A spring break trip to Southern California three years in the making for the Camas baseball team almost came unraveled in matter of hours.
But thanks to a flurry of calls by a coach, some big time support from the community and even a huge save from a former big leaguer, it turned into a road trip to remember for the Papermakers.
Last week, Camas played four games in the National Classic High School Baseball Tournament in Placentia, Calif. It was a trip the Papermakers were supposed to make in the spring of 2020 before the pandemic hit.
So head coach Stephen Short was determined to get his team to Southern California this spring. He just didn’t realize how determined he would need to be.
The Papermakers were scheduled to fly into Ontario, Calif., on Saturday, April 2.
“But I got word on Friday that our flight got moved to a 5:40 p.m. departure on Monday,” Short said. “And we were supposed to play our first game at 10 a.m. Monday. So we quickly had to scramble. Luckily, we had some people come to our rescue.”
Not wanting to risk another canceled flight, Short quickly decided to make the trip by car. But with 22 players slated to make the trip, that would take some doing.
Through Steve Dahlberg, the father of former Camas baseball star Grant Heiser, the team was able to get three vehicles on loan from McCord’s Vancouver Toyota. Parents of two current players offered to drive their cars, plus a Camas assistant coach.
The big get of the seven-vehicle caravan was a 12-passenger van loaned out by Lyle Overbay, a 14-year veteran of the major leagues who is in his first season as the head baseball coach at Tumwater High School.
Short first met Overbay when Overbay came to look at Camas High’s new indoor practice facility earlier this year. The two met again when the Papermakers played Tumwater in a preseason jamboree.
“He had told me then that he had this 12-passenger van, and I remembered,” Short said. “So I called him.”
Overbay returned Short’s call at 11:30 p.m. Friday and said the Overbay family was flying out Saturday morning for Hawai’i.
“So I got about two hours of sleep and met him at 5 a.m. to pick up his van,” Short said.
A few hours later, the Papermakers were on the road south to California. After an overnight stop near Sacramento, the team arrived in Orange County on Sunday afternoon in time for a team workout at La Habra High School.
Then the Papermakers played four games in four days against some top-flight competition.
“The trip was amazing,” Short said. “The driving and logistics were a challenge.”
For the players, the hiccups in the trip just added to the memories.
“We were just hanging out, talking, cracking jokes,” senior Drew Hancock said. “We were having a good time getting to know each other better.”
Senior Ethan Hubbell said the drive did get boring at times, but it was well worth it.
“We got to face some really good players on some really good teams,” Hubbell said. “The teams in Washington are good, but it’s nothing like the teams in California. Those guys play baseball year around.”
The Papermakers got their last game on Thursday moved up earlier in the day so they could hit the road right after. They stopped in Red Bluff, Calif., for the night and returned home on Friday.
And then about 48 hours later …
“I woke up on Monday morning, and it’s snowing,” Hancock said. “I looked out the window and thought ‘I’m not going to school today.’ A couple of days earlier, we were playing in 95-degree heat, and now it’s snowing.”
Camas was supposed to open play against 4A Greater St. Helens League rivals this week, starting on Monday with the first of three scheduled games this week against Battle Ground.
Instead, Short spent most of his day Monday driving to fix some of the team’s batting cages that collapsed under the weight of the wet snow.
On Tuesday, the Papermakers were back at practice, with their new indoor practice facility coming in very handy as their baseball field remained under a layer of snow.
“We’re blessed, really blessed,” Hubbell said of the fieldhouse. “And none of this would be possible without the support of the community.”
Short is also thankful for all the support his program has received, in the long term as well as in a pinch last week.
But despite all the headaches, it was a trip worth taking, Short said.
“Glad we went, happier we’re back,” Short said. “And we hope we can go back. But we will fly 100 percent in the future.”
Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4538, email@example.com.