Shawn Camp pitched on occasion at Robinson Secondary School, and was a catcher early in his college career.
But as a sophomore at George Mason University, Camp was convinced to become a full-time pitcher. One of the people behind the move was former Mason assistant coach Dayton Moore, now the vice president, baseball operations/general manager for the Kansas City Royals.
"They saw something in my arm," said Camp, also giving credit to long-time Mason head coach Bill Brown. "Dayton is a good guy to see the true talent of a player. He was very bright."
Camp made it to the Major Leagues and is now a right-handed reliever for the Toronto Blue Jays. He was in the region as the Blue Jays finished a series in Baltimore against the Orioles earlier this month, and Camp picked up his second win of the season Sept. 1. He earned two outs without allowing a run or hit against the Birds in the seventh inning in an 8-6 victory by Toronto.
Did Camp feel Moore had what it took to be a big league general manager? "Did I ever think that I would be where I am?" said Camp, sitting in the visiting clubhouse at Camden Yards.
Among those on hand at the game was long-time Tigers' scout Bill Buck, who is based in Manassas and followed Camp when he was at George Mason. Among the players that Buck has signed is pitcher Jay Sborz, who pitched at Langley High and made his big league debut with Detroit in 2010.
And it was Moore, who also played at Mason, who recruited Camp to the Fairfax school. "He was such a good guy. He just made it seem right," Camp said.
Camp played four years of baseball and one season of football at Robinson. His baseball coach was long-time family friend Tom Peterson, now the mayor of Clifton.
Camp's father, who has known Peterson for several years, recently moved from the Glen Cove neighborhood of Fairfax County to Fredericksburg. The elder Camp told Patch that he once bought a house from Peterson and that was one of the houses that the younger Camp grew up in.
Shawn Camp, a native of Fairfax, admits his versatility and endurance have served him well during his big league career. He said it does not matter what inning he pitches in a game, but adds many pitchers feel more comfortable when they know their exact role.
Camp, 35, made his big league debut with Kansas City in 2004 and through Sept. 8 has appeared in 424 games in his Major League career, with a record of 23-26 and an ERA of 4.44. He also had 10 saves and had finished 109 of those games.
Drafted by San Diego out of Mason in 1997, he was 4-3 with an ERA of 4.48 for the Blue Jays through Sept. 8, and appeared in a team-high 59 games, with one save. He came to Toronto before the 2008 season, from Tampa Bay.
"I have known him for a long time. He grew up coming to our camps," said Brown, the Mason head coach. "He has the right mental approach to be a reliever."
Camp has had to face top hitters from the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees on many occasions as a pitcher with American League East teams Tampa Bay and now Toronto.
"The longer you play the more you face guys. It is a game of chess. It used to be a game of checkers," he said. "Guys like Derek Jeter, they can remember so well" what happened against a certain pitcher.
He earned his first win of the year in June against the Orioles and his first save in July against Cleveland.
"He has been consistent the last three of four years," Bruce Walton, the pitching coach for Toronto, told Patch about Camp. "He does a good job. He is our veteran presence in the bullpen. He is a durable guy. We say he is a rubber arm if he can pitch four or five days a week."
And he can thank Moore and Brown for helping him get to the big leagues.