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For many professional athletes, discussion about their formative years will bring to light the line, "it feels like yesterday."

Williamstown native Ryan Cameron laughed when asked if his being drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 1998 felt like yesterday.

"It always feels like 100 years ago," Cameron replied. "Today, it's starting to feel like it never happened.

"It's that ancient."

The date, in fact, was June 2, 1998, when the Mount Greylock graduate and University of Massachusetts baseball product got one of those calls from Rockies scout Art Pontarelli. Cameron was an 11th-round selection for Colorado. That was the same draft that started outfielders Matt Holliday and Juan Pierre on double-digit Major League careers. Holliday was picked in the seventh round by Colorado and Pierre was taken two rounds after Cameron by the Rockies.

It was also a draft that unearthed first-round pick Matt Roney, a high school pitcher from Edmond, Okla. Roney spent parts of two seasons with the Detroit Tigers.

Cameron spent 10 minor league seasons with the Colorado, Boston and Philadelphia organizations. He got as high as Triple A with all three, Colorado Springs with the Rockies, Pawtucket with the Red Sox and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with the Phillies.

Cameron was basically a starter for the Rockies. He moved to the bullpen with the Red Sox organization in Portland and Pawtucket. But probably his best year as a reliever came in 2005 with Class AA Reading in the Eastern League. He was 6-5 with a 2.75 earned-run average. Cameron made 58 appearances, finished 45 games and had a team-best 19 saves. He threw 88 1/3 innings that year with 99 strikeouts and only 31 walks.

Cameron's last year was 2007, a season he split between Reading and Class AAA Ottawa.

Today, the entire baseball draft is online and on the MLB Network, so players know almost before a team calls that they were selected. It wasn't like that in 1998.

"I'm a big dreamer. Anybody who knows me and is close to me knew that I had loftier aspirations in my mind than maybe some people would think are possible. The whole draft process, I don't think my parents and family really knew what was going on. It's not a knock on them, but I don't think many people are familiar with that process," Cameron said, when reached at his home in Halfmoon, N.Y. "The day that it came, I had Brian Cain, Beth Rivard and Melanie Misiuk all over at the house. We were playing Wiffle ball across the street. We had an old computer, to your point about technology that wasn't there, and kind of just waiting for something that most of the people there didn't know what it was."

The draft began at noon, and Pontarelli called the Cameron house around 3.

"I remember my mom coming outside and saying 'Hey, you have a phone call.' I went up and it was Art Pontarelli," Cameron said. "He said 'Hey Ryno, congratulations. We just grabbed you with our 11th round pick. Welcome to Colorado.'

"It was like the most surreal thing ever."

Cameron said that everyone was kind of nervous at the house. His father was so nervous that he went to Cameron's grandmother's house to mow the lawn. The pitcher had to run up the hill to tell him.

The right-hander was a multi-sport athlete at Mount Greylock and, in several offseasons, came back to Williamstown to help coach girls high school basketball at his alma mater.

The discussion came around to when he went to sleep on draft day, and whether he dreamt that night of toeing the rubber at Coors Field in Denver, or some other Major League park.

"I always believed that," Cameron said. "There were times when self-doubt crept in along the way. I think that's natural, when you start moving up levels and seeing the talent around you. Baseball, just as a career, isn't just about what you're doing in between the lines. That obviously is what matters and is visible. But a lot of times, what goes on outside of them and how are you doing with that type of adversity."

Cameron's former Mount Greylock teammate Tim Flaherty also was drafted. He was San Francisco's 30th-round pick in 1997, and like Cameron, got to Triple A.

"I always wanted to be the guy that you were talking about and I wanted to be the guy the manager put the baseball in his hand," Cameron said.

The former Mountie made it to the Triple A Pacific Coast League in the Colorado organization in 2003. That same year, he was traded to the Red Sox for what turned out to be reliever Javier Lopez. Cameron bounced between Double A Portland and Triple A Pawtucket.

"I got off to a great start, and I truly, truly thought in the early part of [2003] in Pawtucket, I might have a chance to get to Boston," said Cameron, who was on the Red Sox 40-man roster then. "There was almost a swing point in Red Sox history, where they signed a bunch of free agents and went with a bunch of veterans. Eventually, I was walking too many people, so they sent me up to Portland. I finished the year strong. The following year, I didn't pitch great. In '04 with the Red Sox, I was erratic and never really got a groove."

Cameron signed with the Florida Marlins and was released within 72 hours in the 2005 spring training season. His agent, Jim Masteralexis of Amherst, called and said Philadelphia was looking for some pitching depth. Cameron signed with the Phillies and went to Reading of the Eastern League.

"I wind up being the closer," he said, "had a low ERA, [99] strikeouts and had a great year. They invite me to camp the next two years, and I really, really thought I was going to get to the big leagues with Philadelphia — and just missed."

Since 2008, Cameron has been working for General Electric in the Albany area. He started as an associate project manager and now is the Manager, Customer Resolution and Global Fleet Reliability Strategy Leader at GE Renewable Energy. That department is headquartered in Paris, but has a large footprint in Schenectady, N.Y.

Cameron said that his 10 years in minor league baseball has helped him "a tremendous amount" when it comes to his current job.

"What happens in baseball is you are constantly pushed past your limits. If you're going to succeed in anything, there's a selfishness to it. You've got to be able to sacrifice, and that's usually time with family or time with friends," Cameron said. "You've got to do the things you've got to do. There's the commitment to do the work. At the end of the day, you're not going to like all of it. I hated running, but I had to run. I didn't love swimming, but I had to do my pool workouts. You learn to do all those things, no matter how you feel about them, because you have to do them.

"Your work ethic is unparalleled."

Cameron is comfortably ensconced in the Capital District with wife Jen and daughters Maddie, 10, and Vivian, 6.

While it has been 22 years since Ryan Cameron was drafted, he hasn't forgotten his teammates.

"I keep really close with a group of about 12 guys from my Rockies days. We literally have a text chain. It's every single day for the last decade, we go back and forth. It's stories about baseball, stories about things today," he said, "and we keep really close."

Cameron called the text chain a connection to the team and the sport.

"To be honest with you, the game itself, when I watch the game, there are times that I don't recognize it," Cameron said. "When you're looking at all the things they're trying to do with the data and analytics and the shifts. I was literally watching a game the other day and somebody had a wrist band on and they're looking at the wrist band. I think some people will call it progress. I don't really know what to call it. I err toward the traditionalist side as a baseball guy.

"Some of that leads me to feel a little disconnected from it."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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