want to prove that I belong there and that I can play baseball forever.”