Carter Sears, 2016, Archbishop Spalding High School
by Pat O’Malley
No high school catcher in our Baltimore metro area has ever thrown out 17 would-be stealers and picked off another three runners in a single season and caught a total of 40 base runners stealing over a three-year period as former Archbishop Spalding catcher Carter Sears did.
A born leader and simply a natural handler of pitchers who always played hard, it’s an understatement to say that Sears was a pitching coach on the field for Spalding, the most dominant high school baseball team in terms of consecutive (3) and a total of MIAA A Conference titles (4) over the last decade. Joe Palumbo has been the Cavs’ coach since 2013 and in his second season, he commenced the three-peat after his dad, Jeff Palumbo led Spalding to an overall 22-5 record and the A Conference crown, the school’s first.
Sears anchored the Archbishop Spalding team from 2014 through 2016 during the Cavaliers’ MIAA A Conference dominating three-peat. Carter was the backbone and is the VSN’s No. 2 Catcher of the Decade (2010-11 school year to 2019-20).
“Carter was the unsung hero of our 2014-2016 MIAA A Conference championships’ run,” said the younger Coach Palumbo. “As the starting catcher on all three championship teams, he was vital to the success of our pitching staff and defense as a whole. He also provided true leadership to our program with his toughness and team first mentality.
“When you add that he was one of the best defensive catchers that you will see at the high school level, as well as a productive offensive one, he was a player we were certainly lucky to have at Spalding. Throwing out 40 runners over his three-year varsity career is an incredible number. He threw out 65 percent of the runners who attempted to steal on him.”
Palumbo guided the Cavs to a cumulative 76-12 (.864) record and the VSN Top 20 No. 1 ranking during the three-peat seasons. Carter was the quarterback to use a football term to describe his signal calling and his leadership that included his defense, short arm action that enabled him to get rid of the baseball to a given base in 1.95 seconds and his baseball savvy and mentality that his pitchers trusted.
Coaches long for catchers who know to handle a pitching staff, so they don’t wear out a path to the bump to chat with their hurlers. A coach is very fortunate when he knows that his guy with all the gear on knows what he is talking about as Sears did.
“We didn’t have to worry about base runners with Carter back there,” said ace left-hander Tyler Blohm, who was 22-2 during the three-peat, and is currently pitching at the University of Maryland. “Teams didn’t try to run on him because he was so quick.”
The Spalding faithful and reporters were often treated to Sears throwing to a base while on his knees and nailing the runner with a strong perfect throw or watching him dig a ball out of the dirt and fire to a base while totally off balance. His play behind the dish cutting down opponents was often inspiring to his teammates, especially if it was the final out of an inning or killing a big threat. It was obvious that Sears detested base thieves with a passion.
Blohm used to say that he relied on Sears and his ability to set up batters by calling pitches and the outstanding, sylish southpaw rarely shook off his battery-mate. Sears played a role in Blohm’s incredible senior season that saw him strike out 103 batters and walk only 13 in 66 innings.
While Sears’ defense and mental approach was his forte, he also contributed offensively, especially in crucial situations. Sears was named the Baltimore Sun’s All-Metro catcher in 2016 and was a two-time All-MIAA A Conference selection.
“What also stands out to me is that Carter always stepped up offensively when it mattered,” said coach Palumbo, a former Washington Post All-Metro shortstop at DeMatha. “I will never forget his four-hit game and RBI streak during out 2016 playoff run to the MIAA A Conference Championship.”
Spalding captured the third consecutive MIAA A crown with a 5-3 victory over VSN No. 10 ranked Gilman.
Sears batted .367 his junior year, but fell off to .314 in his final season. However, in his senior season he increased his RBI total to 28 giving him over 50 in his last two years. After completing his career at Spalding, Sears played in the 35th annual Brooks Robinson All-Star Game at Camden Yards following the Baltimore Orioles/Toronto Blue Jays’ game.
The Spalding trio of Sears, Blohm and centerfielder Billy Godrick stole the show at Oriole Park.
The South won the game by 5-2 over the North as Blohm notched the win with two scoreless innings, pitching to Sears who caught the entire game. Blohm was named the South MVP while VSN 10-year Anniversary outfielder, Billy Godrick was the Most Valuable Offensive Player with two hits, including a solo home run.
“The three of us played together for about 10 years from youth baseball and high school at Spalding, and the way we went out was special,” said Sears. “There were a few other guys on the team who also played all the way up with us.”
On National Signing Day in November of 2015, the Sears-Blohm-Godrick trio joined three other Cavalier teammates in commiting to college to study and play baseball. The Cav trio signed with Division 1 schools in Sears (James Madison), Blohm (Maryland) and Godrick (Fordham) and a fourth player, shortstop David Harding (Princeton) did likewise.
Two others in outfielders LaVale Hodges (University of South Carolina-Aiken) and Zach Thompson (St. Mary’s College) committed to DII and DIII schools for the total of six players.
Sears only played one year with the JMU Dukes and gave it up.
“Carter earned a baseball scholarship to James Madison University, but he stepped away from the game to focus on his academics after one year,” said Palumbo, who won’t ever forget what Sears did for him and Archbishop Spalding baseball program.
“I will never forget watching Carter catch and throw from the catching position. It was truly fun to watch.”