SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — When the 2014 Greenville Little Leagues draft concluded, 9-year-old Cameron Greenway’s name had not been called.
He practiced with the Kiwanis team before tryouts, and manager Michael Vaughn, a longtime friend of Greenway’s father, Tyler Williams, had his eye on him. But Vaughn only had two draft picks.
“He should have made Little League when he was 9,” Vaughn said. “Lions ended up drafting seven 11-year-olds that year, so a lot of 9-year-olds that should have been picked didn’t get picked. Cameron was one of those.”
Vaughn didn’t let Greenway get away the next year, taking him in the first round. Now as a 13-year-old, through many peaks and valleys of performance and confidence, Greenway finds himself in the Little League Baseball World Series and helping Greenville North State reach the U.S. championship game.
North State, the Southeast Regional champion, faces Southwest champion Lufkin, Texas, at 3;30 p.m. on Saturday.
Cameron Greenway connects for one of his two hits in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Texas. Greenway is 5-of-7 in the Little League World Series (Courtesy of Little League Baseball and Softball)
Greenway — and his coaches — say the rise from an undrafted player to World Series all-star is rooted in effort.
“My parents just told me to keep on working, and I kept working and eventually made it,” Greenway said.
Jake Allen, an assistant to Vaughn on the Kiwanis team and to manager Brian Fields on the North State team, said it’s been rewarding to watch Greenway’s growth as a player.
“Cameron has worked harder than anybody out here,” Allen said. ”He goes from not being drafted to a two-inning player to an all-star to a six-inning all-star.”
Greenway has made his biggest contributions on Little League’s biggest stage, collecting five hits and seven at-bats and scoring a run. He was 1-for-2 in an opening-round win over South Dakota, then batted 2-for-2 in a 16-0 rout of California and 2-for-3 in a 2-1 win over Texas and hard-throwing Hunter Ditsworth.
“He puts so much pressure on defenses, just putting it in play,” Vaughn said. “He’s a great curveball hitter. He’s a very smart kid. He understands the game. He understands putting the ball in play, choking up, he gets that whole concept. A lot of kids don’t.
“I’ve been very fortunate enough to watch him do it on a consistent basis,” Vaughn said. “He’s a hard worker. Every day in practice he’s going to get dirty, throw the ball as hard as he can from shortstop to first base. He’s not going to take a play off, he’s not going to take a day off.”
But that doesn’t mean there have not been times when he doubted his ability. Greenway “struggled like most rookies do” as a 10-year-old, Vaughn said.
Allen and assistant Norm Bryant suggested moving Greenway to shortstop early in his 11-year-old year, but Vaughn was hesitant.
“He wasn’t ready. I stand behind that 100 percent,” Vaughn said. “Throughout the year I just progressively would stick him there an inning or two, for two or three. By the end, he was playing shortstop for us for a city championship team.”
Greenway also landed a spot on the 11-year-old all-star team but struggled again. He earned a spot on the E.B. Aycock Middle School team last spring, then helped Kiwanis to a 17-5 regular season record and another all-star spot.
Along with his bat, Greenway has provided some versatility by playing right field, second base and pitching. He came on in relief in five postseason games. Working 7.1 innings and allowing eight hits and seven runs while striking out nine and walking just one. He also made a sensational catch in right in a 4-2 win over defending regional champion Goodlettsville, Tenn.
“I just play where I need to play,” Greenway said.
Teammate Carson Hardee likes what Greenway brings to the team.
Cameron Greenway (8) joins teammates in greeting Carson Hardee at the plate after Hardee’s grand slam against California. (Courtesy of Little League Baseball and Softball)
“He has a cannon of an arm in right field,” Hardee said. “He always comes up clutch. He can play anywhere. … He’ll come in there and get a base hit, and he’ll do his job, score the runner, make a play. He always gives 100 percent.”
That approach should pave the way for a bright future for Greenway, especially when he realizes how good he can be, Fields said..
“The thing about Cameron is he’s so athletic,” he said. “He’s fast, he’s got a great arm. I still don’t feel like Cameron has a whole lot of confidence in himself yet. I don’t he realizes what he can do. He’s having success here, but I think there’s a lot of potential for Cameron. He can play outfield, he can play infield, he can pitch. He’s really come around. It’s been fun to watch.”
Vaughn also is excited to see what the future holds for a player he has seen develop the last three years.
“With the explosive arm like he’s got, the sky’s the limit for Cameron,” Vaughn said. “He hasn’t even scratched the surface. … I look at Cameron when he’s at Rose High, I think he’s going to be a starting shortstop, second baseman, pitching because he wants it.
“When you have kids that want it, you can definitely see it. And he really, really wants it.”