By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Staff Writer
Over the last decade, it has become more common to see girls playing boys’ sports like football. However, girls skipping out on softball to play baseball is not something you see every day.
Vikings’ pitcher Cameron Ely is breaking that barrier, playing on the Valencia frosh-sophomore baseball team and has felt nothing but support from her team in doing so.
Ely is a high-achieving sophomore at Valencia, with hopes of pushing herself to become valedictorian.
The sophomore has been playing baseball since she was 3 years old. Ely tried throwing and hitting a softball when she was younger. She knew right away it just didn’t feel right and wanted to continue in baseball.
“I have played baseball my entire life and I don’t plan on switching to softball at all,” said Ely.
Ely is also preparing to make the Team USA youth Dragon Boat squad for the second time.
The sophomore currently plays second base and pitches for the Vikings’ frosh-soph team.
“Pitching wise, I don’t let too many runs score and get ground balls for my team to back me up.” said Ely. “I’m developing a nice breaking ball right now, too.”
Before this season, Ely wasn’t pitching at all and it was varsity head coach Brad Meza who made the recommendation.
“Moving her to a pitching role was honestly half her idea,” said Meza. “I saw her arm strength and thought it might be a good idea to try it out. She was all for it. [She’s] completely open to trying new things on the field.”
Outside of her high school team, Ely participates in Baseball For All, an all-girls baseball program. There, she was coached by dozens of women baseball coaches who not only helped her game but also showed her there can be a future for her in this sport.
Ely has also felt the same embrace from her team and coaches.
“The coaches and other players in the program just treat me as another player and it means the world to me,” said Ely. “I can just be a baseball player, not ‘the girl’ on my team. I get pushed just as hard as the guys and that’s the only way I would want it. I love my coaches and my teammates to death.”
The pitcher has faced the normal heckling and name-calling any opposing pitcher could face. Ely does face comments about shifting to softball and the potential scholarships she could earn playing there. However, the sophomore is unphased by the outside noise and knows baseball is her sport.
“Being a girl playing baseball, she has adopted a toughness that is unmatched,” said Valencia frosh head coach Brooks Stately. “As for weird comments, I do not get any personally because she proves that she can handle herself with any situation.”
Ely has cited New York Mets director of operations, Elizabeth Benn as her inspiration. The sophomore met Benn at MLB Trailblazers, an event designed specifically for girls who want to play baseball.
“I was so in awe with how she handled so much but made it seem so easy,” said Ely. “She knows me by name and I love her to death. She has helped me through rough spots when the backlash really would start to get to me.”
Benn has also rightfully convinced Ely that she has a chance at working in the MLB.
Ely can see her bright future closing in and has her parents’ full support as well as Valencia baseball.
Her parents have never forced her into the sport and, according to Ely, just want her to be happy in all aspects of her life.
“Ever since then they’ve always stood up for me in a way to other parents that say I don’t belong there or I could have more success in softball,” said Ely. “They just want me to be happy in all aspects of my life and it makes backlash and rough times a lot easier to get through. When I have someone in my corner, it makes other people’s judgments a lot easier to get through.”
Vikings frosh baseball has just concluded its season with a solid 8-3, 6-2 league record, only dropping league games to the undefeated Hart Indians.
Ely recalled some great memories from the season but none better than striking out two of West Ranch’s first batters after they trash-talked her.
The pitcher will now head into her junior year at Valencia and move up out of frosh. Time will tell if her development lands her a spot on Meza’s varsity squad. Either way, with Ely being in one of the bigger baseball schools in the valley, Valencia will get everything they can from Ely before she heads off for big things.
In the meantime, Ely will join the varsity baseball coaching staff for the duration of the Vikings’ playoff run.
“I want to show people around the nation and maybe even the globe that it doesn’t matter what you look like in any way,” said Ely. “It’s your mindset and knowledge that sets you apart. And if you work hard enough, you can physically match your monstrous mindset and goals.”