On this day 28 years ago, Cameron Thiessen was featured in a Newsday profile by Michael Dobie.
Baseball’s His Game, Mate
Baseball lore is filled with stories of the improbable – the improbable hero, the improbable win, the improbable season. Someday, Cameron Thiessen hopes to take his place in that lore. If the Stony Brook lefthander makes it to the major leagues – that is his dream – he almost certainly will.
Don’t scoff. The odds may be against him but Thiessen’s life thus far has demonstrated, if nothing else, the folly of conventional expectations. His mere presence at Stony Brook is proof of that.
Thiessen (pronounced Tyson) is from Australia. Two years ago, he was pitching for a club team in Sydney when he was spotted by Rob Nelson, an American who is vice president of JUGGS and inventor of Big League Chew. Nelson, a Long Island native who travels to Australia in the winter to play club ball, asked Thiessen if he would like to come to the United States to play high school baseball.
“I was ecstatic, I couldn’t believe it. It was like a dream come true,” said Thiessen, who had never traveled out of Australia before. “From day one, I always wanted to come to the U.S., if not to play, then just to see how baseball was.”
What Thiessen found made him very happy. “I miss home, of course, but baseball-wise I love it. There’s just so much of it,” Thiessen said. “Back home we watch the World Series on TV every year at three o’clock in the morning. Here I get to watch a game almost every day… There’s baseball everywhere.”
Thiessen also found a culture whose personality very much resembled his own. “People up here are more determined, more willing to take risks to get what they want,” Thiessen said. “Back home, it’s kind of unheard of for me to be doing this.” Even Americans might not be as intrepid as Thiessen thinks. Imagine, for example, a Long Island soccer player going to a Brazilian high school.
So far, Thiessen’s venture is paying off. In three seasons at Stony Brook, he has pitched well enough (7-2 last year, 1.04 ERA, 13 strikeouts per game) to attract attention from scouts who also note his size – 6-2, 185 – and the fact that he is lefthanded. Having a fastball clocked at 85 miles per hour also helps.
To get Thiessen more exposure, Nelson has used his baseball connections to arrange visits to various Florida baseball camps and some colleges. Ironically, one of those trips almost ended Thiessen’s high school career.
In March, Thiessen pitched three innings of practice against the varsity of Valencia College, a junior college in Florida, at the invitation of one of the coaches. Thiessen was unaware of a New York State Public High School Athletic Association rule prohibiting such activity. Stony Brook athletic director John Kenney brought the incident to the attention of Section XI officials and Thiessen was declared ineligible last week.
“He was devastated,” Kenney said. “Baseball is his complete love. That’s why he came. He came to get an education and see what he had.” Kenney appealed the ruling and Thiessen was reinstated Monday night because of what Section XI executive director Cathy Gallagher termed “the extenuating circumstances of the case.”
“I’ve got a smile from ear to ear,” Thiessen said.
Today, Thiessen takes that smile back to the mound against La Salle, his second start of the year. Previously, he threw a no-hitter against Eastport. As he stands on the rubber, alone, he could be forgiven for mentally pinching himself. “Whenever I’m by myself, hanging out, I think to myself, ‘This is incredible. What am I doing here?'” Thiessen said. “I would never think in my wildest dreams a few years ago that I would be here.”
Give him a few more years. There’s no telling where he may be by then.
Thiessen went on to pitch for George Washington University and Galveston University.