There are few things more frustrating than being limited or prevented from doing something you love.
Robbie Carvelli fought that battle last spring and much of the summer courtesy of a nagging hamstring strain. Carvelli, by the way, catches the eyes of observers for many things, but his speed is certainly in the forefront of that equation. He’s run a 6.46 60-yard dash. For the record, that’s blazing.
So, bursting out of the batter’s box on a batted ball, turning second hard as you race first-to-third on a single, scoring easily from second on a single or chasing down a shot in the gap become significant uphill climbs with leg issues. Carvelli simply chose to battle through.
“I hit a ball in the gap during a Diamond Jacks inter-squad scrimmage in the spring and, as I was rounding first base, I hurt my hamstring,” said Carvelli. “I took my high school preseason scrimmages off, but once the season started, I just played through it.”
Carvelli had transferred last year from Group 4 powerhouse Hunterdon Central to Non-Public stronghold St. Joseph (Metuchen) and, despite the preseason injury, the sophomore found himself smack in the middle of the Falcons’ lineup.
“I was a little nervous being a sophomore on varsity,” said Carvelli of his new baseball environment. “Once I got past that, I started hitting the ball well. And coach (Mike) Murray helped get me out of an early slump.”
When Carvelli started hitting he just kept hitting. Batting third in a talented St. Joseph lineup, the Flemington resident batted .380 with 30 hits, eight extra-base hits, scored 16 runs and drove home another 16 runs. Those are breakout numbers for a sophomore playing for a frontline Greater Middlesex Conference club.
“Coach Murray saw me in the preseason and saw what I was capable of,” said Carvelli. And Murray hadn’t yet seen a healthy Carvelli at St. Joe’s.
“Robbie had a great sophomore year,” says Murray, whose team would win the much-coveted Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament championship in 2021. “He battled that pulled hammy for the full season. I can’t wait to see him with no restrictions. He’s an All-State level outfielder. He can really run, plays good defense and can hit. He’s a complete player. He very matter-of-fact goes about his work.”
Murray found he could rely on Carvelli last spring, often batting him third in his lineup. “He was great in the GMC tournament,” said Murray. “He hit close to .500 in the tournament. He hits high level pitching and he has a knack for big moments. He went 2-for-3 in the semifinals against Edison and he hit a home run in the round of 16.” St. Joseph (18-11) would defeat South Brunswick, 2-0, in the GMC final.
Pushing through the injury last spring caught up to Carvelli as his summer season with the Diamond Jacks Super 16U team kicked off in late June.
“I was hurt for the first part of the summer and had a rough start,” said Carvelli. “I started doing a lot better in the middle of the summer.”
As difficult as the spring and summer had been for Carvelli, his playing at less than 100 percent didn’t cause Division 1 scouts to avert their eyes. The 5-11, 175-pound outfielder was still drawing interest from a number of schools. They knew a good ball player when they saw one and, fortunately, Carvelli’s abilities in the outfield and at the plate were not overtly hindered by his hamstring strain.
Prep Baseball Report, in fact, would file this report on Carvelli from a June 19 showcase, just two weeks after he concluded his 2021 high school season:
“Carvelli has a wiry, athletic build at 5-11, 170 pounds. Recorded a top exit velocity of 97 MPH, one of the tops at the event. At the plate, starts tall with his feet even. Hands are by his head with only a slight movement directly backwards. Small leg kick. Is able to generate easy gap-to-gap power from a compact stroke. Extension through the zone. Recorded a top throwing velo of 84 MPH in the OF. Calm approach to the ball, secures the ball first. Uses a hop step and a shuffle before making throws.”
Carvelli was indeed drawing eyes and he was particularly intrigued by one school he had contact with as early as April. That was Lehigh University.
“They reached out to coach ‘Ditro (Steve DiTrolio) and, after that, I had two phone calls with coach Miller,” said Carvelli of Lehigh’s assistant coach and recruiting coordinator A.J. Miller. “That was definitely cool. I didn’t know much about Lehigh at that point other than it was a great academic school.”
Carvelli visited Lehigh with his parents in the summer before he received an official visit in September.
“I got to meet the coaching staff,” said Carvelli. “I liked them a lot. It seems like they have a good vision for the program, where they want it to go.” Lehigh certainly has an experienced staff, steered by head coach Sean Leary who is beginning his 27th season at the Bethlehem, Pa. school.
Carvelli gave his verbal to Lehigh in late September, shortly after making the transition to fall ball and moving up to the Diamond Jacks Super 17U squad.
“I felt like I could do a lot more running in the fall,” said Carvelli. “I really had no issues with the hamstring at that point. The fall went really well and I played well on our Florida trip.”
Carvelli saw plenty of action this summer and fall at all three outfield positions, which should serve him well his next two high school seasons and for what lies ahead collegiately. Hard work has always seemed to be an important part of the equation for Carvelli, especially at this critical juncture with his winter training regimen.
“I hit six or seven days a week, a few of them at Diamond Nation,” says Carvelli, “and I’m lifting three-to-four times a week. The plan is to get to 180 pounds. I feel strong. My coaches want me to get a little bigger.”
Carvelli is in good hands with coach Murray at St. Joe’s and has benefited from a very strong and diverse group of coaches at Diamond Nation.
“Coach Travis (Anderson) has helped me mature a lot,” said Carvelli of Diamond Nation’s On-Field Coordinator and catching guru. “Coach Travis is really tough on you, but when you look back on what he taught you, you really appreciate it.”
Carvelli has also worked extensively with Walter Cleary, Diamond Nation’s 14U-18U coordinator, when Cleary was coaching the younger Diamond Jack teams.
“I played for coach Walt for three years and worked with him in the cages for five years, and still do now every once in a while,” said Carvelli.
Cleary remembers Carvelli’s first days as a Diamond Jack.
“I remember the first practice Robbie came to Diamond Nation,” says Cleary. “He was 12 years old and wore knee high pants with ankle socks. It was definitely a look. But it’s been a pleasure to get to know him and his family over the years and watch him grow to the point he committed to Lehigh.
“I was his first coach on Super 12U and had the opportunity to coach him again on Super 14U. We’ve worked consistently with his hitting. He’s always willing to put in the extra work. He’s a great kid with great ability and a great work ethic.”
Carvelli’s work this winter will realize its first tangible results in early spring when he and his St. Joseph teammates take the field for the first time. St. Joe’s is a team loaded with current Diamond Jacks, including pitchers Donovan Zsak, a Virginia commit, and Jimmy Mulvaney (Fairfield), catcher Mark Gialluisi (Boston College) and infielders Christian Azcona (Eastern Kentucky) and Matt Kosuda.
“Robbie is in with a group of kids that are putting in the work while they are a little under the radar on and off the field,” says Murray. “He came here as a sophomore and missed a week or two of scrimmages with that hammy. I give him credit. He never used it as an excuse. His speed is such a big part of his game and he didn’t get to take advantage of that last year. When he has a chance to open up, he’s a game-wrecker.
“On top of that, he works hard, he’s been a Diamond Jack a long time and he’s put some serious hitting training in. He’s put together as a player and has a high baseball IQ and that comes through in meaningful ways.”
The 2022 season is certainly shaping up in a very meaningful way for Robbie Carvelli.