Prep Baseball & Softball

August 11, 2014

O'Fallon shortstop commits to Alabama following big summer

Even though shortstop is a fairly physical position in baseball, it's not quite like being chased by mammoth defensive linemen and blitzing linebackers in the Southwestern Conference.

So even after passing for more than 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns as a sophomore at O'Fallon High last season, junior Camden Bauer has made a verbal commitment to play baseball for the University of Alabama.

When asked which is his favorite sport, Bauer said, "It depends on the season. I like baseball a lot, growing up playing for my dad and playing around here. I love playing football too and love playing both sports, but I see myself more as a college baseball player right now."

Bauer dealt with a lot of pressure during his sophomore high school season, most notably the death of his grandfather. So after hitting .233 with just two doubles and 15 RBIs, Bauer realized how much pressure he put on himself.

All that changed during a productive summer season with the St. Louis Pirates travel team. Bauer made the all-tournament team at each of his final two summer tourneys, including the prestigious 16-under World Series.

"The summer went well and after having a pretty poor spring, I was able to let that clear and start off fresh," Bauer said. "I played better every day and I played well against some pretty good competition."

So what changed that had Bauer playing so well he attracted scholarship offers from seven schools before choosing Alabama over Indiana and Missouri?

He also had offers or interest from South Carolina, Notre Dame and Illinois-Chicago.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself this spring to succeed and this summer, I kind of just let myself play," said Bauer, whose father, former Althoff and Bradley standout Joe Bauer, also resigned as an O'Fallon assistant coach. "It was tough to lose my grandpa and having my dad leave ... it was a tough sequence. As time went by it became easier and then it clicked this summer."

Baseball is in the family blood. Camden Bauer's great-great uncle was Hank Bauer, who grew up in East St. Louis and was an outfielder on seven New York Yankees World Series championship clubs from 1949 to 1958.

Hank Bauer also guided the 1966 Baltimore Orioles to their first World Series title in 1966.

Camden Bauer visited the Alabama campus twice this summer, once with his mother and once with his father. The Crimson Tide was 37-24 last season, including a 15-14 mark in the extremely competitive Southeastern Conference.

"I loved the coaches down there," Bauer said. "They're also putting in a new facility, so that's going to be nice and the academics are incredible. I just felt at home.

"Every school had its great perks. Taking anything into account with the program, the coaches, everything, I felt more at home at Alabama."

Planning to study engineering or business, Bauer has a 4.12 grade-point average and ranks 32nd in a junior class of 618.

Pirates coach Rick Strickland felt helping Bauer regain his confidence was the key to success.

"Once I got him in our program, we realized there's not many kids that can play shortstop like that," Strickland said. "He needed a lot of work with the bat and he got a lot better, started to show some of these higher-end programs he could do it.

"This is an unusual case because you're talking about a kid that didn't have a lot of confidence. I'm sure by the time he's a senior in high school he's going to be one of the better overall players over there."

Strickland said the key to Bauer's confidence had nothing to do with his hitting mechanics.

"I don't think his swing changed a whole lot, but his mindset did," Strickland said. "He did a great job against some high-level competition."

Bauer just saw it as a make-or-break proposition.

"The competition we see in conference is extremely good, but the competition I saw this summer was another level," Bauer said. "It's either you sink or swim, there's no just playing OK and you get by. That sort of amped it up to where I played pretty well."

O'Fallon High coach Jason Portz wasn't surprised to see Bauer commit to a school in one of the nation's toughest baseball conferences.

"Camden has all the tools to be successful at that level and it's a great indication of the type of kid that he is," said Portz, who believes Bauer's classroom success also plays a big part in his overall package. "The most important thing that a kid can do is be successful in the classroom and put himself in position academically, that's going to open up a lot of doors. That's a big thing for Camden.

"He has all of the upside and the potential."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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