A spring break trip to Southern California that lasted three years in preparation for the Camas baseball team nearly collapsed in a matter of hours.
But thanks to a series of calls from a coach, some great support from the community and even a major rescue from a former major league player, it turned out to be a wild ride that the crafters will remember.
Last week, Camas played four games in the National High School Baseball Classic in Placentia, California. It was a trip that paper makers were supposed to take in the spring of 2020 before the pandemic.
So coach Stephen Short was determined to take his team to Southern California this spring. He just didn’t realize how determined he had to be.
The paper makers were scheduled to travel to Ontario, California, on Saturday, April 2.
“But I got news on Friday that our flight has moved to 5:40 p.m. on Monday,” Short said. “And we were supposed to play our first game at 10 am on Monday. So we had to scramble quickly. Fortunately, some people came to our rescue.”
Not wanting to risk another canceled trip, Short quickly decided to make the trip by car. But with 22 players set to make the trip, that’s going to take some time.
Through Steve Dahlberg, father of former Camas baseball star Grant Heizer, the team was able to obtain three cars on loan from McCord’s Vancouver Toyota. Parents of two current players offered to drive their cars, as well as an assistant coach for Camas.
The big seven-car was a 12-passenger pickup truck loaned by Lyle Overbay, a 14-year-old Major League veteran who was in his first season as head coach at Tumwater High School.
Short first met Overbay when Overbay came to see their new in-house training facility, Camas High, earlier this year. The two met again when the Papermakers played for Tumwater at the pre-season fest.
“He told me then that he had this 12-passenger van, and I remembered that,” Short said. “So I called him.”
Overbay answered Short’s call at 11:30 p.m. Friday and said the Overbay family was flying Saturday morning to Hawaii’i.
“So I slept about two hours and met him at 5 a.m. to pick up his truck,” Short said.
A few hours later, the paper makers were on their way south to California. After an overnight layover near Sacramento, the team arrived in Orange County on Sunday afternoon in time for group practice at La Habra High School.
Then the Cardmakers played four matches in four days against some of the top division competitions.
“The trip was amazing,” Short said. “The leadership and the logistics have been a challenge.”
For players, the hiccups in flight added to the memories.
“We were just hanging out, talking, cracking jokes,” Senior Drew Hancock said. “We had a great time getting to know each other better.”
Senior Ethan Hubbell said driving got boring at times, but it was worth it.
“We’ve had some really good players on some really good teams,” Hubel said. “The teams in Washington are good, but it’s not like the teams in California. These guys play baseball all year round.”
The Papermakers had their last game on Thursday and advanced early in the day so they could hit the road right after that. They stopped in Red Bluff, California, overnight and came home on Friday.
And then about 48 hours later…
“I woke up Monday morning, and it was snowing,” Hancock said. I looked out the window and thought ‘I’m not going to school today. “Two days ago, we were playing in 95-degree heat, and now it’s snowing.”
Camas was supposed to start playing against the competitors of 4A Greater St. Helens League this week, starting Monday with the first of three matches scheduled this week against the Battle Ground.
Instead, Short spent most of his day on Monday driving to repair some of the team’s batting cages that had collapsed under the weight of wet ice.
On Tuesday, the paper makers were back in practice, with their new indoor training facility within easy reach as their baseball field remained under a layer of snow.
“We are lucky, really blessed,” Hubel said of the field house. “None of this would be possible without the support of the community.”
Short is also thankful for all the support his platform has received, both in the long term and in a little while last week.
But despite all the headaches, it was a trip worth taking, Short said.
“We’re glad to go, we’re back happier,” Short said. “And hopefully we can come back. But we will fly 100 per cent in the future.”
Tim Martinez He is the Assistant Sports Editor/Preparation Coordinator for The Columbian. He can be contacted at 360-735-4538, [email protected]