To truly understand the type of ballplayer Josh Sue is, ask the head coach about one particular mound visit from his catcher this past season.
“We were playing Memorial, the bases were loaded with less than two outs and Josh called time,” Ryan Smith recalls. “He went to the mound and stayed there until the umpire had to come out and get him. To make a grown man calling balls and strikes come get you… that’s a leader. That day, I saw his feel for the game go to the next level.”
That was the Josh Sue everyone knew at Clovis East: a catcher dedicated to his teammates and the first to lift his guys up, even to the point where umpires had to intervene.
“When you get on the field with your team, they are your brothers,” Sue says. “When the game goes sideways, it’s up to me to let them know we’re still in it.”
The leadership from Sue stems from his work ethic, a quality Smith saw firsthand in each of the three seasons he coached him.
“From when I first worked with him [in 2018], he never complained, always did what was asked and he knew everyone was looking at him as the catcher, and he took that seriously,” Smith said.
Sue has always been one to stand out, even in his family. He grew up the youngest of three children, in a family that predominantly played soccer. His father and older brother were proficient in the sport, yet Sue felt baseball was more his cup of tea.
And if baseball was his cup of tea, then catching was the straw that stirred his drink.
Sue started catching while playing at Reyburn Intermediate, and that became his sole position in high school, thanks to a keen observation made by his head coach.
“Coach Smith did not know I could catch until he saw me wheeling around a catcher’s bag during summer practice before my sophomore year,” Sue remembers. “ He was like, ‘Why do you carry that thing around?’ and when I told him, he put me behind the plate from that point forward.”
After splitting time between JV and varsity teams in his sophomore year, Sue played in all but five innings during his junior and senior seasons for varsity at Clovis East, with every start being at catcher. In his first full season in 2019, Sue batted .326 and drove in nine RBIs, showing an ability to hit balls into the gaps and make hard contact.
Sue was not only productive at the plate, but behind it as well; he learned how to control many aspects of the game defensively.
“When you are warming up between innings, a good throwdown can limit the other team’s running game,” Sue says. “During the game, when you make your first throwdown, you don’t even have to get the guy out. If it’s good enough, the other team will think twice before stealing.”
More so than intimidating opponents with his cannon, he was great about comforting pitchers with words. That comes with the relationships he built with them over many years.
“I’ve caught Tyler [Parker] since 7th grade, and I caught Gio [Hellmuth] during travel ball,” Sue recounts. “I have played with Elijah [Acosta] since little league back in first grade.”
Through the years, Sue’s relationship with his pitchers off the field has led to success on the field, if only because he and his pitchers can practically read each other’s minds.
“I know what they are thinking, what pitches they like to throw and when,” Sue explains. “It allows us to switch up the game plan once in a while to keep the batter guessing.”
Such a connection beckons to mind Smith’s story of Sue keeping the game under control. It’s an ability that Sue possesses, one that carried over into multiple sports during his high school career.
Sue played football through all four years at Clovis East, primarily at quarterback, which provided Sue insight into how he plays baseball.
“Playing quarterback was a lot like being a catcher, because you are a field general and you need to know everyone’s positions and where everyone is at,” Sue said. “The mentality to grind it out is the same.”
It was challenging at times for Sue to balance both sports, given each of their time commitments, but Sue was an invaluable leader on both teams and well-respected by teammates.
“I teach all seniors and I had a lot of his football teammates in class,” Smith retells, “and a lot of them were saying how he was the heart of their team. That’s just indicative of who Josh is.”
Sue was primed for a solid senior season in baseball and got off to a hot hitting start in 2020, especially in clutch situations; he hit a team-high eight RBIs when in a two-out, two-strike approach.
Before Sue and the 4-4 Clovis East squad could gather momentum into league play, the season was canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were a few minor adjustments away from being a successful team,” Sue said. “I am disappointed about the cancelation, because I played with that group for so long and I had faith that we could be great.”
The shortened season has taken away the chance for numerous high school seniors to display their talent and garner attention from colleges. Coach Smith was afraid Sue would not get the chance at the next level that he deserved.
“Luckily, one of our assistant coaches [Justin Hinojosa] went to La Sierra, and he saw something in Josh that he thought their coaches would like,” Smith said. “Josh put a video together and sent it to them, and it worked.”
The video was enough to convince La Sierra to sign Josh Sue on April 27, meaning his baseball journey will continue down in Riverside, CA.
“La Sierra seems like a good opportunity and a great environment,” Sue said. “I like coach [Gabe] Gamboa and the program he has down there, and I don’t want to miss out.”
Despite new beginnings coming next season at La Sierra, Clovis East will always hold a place near and dear to Sue’s heart, because of the community that extended its heart to him.
‘When you are at the plate in the most crucial situations, and everyone in the dugout or the stands is supporting you, you never feel alone,” Sue says, “because you know they’ll love you no matter what.”