UConn catcher Pavone battles back from injury
Joe Pavone celebrates a home run with Jon Testani against Seton Hall on April 1. Pavone has returned to the team after injuring his knee last year. ROB SARGENT/The Daily Campus
For red-shirt senior catcher Joe Pavone, it has been a roller coaster to reach this point in his career, and right now it looks like the ride is on its way back up.
Pavone, who is from Rochester, N.Y. and recently finished his master's degree in accounting, sat out all of last year's historic campaign due to a knee injury, as the 2011 Huskies were the first team from the school to ever make it to the NCAA Super Regional stage - the Sweet 16 of baseball.
"It was tough but it was good to watch us win," Pavone said. "And it was really exciting to at least be a part of it. Coach let me be in the dugout and everything like that so that was awesome to be part of it, but you obviously want to be in there, everyone wants to play."
Prior to the knee injury, Pavone was a solid bat for the Huskies and a fantastic defensive player behind the plate, as he hit .273 during his junior season in and fielded at a .988 clip while splitting the catching duties with red-shirt junior Doug Elliot.
Those numbers and the ones he posted in his first two seasons in a UConn uniform earned Pavone a trip to Cape Cod, as the Chatham Anglers of the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League offered him an invitation to play in the summer of 2010, an opportunity he relishes.
"I thought it was really cool I mean, you're facing some of the best kids in the country every night on the mound so you had to be that much more locked in to play, and I got to hit a little bit," Pavone said.
Pavone did more than just a little hitting in his time on the Cape, as he managed a .290 average in the wood bat league - a number that was good enough to earn him a trip to Boston's Fenway Park for the league's All-Star Game.
"It was really cool. You get to see it on TV, but you appreciate it much more when you're on the field playing," Pavone said of playing in the historic park.
Now, he has continued to swing the bat well, as he is currently hitting .290 during this year's campaign while splitting duties behind the plate with freshman Alex DeBellis, and coach Jim Penders thinks his stay in Chatham is a big reason for the continued success.
"With him it was a greater confidence," Penders said. "He went down there and I think he was expecting to kind of be a No. 2 catcher, he wound up hitting really well and becoming a Cape Cod League All-Star. You do that at that high level and you know you can play with anybody in the country."
In addition to his on the field play, Penders has been impressed with Pavone off the field in his time at Connecticut, and how he has grown into a leadership role on the team.
"He's done a really good job of handling adversity and I think he's set a very good example for our guys on how to work...He leads by example," Penders said. "He's also not afraid though if he sees something, you know, he does it in a quiet way. He's not into embarrassing a guy, but he'll bring him on the side and talk to him afterwards. He's been very helpful with our freshman catchers too...He's just an old-school Western New Yorker who knows how to work hard. He's a great student too; he leads us in the classroom."
Pavone has missed the last several games, including a series against Rutgers this past weekend, due to a hamstring injury, but Penders seemed certain of one thing: he'll work hard to get back into the starting lineup as soon as possible, that's just the kind of kid he is.
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