By Rick Assad
Jimmy Cafferty will be a senior in the fall and is expected to be a leader on the Burbank High baseball team.
That’s a little bit of pressure and some would shy away from the role, but the pitcher/first baseman is more than capable of handling the assignment.
Cafferty’s rise in prominence is based on a solid season on the mound in which he posted an earned-run average below 1.00 across 37 innings along with 64 strikeouts.
Though Cafferty didn’t hit as well as he would have liked, his future’s still bright and with time, feels certain that he’s going to improve.
“I am glad that Coach [Bob] Hart considers me as a leader because I am excited to lead this great group of guys towards a [Pacific] League championship next season,” he said. “I look forward to all the challenges of leading my team on and off the field.”
Hart has been the Bulldogs head man for many years and knows when he has something special. You can’t teach leadership. You either have it or you don’t.
“Jimmy’s a solid left-handed pitcher who holds himself to a high standard and should have a big impact on our season,” he said. “A quiet leader, Jimmy has the ability to impact his team with his performance and with his leadership. I anticipate he’s up for the challenge.”
Burbank had a fine 2022 season in which it went 15-9 and 10-4 for third place in the league.
Cafferty wasn’t surprised the Bulldogs were more than respectable and had wins over Crescenta Valley 2-0 on the road and at home 2-1 against rival Burroughs, a team that won the CIF Southern Section Division V title game.
“This team was special because we had great leadership from our seniors and our coaching staff came up with good game plans,” said Cafferty, who was voted the school’s scholar-athlete and was named co-Pitcher of the Year along with Daniel Neria and Josh DiPietro. “Our pitching staff kept us in every game this year and we had timely hits when we needed them.”
Neria respected Cafferty and thinks he’s going to be a fine leader next season.
“I’m glad that I’m passing the torch over to him,” he said. “He’s more than capable of leading Burbank to a Pacific League and CIF championship. All the work he’s done last year really impressed me and I can’t wait to see what he does again this year.”
Cafferty, who was called up to the varsity for the playoffs as a sophomore, was on the mound during the Bulldogs’ final game this campaign, a Division IV wild-card match in which the Bulldogs lost 4-0 to California.
“Pitching the last game of the year was a great learning experience. It was good to know the coaches had that confidence in me,” he said. “When I have the opportunity next season, I want the outcome to change. All the work we do as a team will lead to that outcome.”
As a pitcher, Cafferty controls the tempo of the game and it’s something he enjoys.
“When I am on the mound facing really good teams, I have to trust my stuff and the work I put in during the season and throughout the whole off-season,” he said. “Facing a really good team is what every pitcher lives for.”
At home plate, it’s a completely different matter for Cafferty.
“In the batter’s box, you can’t think too much, and you have to rely more on the work you put in every day at practice. Hitting is all about the approach you have,” he noted. “Hunting the fastball and thinking every pitch is a strike until it isn’t, is what I think about up to bat.”
Cafferty tried to explain what it’s like in pressure situations.
They can be nerve wracking, but it’s important to get through them and maintain a level of confidence.
“Yes, it is better not to over think when you are on the mound or up to bat,” Cafferty said. “The work put in at practice and in the off-season will translate to success when pitching or hitting.”
While Cafferty likes the challenges of pitching and being in control of the game, it’s just as rewarding to be an every-day player.
“I enjoy playing the field because then I get to hit in the lineup every game,” he said. “Pitching is my favorite thing to do on the field because I love the mental and physical competition that the pitcher goes through with every hitter. As the pitcher, the whole game is in your hands and if you do your job, you can give your team a fighting chance in the game.”
Since there is more failure in baseball than many other sports, it’s necessary to relax and stay calm.
“When you are slumping, like I was most of last season, you can’t think too much and you have to go back to your approach at the plate,” Cafferty said. “Also putting in work in the cages and going back to the fundamentals of your swing can help you come out of a slump.”
Though talented, Cafferty is also a hard worker. In baseball, and really all sports, it’s necessary.
“I expect the team to work hard every day at practice, so that they can compete at their best in the games,” he said. “I expect myself to push my teammates to be the best version of themselves on and off the field. I also expect this team to compete for a league title this year.”
Players are always talking, and it can help pass the time. And sometimes it can be helpful.
“Some good advice I have been given is to always believe in yourself and your abilities and always practice harder than you play,” Cafferty said. “Remember the two H’s, hustle and hard work.”
So far, this has suited Cafferty. Now he just has to wait for next season and see if the results are there.