By Bobby Manning, Syracuse University
June 12, 2019
Cam Hill yawned before the Cotuit Kettleers’ season-opening exhibition on Saturday. He led the game off, squared to bunt from the lefty batter’s box and received his wakeup call two pitches in.
“I told a teammate I was a little sleepy,” Hill said. “I got to wake up.”
Hill expected a high, inside pitch from Eddie Campbell, Lexington’s lefty starter. The pitch zipped to that spot, so high and inside that plunked him off his head. The thump echoed and some in the crowd gasped. He whipped off his helmet, threw his ankle guard along with it toward the dugout and jogged to first base. The rising junior from the University of Kentucky got hit twice in the game by pitches while showing bunt.
The bruises paid off two days later when Hill connected on a bunt down the first base line for a single against the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. He walked twice and scored ahead of Donta Williams (Arizona) when Cotuit took a 4-3 lead in the eighth. The Kettleers won their regular season opener by the same score on Adam Oviedo’s (TCU) 2 RBI single.
Hill barely paused after the hit to his head, looking like he drew a walk rather than a pitch off his helmet. Manager Mike Roberts said Craig Moody, Cotuit’s trainer, got ready to race Hill to first base. Hill then logged the entire 12-inning scrimmage while most of the team substituted.
“I’m kind of used to that,” Hill said. “My first series in college was against Austin Peay and I got hit in the forehead when I was squaring around to bunt. At least this time they didn’t call it a strike like they did down there.”
Later in the scrimmage against Lexington they did. A pitch grazed Hill’s foot and the umpire ruled him out of the batter’s box and out. Hill pleaded his case, while Roberts conversed with the umpire from the dugout. Someone from the bullpen yelled, “no,” in front of several dozen fans in attendance to see the Kettleers for the first time in 2019.
Cotuit and Lexington, an Intercity League team, play each season before the Kettleer’s opener. Saturday’s scrimmage raised money for former Blue Sox Pete Frates, a champion for ALS awareness. His ice bucket challenge blew up online in 2014 after he was diagnosed with the disease in 2012. The movement raised $115 million toward ALS in its first year. The Kettleers raised $500 at the scrimmage.
Cotuit beat Lexington, 7-2, with Hill reaching base on the hit-by-pitch and a single along with the hit to his head. Roberts said he’d seen players walk off a pitch off the noggin before.
“Some people are not smart enough to stop and just get up and go,” he joked.
Hill slid from leadoff to the seven slot for Cotuit’s opener. He walked twice with a single and RBI groundout. His aggressive base running caught him out on the base path in each of his first three games before he stole three bases in a 7-6 loss to the Chatham Anglers on Tuesday.
He arrived in Cotuit last week after playing last summer in Texarkana in the Texas Collegiate League. Coltyn Kessler, Cotuit’s catcher and Hill’s Kentucky teammate, drove them from Columbus, Ohio.
“I kind of expected was a bunch of city stuff,” Hill said. “Then I just got into Cotuit and it’s nothing but woods and it reminded me a little bit of Ohio where I played at for my senior year of summer ball.”
Hill hit .342 to rank fifth in the TCL in average, but disappointed himself with a .248 sophomore slump at Kentucky. With Roberts, he came to Cape Cod to improve his plate approach and swing.
He will live with two host parents and four kids this summer. And hopefully dodge the next one that goes high and inside.