On a spring day in 2016, Spotswood High School infielder Cam Irvine stepped into the batter’s box to face a rival pitcher. Turner Ashby’s Brenan Hanifee stood on the mound, looking to continue his undefeated senior season.
Irvine wasn’t fazed.
“I led off the game with a home run and went three-for-three off of him,” the Hokies freshman infielder said. “A couple of scouts at that game put out a good word for me with some coaches and stuff, and I feel like that game kind of defined, I guess where I am.”
Hanifee went on to get drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, but he was hardly the last professional-level talent Irvine would be around, and he certainly wasn’t the first.
Irvine’s dad Daryl also played baseball for Spotswood High School before being drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1985. He pitched in 41 games for the Red Sox from 1990 until 1992, but having a big league dad didn’t put any extra pressure on Cam.
“I don’t really feel like I have anything to live up to,” Irvine said. “He’s just kind of somebody I looked up to. I’ve got the same goal that he had, to make it to the Major Leagues.”
When Cam Irvine started playing baseball at the age of five, his dad was right there with him. The two of them have been on the diamond together ever since, something that Cam thinks has been beneficial to him.
“He was my coach since I can remember I started playing baseball,” Cam said. “He showed me a lot about the game and it really benefited me a lot.”
Having a Major Leaguer for a dad and facing a top prospect in high school might seem like a lot, but growing up in the Shenandoah Valley, an area loaded with baseball talent, Cam was bound to encounter more good ballplayers.
Some of his greatest competition came the summer after his senior year, when Cam played for the Grottoes Cardinals of the Rockingham County Baseball League. The RCBL is an amateur baseball league that bills itself as the oldest amateur league in the country. It features all levels of talent, from high school, to college, to former pros.
Playing in the RCBL, Cam faced guys like Brian Bocock, who played in the Major Leagues with the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies.
One of Cam’s teammates this summer also had some pro experience. Austin Nicely, a fellow Spotswood graduate, was drafted by the Houston Astros in 2013 and spent some time in their farm system before playing in the RCBL this summer.
The competition Cam faced in the RCBL along with the mentorship from his teammates helped him develop into the player he is today.
“I feel like playing in that league honestly made me mature as a baseball player,” Cam said. “The guys on my team at least gave me some insight about the game that I didn’t really know before.”
The wooden bat league plays a 28-game season, which gave Cam a chance to get lots of experience playing against more seasoned ballplayers. That season left him feeling like he has an advantage over other freshmen getting ready to start their first collegiate seasons.
“We played a ton of games in that league and I got a lot of at-bats, a lot of experience that some of these guys didn’t have the opportunity to have,” Cam said.
With all of his experience and the talent surrounding him, it was inevitable that Cam would become the kind of player he is. A three-time All-Valley District shortstop and two-time All-Region player, Cam describes himself as an all-around player.
“I make the plays in the field, make the routine plays,” Cam said about his fielding abilities. “I feel like I’m a contact hitter right now at the plate.”
A two-sport athlete in high school, Cam Irvine scored 1,195 points for the Spotswood basketball team and make four trips to the state quarterfinals, appearing in one title game. His proudest baseball accomplishment, however, is hitting .569 his junior year, which led all batters in the area. It was the second time in his high school career he had hit above .400.
Despite his experience and abilities, Cam’s future was not always certain. He was recruited by former Head Coach Patrick Mason, who offered him a non-scholarship roster spot. With the coaching change that came this summer, Cam wasn’t sure how he would be affected.
“When the coaching change happened I was kind of confused on whether I would still have that spot, but Coach Szefc came in, I sent him some video, he was like, ‘Alright we still want you,’” Cam said.
With his college destination finally set, Cam could start working towards his freshman season.
‘I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress honestly,” Cam Irvine said about his time at Virginia Tech. “In the weight room I feel like I’ve gotten a little stronger, I feel like my swing’s gotten better, my arm’s gotten better. I feel like I’ve improved in all aspects of my game.”
Cam isn’t the only one who feels like he’s made progress. In a Q&A with Head Coach John Szefc on HokieSports.com, Coach Szefc said that Cam “had a really good fall from where he started to where he ended.”
During the Hokies' Maroon and Orange World Series last fall, Cam Irvine had a breakthrough performance in Game 1 of the three-game series. He went 2-for-4 in the game with two runs and a game-high three RBIs as he helped the Maroon team defeat the Orange team 11-3.
With the first game of the season just under a week away, Cam feels confident about his game, but knows that it will take a lot of hard work to get where he wants to be.
“Right now, I feel like if I work hard I can have the potential to start,” Cam said. “If that doesn’t happen, then I’m just going to keep working and once I get my opportunity then I’m going to try to make the most out of it.”
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Stay up with The Tech Lunch Pail for the latest on Virginia Tech. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our email updates.