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YOUTH BASEBALL: Smith named Sonny Chaput Award winner (6/20)

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By Ryan O'Gara

Cam Smith doesn’t remember his dad, Kenny, ever telling him he was nominated for the Sonny Chaput Award.

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So when the 12-year-old’s name was called Thursday night before his Rangers took on the Tigers in Game 2 of the Elizabethtown Area Baseball Commission World Series on Sonny Chaput Field at University Drive Park, his surprise was understandable.

Smith took home the 40th annual honor, which rewards a player’s attitude and effort more than performance and has been handed out yearly since 1975.

Minutes after receiving the award and getting high-fives from both his teammates and the Tigers, Smith was still in shock, saying the moment was “a little much for me right now.”

“This explains I was good enough as a team member, not just as a player,” he said. “It means my skill doesn’t have anything to do with it.”

The award recognizes 12-year-olds in their second EABC major league season. It’s handed out by Knights of Columbus and is in honor of Chaput, who was a Knights member and an EABC coach.

The winner isn’t the player with the highest batting average or the hardest fastball, but rather the one who has a good attitude on and off the field, displays good sportsmanship, accepts decisions of coaches and officials, wins without boasting, loses without excuses, shows good leadership and has a good moral standing — qualities EABC major league director Mitch Clark listed before presenting the award to Smith.

Smith, who said he’ll likely attend high school at Elizabethtown, encompasses all of those things, according to assistant coach Dennis Garland.

“It’s all about him as a teammate,” Garland said. “You don’t see any ‘I’ in team with him. He’s a total team player all the way around. He helps the younger kids and is a good role model.

“He’s just a great image for the EABC, baseball-wise too, just all the way around,” he added.

Garland pointed out how challenging it can be when your dad is the head coach. Naturally, Kenny expects more out of his son than of the rest of the team, and Garland said Cam has handled it admirably.

Though Kenny said he wasn’t comfortable heaping praise on his son, he did mention how proud he was of him. Kenny credited other coaches around the league for helping mold Cam into the type of person he is.

“The main thing is most of the other coaches in the league have coached him in the past, and those guys have been good for him and good to him,” Kenny said, “and they’re a big reason of why he is who he is. He’s not a selfish kid.”

One of those coaches was the one trying to beat him on the diamond Thursday, Tigers coach Sheldon Lackey. Lackey coached Smith on several All-Star teams, even winning a championship during their younger days.

Just after Smith ran onto the diamond to take his position at shortstop, where he usually plays when he isn’t pitching, Lackey mentioned why Smith was such a great choice for the honor.

“Cam is a great kid, first of all, not just a great ballplayer,” Lackey said. “He’s very respectful to other coaches and other teams. He’s a fantastic kid, and there’s no one more deserving than he is.”

Ryan O’Gara can be reached at 270-505-1754 or rogara@thenewsenterprise.com.