By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director
SPRING GARDEN – It’s almost as if Berry College in Rome, Ga., is where Spring Garden senior Cam Welsh was meant to be.
His father, Cherokee County Schools Superintendent Mike Welsh, played basketball for the Vikings and graduated from there in 1991. His cousin Luke Welsh and another former teammate Chaz Pope currently play football for the Vikings. Even his Excel travel baseball coach, Josh Beshears, pitched on the baseball team in 2002-03 for head coach David Beasley.
Cam says he’s ready to become a Viking himself. He signed a baseball scholarship with the school on Monday afternoon at Dale Welsh Gymnasium in Spring Garden.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “It’s definitely a weight off my shoulders to make this decision and to follow through with it. I’m really looking forward to getting over there this fall. I’ve grown up going to Berry for football games, basketball and baseball. My dad has told me about his time at Berry, so that definitely reassured me of how good of a place Berry is. Having former teammates up there, that’s a special thing and I really hope to enjoy those years with them. All of that’s definitely part of the appeal of Berry for me.”
Cam said he plans to pitch for the Vikings. Last season at Spring Garden (17-16), he worked 54 2/3 innings on the mound and gave up 39 earned runs with 64 strikeouts. He also batted .330 with nine doubles, four triples, three home runs, 25 walks, 26 runs and 33 RBin helping the Panthers reach the second round of the Class 1A state playoffs.
Cam has also played infield and outfield for Panther head coach Cole Murphy when he isn’t pitching. It’s that versatility that both Murphy and Beshears said is one of his main attributes.
“When you’ve got a kid like that, it definitely helps out a lot,” Murphy said. “If someone gets hurt, you need to move somebody around, or in the pitching rotation, you can always stick him where we need him to be at. It just shows how good of a player he is.”
“He can do a lot of things really well,” Beshears added. “I think pitching has always been the area where he shows the most promise long term, but he can do so many different things and he’s so athletic. What he offers is huge to any team he plays on. How hard he works and how hard he plays, you know what you can expect from him. Guys like that continue to progress and succeed.”
And both coaches praise his leadership as well.
“During the summer, he’s always up here getting in extra work, working out in the weight room. That’s just who he is. He’s that type of guy,” Murphy said. “Once basketball ends and we get into baseball, he’ll be up here throwing or in the cage outside of our practice time. That’s who he is. He sets a great example to the other kids on how it’s done. You can tell that work has paid off because he’s getting the opportunity to play at the next level to play ball. I’m just excited for him.”
“He’s not necessarily the loud, vocal guy, but he just has that presence and sets a good example,” Beshears said, who’s coached Cam in travel ball since he was 14. “That’s the kind you want on any team whatever the sport it is. You want a guy like him for sure. Everybody who plays with him loves him. He’s such a great teammate.”
Cam said it means a lot to him for his coaches to notice and say those things about him.
“It’s important to practice what you preach. You’ve got to be about it,” Cam said. “To ask others to be successful and demand things of others, you have to do it yourself. Setting an example is a huge part of that, and that’s very important to me.”
Beshears said he talked to Cam last summer and fall about what to expect with the Viking baseball program. He also gave him a goal to reach for.
“I told him the other day I don’t know what kind of records I still have there if any, but if there’s any still in the books, you better beat them,” Beshears said jokingly. “I loved my time there. It’s an awesome school, awesome program, just a fun place to play and get a great degree. I think it’s a great fit for Cam for sure.”
Cam said Monday was a bittersweet moment for him. He realizes his high school days are coming to a close, but he’s excited for the opportunities that lie ahead of him.
“Berry is a special place, but Spring Garden really is also,” he said. “I’ve grown up here and it’s truly home, but I’m really looking forward to four years at Berry and see what that holds.”