The Day's All-Area Baseball Player of the Year: Fitch's Cam McGugan
It is an enviable, if rare, skill for teenagers to converse naturally with adults, contributing to conversations, maintaining eye contact and generally offering the vibe that the kid's wisdom belies the age.
It's always been that way with Cam McGugan, the Fitch High School kid with the famous local surname, not just for baseball. He's always been around people, many older than he, which adds substance to the glitz of the 50,000-watt personality.
"I hope to be a finance major," McGugan was saying recently, alluding to his upcoming time at the University of New Haven. "I love stocks. I love dressing up and talking to people. I'm a big people guy. I love talking. I love learning new things and getting out there."
McGugan, The Day's 2022 All-Area Baseball Player of the Year, wasn't exactly Mr. Congeniality a year ago at this time, having completed a difficult junior season. McGugan, who hit in the middle of the order, often approached plate appearances bearing self-imposed pressure, as though children would starve if he didn't rifle a double into the gap.
This is what happens when the expectation of a name becomes an albatross. McGugan's dad, Brian, is a former Fitch great and the program's head coach. The dad has coached the son since birth. Naturally, the son should produce commensurately.
Last year? Not so much.
"I feel like he had so much pressure on him all the time. But Cameran, for some reason, always does a million times better when things are tougher," his mother, Tiffany, said. "It was so nice to see him have a good time this year, compared to last year where he would get home throw and things around in anger. I think that this year there was a huge weight taken off his shoulders. He could just have a really, really good time."
And hit the ball like, well, a McGugan. "Cameran," as his mother calls him, finished with a .442 average, 34 hits, 19 RBI, 15 walks and a .532 on base percentage from the leadoff spot.
"Brian's always done a really good job about saying that Cameran is so much better than he ever was," Tiffany McGugan said. "Brian didn't have all the fancy stuff. He just played baseball. But Cameran's heart is more into it than I think Brian's was. He's more dedicated to it. So he takes advice from everybody.
"There's no one that Cameran won't listen to. Brian was a little bit more thick-headed. He was just a big guy who could hit. Plus, Brian didn't have the academic pressures. Cameran is really, really focused on school."
To be clear: Whatever pressures loomed into this season disappeared. Father and son loved being around each other.
"I think we took (baseball) a little more seriously than everybody else just because, you know, baseball is what we do. That's us," Cam said. "So it intensified as I got older. He fell in love with coaching me more. And he went for that (high school) job my eighth-grade year. He got it and I knew we were just right back to business for the next four. I think he's one of the most knowledgeable people in the game that I've ever met. You can never talk about me without mentioning my dad."
They are a close family, mostly because they've had to be.
"We had Cameran when we were really, really young. Brian was 16 and I was 18," Tiffany said. "And Cameran was our best friend. We didn't have anyone else to talk to. So when Brian went to school all day, I worked third shift and really had no friends. So Cameran would sit on the floor with me and we talked about bills and my stress at work. He was always a good listener. We had no one else but him so he got used to adult conversation."
Now he's a player of the year headed to play Division II baseball at New Haven, having led the Falcons to the 2022 conference tournament title.
"Accolades? I don't know. Those don't mean too much to me," Cam McGugan said. "Looking back at my last four years I just hope I left Fitch baseball better than I found it. That's all I care about."
Player of the Year - Cam McGugan (Fitch)
Infield - Evan McCue (Waterford), Jack Novak (Bacon Academy), Gavin O'Brien (East Lyme), Matt Robinson (Fitch)
Outfield - Jeremiah Bobbi (Lyman Memorial), Ryan O'Connor (Fitch), Preston Tabor (Waterford)
Pitcher - Zion Fraser (Ledyard), Derrel Mitchell (NL)
Catcher - Joe Basso (St. Bernard)
Designated hitter - Steve Laliberte (Bacon)
Utility - Chas Terni (Montville)