Fitch sophomore Cam McGugan: catcher for the stars
When Brian McGugan caught a no-hitter by pitcher Eric Korteweg to win the Class LL baseball state tournament championship in 2005, his senior year at Fitch High School, he also had a 1-year-old son named Cameran.
So quite honestly, McGugan's teammates knew Cam from the day he was born, going so far as to pick up formula and bring it to their all-state catcher for his little boy on occasion.
One of those teammates was Matt Harvey. Harvey, a sophomore at the time who pitched a two-hitter in the semifinals to launch Fitch into the title game, would go on to be drafted by the New York Mets as the seventh overall pick in the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft, following a career at the University of North Carolina.
Harvey, the 6-foot-4 right-hander, started the All-Star Game as a representative of the Mets in 2013, a year the game was played at Citi Field. He was dubbed "The Dark Knight of Gotham" on the cover of Sports Illustrated, May 20, 2013.
Around Mystic, Harvey is just "Matt."
And now, with Major League baseball suspended and Harvey, a free agent, looking for a team to sign him, who is catching for him but the kid he has known all his life?
Sixteen-year-old Cam McGugan.
"The first one I did was at Mystic Indoor, Feb. 4. (Harvey has) been in the area lately," said Cam McGugan, a Fitch High School sophomore and the starting catcher for his dad, Brian, who is in his third season as the Falcons' head coach.
"It started with my dad was catching him. When he first told me once, 'You get in there,' it was fine. I handled him. He appreciates having a guy just do the job and get out of there, 45 minutes and just leave. Nothing crazy. He's just another guy to us. That was my first time catching a guy like that.
"He's throwing great. He's starting to get up in the higher velocity, 90, 94, 93. You can hear it. It comes out (of his hand) a little more firm."
Brian McGugan gave his son every warning. You're not just there to catch it and throw it back. He needs you to catch the ball the way a guy at his level would catch it. Practice receiving the ball. Practice framing it. Be careful of the way the ball comes out of Matt's hand.
"Whether you want to argue about it or not, it's different," Brian McGugan said of Harvey. "I told Cam, 'Hey, man, just so you know, it comes out different.' He goes, 'Yeah, I got it.' He handled those pitches like they were coming in at 60 mph. It's hard to believe he's the age he is."
Cam has also been doing some catching for Willie Rios, a St. Bernard School graduate and a minor leaguer for the Baltimore Orioles. Brian McGugan calls Rios "more of a slinger, three-quarter arm," giving Cam yet another style of pitch to work on catching.
Sometimes Harvey just stops by the McGugans and picks up Cam, with the duo heading most times to the baseball field at Fitch High School. Recently, Harvey posted a video of himself throwing to Cam — taken by Brian to use for Cam's future recruiting video — on Instagram. It was picked up by SNY, garnering 177,000 views on Twitter.
Brian marvels at Cam's maturity, calling his son a natural behind the plate.
"He's basically, he's pretty self-sufficient," Brian McGugan said, "even with cooking eggs and bacon, schoolwork, remembering dates. He's almost too mature. That part comes really naturally. He's catching Willie, catching Matt. He just turned 16 years old.
"I was nowhere near that level at his age."
Cam, who is 5-foot-10 and weighs about 185 pounds, plays AAU ball for the Long Island Beast, who compete in elite tournaments during the summer months as far away as Florida and Georgia.
He made the Fitch varsity roster as a freshman, not because his dad is the coach but more because he takes after Brian at the plate.
Brian was The Day's All-Area Player of the Year as a senior, batting .597 with 51 hits, five homers and 46 RBI, and later went on to become an All-American at UConn Avery Point. Cam doubled in Fitch's first win of the season last year and was part of a Falcons team which went on to win a share of the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I title along with Waterford and East Lyme.
This is the summer, prior to his junior year, when college coaches can contact Cam directly for the first time. College is on his radar — "I want to get a broker-type degree. I like numbers and talking to people," he said.
Brian has coached Cam from Little League on; Groton won the District 10 Little League title in 2016 while Brian, despite being the team's head coach, was deployed to Afghanistan with his National Guard unit.
The two have a close relationship.
"He passed right over to coaching (from playing)," Cam said of Brian. "It correlates right away. He cares about the game just like he's playing. I don't think he's doing it for that reason (because Brian didn't get a chance to continue his career, himself). He knows I love it. My dad has always been there."
Brian, 32, said he's not afraid to admit that his relationship with Cam has been fostered, made even more special by baseball.
"A lot of it is linked to baseball. He's been on a baseball field since he was born. He was around the guys there," said Brian McGugan, who played his high school baseball under then-head coach Ed Harvey, Matt's dad. "That part has brought us super close.
"If there was a circle of life for baseball, I kind of hit it. That whole last two years (of high school), Tiffany was pregnant with Cam and Cam was born, baseball was right in the center of that. ... I was an assistant at Fitch for five years, then the night after I got the (head coaching) job, I went and met with Ed. I wanted to ask him the little things, first-and-third situations, bunt defense; I still have the notepad."
Another friend of Cam's dad's is Jesse Hahn, a pitcher in the Kansas City Royals organization. Hahn was drafted the same year as Harvey and also made his way to the major leagues.
He gave Cam some advice that the young Fitch catcher seems to be heeding.
"I talked to Jesse before," Cam McGugan said. "He told me just keep on going (at Fitch), just keep passing the baton on."
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