Typically, when a team is eliminated and its season is put on ice the seniors hug and give emotional, tear-jerking speeches to those who will follow in their footsteps.
When Water Valley’s season came to an end Monday, there were no seniors to supply the water works — which is a testament to the team’s ability that it was a handful innings from advancing to another round in the MHSAA Class 3A playoffs.
Instead, it was head coach Kary Bridges who became choked up.
Talking to his team following the Blue Devils’ 7-0 loss at Independence, Bridges, an emotional manager in his own right, showed a different side of himself when talking about junior outfielder Dalvin Caldwell, who because of his age won’t be eligible to play next season.
“(He made the) biggest improvement I’ve ever seen for how ever long I’ve coached,” Bridges said. “He went from two years ago a guy we were thinking about cutting to a guy we had in the middle of our lineup who had some really big hits for us.”
Caldwell’s improvement wasn’t limited to the baseball diamond.
“He made a change as an individual, too. He was never a bad kid, but he really made a change up at the school house too to make some adjustments that I’m just so proud of.
“I’m proud of him and he’s got a lot to be proud of.”
Coming back strong
Caldwell wasn’t the only success story on Water Valley this year. Among many others — how many underclassmen stepped up and played pivotal roles in the Blue Devils run? — was Cole Camp.
The junior broke his right leg fielding a punt seven games into Water Valley’s football season.
The injury was severe enough that Camp’s day-to-day life seemed like it may be altered.
When, weeks before the baseball season opened, Bridges talked about Camp’s recovery and return to shortstop it seemed only natural to be skeptical.
But, without missing a pitch, Camp was back in time for Opening Day.
“Laying in the hospital bed after surgery, the doctor came in and said ‘I’m going to shoot straight with you, Cole, because that’s my job. You may not be able to play this year. I’m not saying that to shoot you down, but most people don’t recover this fast from this type of injury,’” Camp said. “I used it as a motivation. Everyone doubted me, that I’m not going to be able to play, and if I do play, I’m not going to be me.
“I wasn’t at times, but I used that to fuel my fire at workouts and rehab. If you set your mind to it, you can do it.”
Seeing how the season unfolded, Bridges’ first 19-win season at WVHS, made the pain Camp went through to return to the diamond all the more worth it.
“It sucks right now, but I was just so happy to be out here from day one, not missing any practices or games,” he said. “It just felt good to make it this far, after all that happened in September.”
The 2013 edition of the Water Valley Blue Devils proved that even in defeat success can be found.
—email@example.com (May 7, 2013, Page 9)