UCA pitcher selected by Royals in 2021 baseball draft
Cameron will trade Bears purple for Royals blue
[email protected] CONWAY — Suffice it to say, University of Central Arkansas’ Noah Cameron probably had a better month than most.
Cameron, a left-handed pitcher from St. Joseph, Mo., was drafted by his “hometown” Kansas City Royals in the seventh round on Monday. Just a month earlier, he got engaged to his long-time girlfriend Casey Guardado.
“It’s been exciting for sure,” said Cameron, who was a Freshman All-American and All-Southland Conference selection at UCA in 2019.
Cameron missed the 2021 season after Tommy John surgery in August 2020 after injuring his elbow playing for the Willmar (Minn.) Stingers in the Northwoods League that summer. As a freshman at UCA, Cameron went 6-2 with a 2.95 earned-run average, recording 91 strikeouts and just 19 walks in 94.2 innings. In the covid-shortened 2020 season, he was 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA, with 31 strikeouts and just two walks in 28 innings.
Apparently the Royals saw enough in that limited portfolio to take him with the 199th overall pick, the fifth UCA Bear taken by Kansas City in the past four years.
“It’s always been a dream for sure to play major league baseball, but obviously, secondly, to play with the Royals,” said Cameron. “It’s kind of the team that everybody I know… that’s just who we’ve always rooted for and watched on TV.
Definitely a blessing to be drafted by them.”
“It was definitely between them and the (St. Louis) Cardinals on Day 2, those were the two teams that we thought were in play. And if Day 3 would have hit, we had a lot of other teams. But we were definitely hoping for Day 2 and that it would be one of those two teams because they are both Missouri teams.”
Cameron shared the moment with his family at home in St. Joseph, located about an hour from Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium.
“It is definitely a surreal moment, just a dream come true. To hear your name, it’s kind of disbelief almost,” he said. “But after about an hour of your phone blowing up, it kind of sinks in a little bit. It was an amazing feeling.”
A much better feeling than watching the Bears play the 2020 season from the dugout instead of the mound at Bear Stadium.
“I really couldn’t help the team in the way that I wanted to,” he said. “It was frustrating. It was hard to just kind of watch the team, especially when we were struggling, and not being able to start on Friday night.”
“It was definitely tough but it was also great to just kind of help the team out any way I could, if that was delivering balls to the umpires – which obviously I tried to have fun with – or just being at practice or being a positive attitude and a leader, even help coach a little bit with the freshmen. Just being a leader and role model for them was fun.”
Cameron said he is not back to his old self yet but is getting there.
“I’m about 75-80 percent right now. Still rehabbing, still recovering, but everything is looking good so far,” he said. “The arm is feeling really good.
Whenever I need to report to Arizona to the spring training facility, I’ll just continue rehabbing and get with the Royals’ doctors and trainers and start working with them. We’ll continue to recover this fall and hopefully by the end of the fall we’ll be 100 percent and be able to throw some competitive innings.” Cameron was in the second inning of his third start at Willmar when he knew there was a problem.
“I felt great, arm felt great, two pretty good outings in my first two starts,” he said. “I was up to 94 mph.
Everything was going good. And in the third game, I was feeling great in the first inning, then in the second I threw a changeup and it just snapped. I kind of knew when it happened.”
“I kept throwing. The competitive side came out in me, It was one of those things, I was just trying to get out of the inning, to get out of the trouble. But I knew it happened and I knew what was wrong.”
Cameron certainly has better memories than that one from his three years in a
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Photo courtesy of UCA UCA (cont.)
UCA uniform, where we recorded 122 strikeouts in 122 innings and finished his career with a 7-3 record and a 2.86 ERA.
“The people and the community, and at UCA, the players, the coaches, all the people in the front office,” said Cameron. “The people in the community were just so loving and supportive of us, just very positive all the time, and that was definitely a blessing to have that in my career, and I know all the other players can definitely say the same.”
“Playing at The Bear with the home crowd was great.
The brotherhood we formed with the team, fighting for each other, just being able to have fun and play the game, the little kids’ game that we all love.”
And now he is one step closer to being a professional
“I’m an engaged man, and I’m super excited about that,” he said. “We were both tired of a long distance
our senior year of high school. But we’ve been apart for the last three years and that was tough.”
Now they will embark on a professional baseball career together as a member of his “hometown” team.