Decisions, decisions: Cathedral standout has options

As problems in the life of a high school baseball player go, Cathedral Catholic standout Daniel Camarena’s qualify as pretty good ones to have.

Considered one of the nation’s most highly regarded juniors, Camarena is a top-flight left-handed pitching prospect who’s already verbally committed to University of San Diego.

The problem — if you want to call it that — is that he’s also considered an elite outfield and batting prospect.

Camarena wants to play professionally someday, but remains torn knowing he can’t do both as his career progresses.

It is a predicament that sometimes keeps him up at night.

“I know I’m going to have to make a choice someday, but for right now I’m just going to play to the best of my ability and see what happens,” Camarena said.

Camarena and Northwestern University-bound senior Danny Tyson, also a lefty, are dual staff aces on a Cathedral Catholic team that, despite heavy graduation losses, is seeking its third consecutive San Diego Section Div. III title. The Dons graduated nine players from last year’s team that went 26-6.

The Dons are off to a 4-2 start, reaching the finals of the prestigious Hilltop-Lolitas tournament on March 20.

“I think people underestimate us a little bit this year, but that just fires us up,” Camarena said.

Nobody’s underestimating Camarena.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder has excellent command of three primary pitches he throws in any situation; a four-seam fastball, curveball and changeup. He occasionally throws a slider, Cathedral Catholic coach Gary Remiker said, noting that he’s discouraged from throwing it too much because he doesn’t need it at this level, and the potential injury risk associated with throwing the pitch improperly. He is also developing a two-seam fastball.

Camarena drives the ball to all fields with a compact and powerful swing, Remiker said, noting Camarena is also an outstanding defensive outfielder with excellent speed and a strong throwing arm.

“It’s a special kind of athlete who can be a prospect as a defensive outfielder with plus speed and as a hitter and can also get up on the mound and be a professional prospect as a pitcher,” Remiker said. “The whole overall athletic package is rare.”

Just as rare for a player of Camerona’s caliber is his low-key demeanor, Remiker said.

“He’s just a flat-out nice 16-year-old kid who has no ego whatsoever,” Remiker said.

“I don’t think you could tell that he’s one of the best junior baseball players in the country. He doesn’t flaunt it. He goes to school, does his schoolwork and keeps his mouth shut.”

Remiker said professional scouts are starting to trickle in and expects to see many more his senior year, in anticipation of the June 2011 draft in which he figures to be among baseball’s most coveted prospects.

Remiker believes that ultimately Camarena’s baseball future will be as a pitcher, but believes USD will give him a chance to develop all of his tools.

Camarena’s draft status will be determined by whether teams believe they have a realistic chance of signing him, Remiker said, noting former Dons outfielder Carlos Quentin, who now plays for the Chicago White Sox, went to Stanford undrafted.

"(Camarena’s) a kid who will flourish at the college level and have a great time being able to go out there as a pitcher and a hitter and outfielder and be able to do everything,” Remiker said. “In three or four years pro baseball will still be there for him, but at the same time he can get an education and have fun playing baseball in front of his hometown.

“All of us think that’s pretty attractive.”

Camarena credits his older brother, Luis, and his parents, for fostering his development.

Luis Camarena, who played professionally in Mexico, played for Remiker on a Dons team in the late 1990s (then University High of San Diego) that featured Quentin and Chicago Cubs pitcher Mark Prior.

“He’s always pushed me to keep working, keep working, that good things will happen,” Camarena said of his older brother’s mentorship.

“I’ve always looked up to him,” Camarena said. “My whole life I always wanted to be just like him.”

The admittedly baseball-obsessed Camarena convinced his parents to let him start playing tee ball when he was three. He hit and pitched since he was nine.

For now, he says developing his pitching and hitting means a lot of extra work, work that he says he’s more than willing to put in.

But being a pitcher and a hitter isn’t without its advantages, Camarena said, noting that he believes doing both gives him an edge in the chess match of each at bat — from both perspectives.

“It’s huge,” Camarena said. “If I’m hitting I think about what I would do if I was pitching, what would I throw in this count, and when I’m pitching I just think, what would I be sitting on if I was hitting.”

Camarena knows that the demand for left-handed pitching will likely determine his career path, but remains hopeful he won’t be restricted from the batting cage.

“Hopefully I can play in the National League so I can swing the bat when I pitch,” Camarena said. “I wouldn’t mind giving that a shot.”

Video of Daniel Camerena in action (courtesy SoCal Gold Scouting):

Video courtesy of YouTube