By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
Caleb Garton, a pitching mainstay for the Joplin Miners in American Legion baseball this summer, signed a letter of intent with Wentworth Military Academy & College on Friday night.
Joe Aull, the Red Dragons’ head coach, came from Lexington (Mo.) for the signing ceremony at the Joplin Holiday Inn.
NJCAA Division II Wentworth will be entering its second season of baseball under Aull.
Aull said athletics were reinstated at the college before the 2011-12 season. The return has generated enthusiasm, increased enrollment and given the students something to rally around, Aull said.
Aull said he saw Garton pitch early in the American Legion season in the Carl Junction Post 781 Invitational.
Denny Vilela, a Missouri Southern assistant, introduced the right-handed Garton to Aull.
The visit to Lexington went well for both Garton and Aull.
“I’m excited about it,” Garton said. “I decided it (Wentworth) was the place for me. Coach Aull said I probably would be a starting pitcher.”
Said Aull: “We’re counting on Caleb to be one of our starters. He had good control in the game we were able to see. I really was impressed with his temperament on the mound.”
Aull said the Red Dragons finished 4-15 overall last season. Throw in forfeits and they were 8-11, he said.
“We were competitive for a first-year junior college program,” Aull said. “We were thin in pitching. We also want to increase our numbers.”
Aull, retired from public education, is in his third year overall at Wentworth. He played baseball at Westminster of Fulton (Mo.) with a terrific athlete — Arnold “Bake” McBride.
“I hated to reach base ahead of him,” Aull said with a laugh about the future National League Rookie of the Year. “He was so fast. If you were on first and he hit a triple he’d run up your back.”
Caleb, who estimated his size as 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, is the son of Cindy and Greg Garton. He’s unsure of a major.
Said Miners coach Drew Schulte: “Caleb is having a great summer. He’s pitching well. He throwing strikes. He has three pitches — the fastball, curve and change — and he’s been using them effectively. We’re excited about his collegiate future.”
Said Joplin High School coach Kirk Harryman: “Caleb is a good person. I’m happy for him. He’s very competent in throwing his curve and change for strikes. The ability to change speeds makes him effective.”
Garton is 8-1 with a 2.75 ERA. He’s struck out 45 in 43 1/3 innings.