In 2014 Camden was given the honor of throwing out the first pitch during the Merrimac baseball league’s opening day ceremony because he was the youngest player that year. He was understandably a bit overwhelmed with all the attention and succumbed to stage fright and his mom ended up throwing out the first pitch. We finished up the rest of the ceremony, lined up for free hot dogs and his baseball career was underway. The first two years of t-ball seemed to fly by and then it was time for player pitch.
Due to his birthday he ended up playing with kids in the next grade level up and this trend continued for the next couple years. He managed to do all right while playing with the older kids, but definitely struggled at times especially with batting. It was about this time that he was either hit by a pitch or was almost hit by a pitch and started flinching every time he went to bat, this had a dramatic impact on his ability to hit the ball. Several years passed before he was able to catch up to pitches again even with the flinch.
In 2018 a few of the younger kids moved up to the minors early and Camden was included in the group. It was very exciting that he got to play at the minors and definitely learned a lot playing up, but he really struggled at the plate. Despite the struggles in the first year having that extra year really paid off because in his third year of minors he had a .458 batting average and also had a great year on the mound.
Every year our league will offer some form of summer tournament baseball and we always jumped at the chance to have the kids play a little more. It usually meant a few games in early July across the river and most games were at the end of the day so it wasn’t too much. At first Camden enjoyed summer baseball, but again since his birthday was earlier than everybody else in his grade it meant that he always had to play up and this started to be a problem as he sometimes struggled playing with the older kids. Summer ball combined with the new winter clinic programs offered by the league meant that baseball now started in January and ended in late July, which ended up just being too much for Camden. It was hard to see him be less excited about baseball so I decided it was time to scale back a little and focus on just finishing out his last two years in the league without all the extra stuff.
The first year at the majors level was a bit of an adjustment, but it was fun playing with the older kids one last time. Camden didn’t get to pitch at all and did OK hitting, but it wasn’t a banner year for him. For the team it was a nailbiter of a season because despite how good they were on paper they kept losing every game right up until the season finale where they won decisively 10-1 against Groveland.
His 9th and final season of Merrimac Baseball got off to a bit of a bumpy start. He got a great hit in his first at bat, and came in to pitch with no outs and the bases loaded in the 4th. He got the first batter to a full count and then walked him to bring in a run. The next batter got to a full count and then struck out for the first out of the inning. The second out then came on a fly ball to left field. Two pitches later a ground ball was hit right back to him at the mound, which he scooped up and threw by the first baseman and into right field, scoring three runs. The next batter got a single, which ended the inning because of the five-run rule. It was tough and really set the tone for the first half of the season. He got to pitch a couple more times, but never made it to three outs and also struggled batting. I think a lot of it was that he was rusty because he hadn’t done the winter clinics and also stopped doing summer ball. On the bright side he never complained about having to go to practice or games as he had in the past. As the season wore on he started batting lower in the order and spending more time on the bench. In the 8th game of the season he batted last and sat on the bench for three innings and afterwards he was pretty down about the situation. We talked a bit about it and even went to the batting cages to help work on his hitting. I chatted with the coach about it, because it was hard to see his last season ending this way.
When we showed up for the next game the coach told Camden he would be the starting pitcher and batting fifth. He was really nervous about pitching because at this point he hadn’t pitched for a few weeks. The coach reassured him that no matter what happened he would wake up the next morning and go to school, which seemed to help the nerves. He went out there and struck out the first two batters, walked one and then ended the inning with a strike out of the fourth batter. I will never forget the smile and happiness on his face at that moment as he walked off the mound. After all these years of practicing and playing games he finally got his chance to shine in the majors. He came back to the mound the next inning and struck out two for a 1-2-3 inning. In the third he walked a couple batters and gave up a hit and a couple runs, but managed strike out two and got out of the inning. He led off 5th inning with a hit, stole two bases and then scored a run. The team lost 7-3, but Camden’s love of baseball returned.
The rest of the season went pretty well and against all odds the team made it all the way to the semi-finals. Camden pitched a few times and did fairly well against some really good teams. The last game ended up being at home under the lights and it was a great way to wrap up the season and Camdens’s career. It seemed like a lot of times over the years he would always come up to bat with two outs and more often than not he would get the third out, and in some cases this mean would be for the last out of the game. I would even start looking ahead in the lineup as we got to the end of the game to see if he was going to get into this spot. Of course in his final at bat in his final game he came up to bat with two outs in the bottom of the 5th inning and I was a nervous wreck. He swung at the first pitch and knocked it deep into center field for a really long single. It was a fantastic way to end the long nine year journey from that first pitch on opening day all the way to the majors playoff run.
I know that it he is now going to focus on soccer and probably won’t step foot on a baseball diamond again, but it has been amazing seeing him learn such a complicated sport and to play over 130 games in 9 years.