Getting to Know Lynchburg’s Jodd Carter

At the age of 17, Jodd Carter joined the rookie level Arizona Indians for his first taste of professional baseball. Selected in the 24th round of the 2014 first year player draft, Carter was following in the footsteps of other recent Hawaiians who have entered professional baseball. This includes friends he grew up playing ball with in the Hilo area, most notably Kolten Wong of the St. Louis Cardinals, Kean Wong (Kolten’s younger brother), and Kodi Medeiros (who is currently pitching for the Carolina Mudcats, also in the High-A Carolina League).

Now 20 years old, Carter reflected back on his start in professional baseball.

“It was a big step for me,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting all the international players when I first got there [to Arizona], but they all welcomed me.”

Like most baseball players, the game was part of his family growing up. He started baseball at around 3 years old, playing for clubs run by his father and grandfather. As he got older, he came to love baseball even more.

“Just the competition,” said Carter about why he enjoys baseball so much. “Baseball brings out the best of you. It’s the only sport where you can fail seven out of ten times and still have a job.”

Baseball is very popular in Hawaii and for Carter, ability and performance drove him to continue with baseball as opposed to pursuing other sports.

“It’s one of those sports where height doesn’t matter,” he shared. “In basketball, you’ve got to be taller. In Hawaii, we don’t have too many big players.”

At 5’10” and 170 lbs., Carter is not big. Lean and muscled, he has some power and some speed. His ten home runs are second on the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats team, and while in high school, he ran a 6.5 second 60-yard dash for scouts, grading out at 7 on the 2-8 scouting scale.

He started attending baseball showcases in the eighth grade, first on Oahu in Hawaii, and then more often in California and Arizona. In 9th grade, he traveled with team Hawaii to the fall classic. His performance received notice by scouts putting him in a position to be drafted.

It also helped that scouts were coming to Hawaii to watch Kean Wong and Kodi Medeiros. This led to Carter getting drafted and passing on offers to play at the University of Hawaii or Central Arizona to begin his career in the Cleveland farm system.

“I just thought, coming out of high school, it would give me more time to develop in pro ball. I just wanted to start my career.”

Honing his skills against the competition, he has progressed through the lower levels of the Indians system to reach the High-A level. A number of his Hillcats teammates have joined him on this journey, including Willi Castro, Argenis Angulo, and Shao-Ching Chiang.

Asked whether playing with the same teammates over time helped with the Hillcats success, Carter suggested it all starts with the organizational plan that is set out in spring training.

“We all go to spring training together,” he said. “Then it just clicks. Everybody goes out there and takes care of their role. There’s going to be hot players and not-so-hot players. You just need to go out and do what is necessary.”

Last week for Carter, he was one of those hot players.

Named the Carolina League Player of the Week for July 10-16, Carter was on a tear. He hit .454 with three doubles, a triple, and a home run in that span, driving in four runs and scoring three. This capped a strong second half start for the first half Northern Division champion Hillcats, who won seven of their first ten games after the All-Star break. They continue to battle Central Virginia rival Salem for the top spot in the second half standings.

Carter’s hot streak has come while the team overall has hit a cold stretch, dropping five of the last eight games entering play on Wednesday. His success at bat, which led to the weekly award, was the result of capitalizing on his plan at the plate.

“Just hitter’s counts that I got myself into,” said Carter. “Being patient at the plate. Right now, I’m just trying to stick to my routine, not go outside of my approach. I just work on trying to drive the ball to the right side and get on inside pitches, but mainly trying to stay patient.”

Plate discipline is often one of the more difficult elements of hitting to perfect, but Carter continues to come out to the ballpark and work hard every day to master the challenges of facing pitchers throwing 90-mile-per-hour fastballs, or unexpected off-speed pitches. Being part of a winning club always helps.

“When you’re playing on a winning ball club, it makes being on the team more fun,” he said. “Everybody wants to be the best. Having teams come at you makes you play harder.”

With his current hot streak having raised his batting average 20 points to .264, Carter seems to be finding his groove. In addition to the challenges of hitting that come with High-A baseball, the Hillcats outfielders have been rotating through all three outfield positions. On any night, Carter may find himself patrolling right, left, or center field.

“It’s different playing the different positions with the ball coming off the bat at different angles. You just have to do it and get better at it,” he said about shifting between the various outfielders roles. “I feel comfortable playing all three.”

When he is not at the ballpark and wants to relax, he enjoys hanging out with his teammates and playing the popular video game Call of Duty. In the off-season, he prefers a less visual form of relaxation.

“I love to go fishing and camping every weekend.”

For a native Hawaiian, that sounds like quite an enjoyable way to spend down time. With the baseball season in full swing, he has not had the opportunity to find good fishing. Instead, he spends his time practicing his routines and making every effort to translate that practice into effective game performance.

Photo: Jay Westcott/The News and Advance

David Freier was born in Brooklyn New York in 1966 less than a decade after the Dodgers had departed the very same borough. His first professional baseball game was at Yankee stadium and to this day he and his father still argue over who started for the Orioles that day (his father says Mike Cuellar, while he insists it was Jim Palmer). Being a lover of underdogs he naturally became a Mets fan. He grew up in Montclair New Jersey which had the advantage of being home to two baseball legends, Yogi Berra and Larry Doby, as well as having a local college which regularly held baseball card conventions that fed his baseball card hobby. While attending college at the University of Richmond he and some of his friends attended a Richmond Braves game in the then (1985) brand new Diamond stadium, and now home to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. This began what has become a passion for the minor leagues of baseball. During his 10 years as a Richmond resident he and his future wife developed an affinity for the Braves, especially when Richmond fan favorite Francisco Cabrera scored the winning run to knock the Pirates from contention and vault the Braves into the World Series of 1991. During extensive travels he has rooted for the Minnesota Twins, Minneapolis Loons, St. Paul Saints, Iowa Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Erie Sea Wolves, Berkshire Bears and of course the Lynchburg Hillcats. To date he has visited over 110 different baseball parks in which he has seen a game. He joined the Society for American Baseball Research in 2000 and has been a member ever since, where he participates on the Biographical and Minor Leagues committees when time permits. In his day job he is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Science at Lynchburg College in Virginia.

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