Cam Vieaux Coaches his Way Through 2020
For most, the three-mile drive from Michigan State's John H. Kobs Field to the home of the MLB-affiliated Lansing Lugnuts, Cooley Law School Stadium, takes seven minutes. For Indians southpaw Cam Vieaux, that journey due west took four years.
Vieaux grew up in a suburb of Detroit, idolizing Justin Verlander on plenty of trips to Tigers games. His summers were full of playing baseball, and when he graduated from Walled Lake Western High School, that trend continued in a green Spartan uniform about an hour away. In 2016 he was drafted by the Pirates, and the green and white turned into black and gold.
He made his way through the usual stops, from West Virginia to Bradenton, Altoona to Indianapolis. Vieaux's life - like that of so many of his peers around the professional baseball landscape - was dominated by a rhythm on the diamond. It was, at least, until 2020 threw a wrench into everyone's plans with the shutdown of spring training on March 12.
"I was just doing my training and [in the first few months] we still didn't know we weren't going to have a season, so we were all working out, just trying to stay ready to go whenever they called us," Vieaux said. "Unfortunately, they didn't."
In the meantime, the Lansing Lugnuts were putting together alternate plans of their own, should the 2020 Minor League Baseball season be scrapped. It was, the news breaking on June 30, and with it came an announcement of the Lemonade League.
A local collegiate wood-bat league led by former Michigan State catcher Chad Roskelly, the Lemonade League hosted athletes from the Colorado School of Mines to Eastern Florida State. They were split into two teams, the Lugnuts and the Locos, and took the field for 20, seven-inning games using yellow baseballs.
"[Roskelly], one of my former teammates from Michigan State, was the guy who was put in charge of running that. He hired another pitcher that I played with at State and then a couple other guys that he knows from coaching locally," Vieaux said. "A small group of five of us kind of ran the baseball ops of that league."
Vieaux, in the midst of his playing career, was tabbed one of two Locos coaches. The league ran for a month, from July 23 to Aug. 22, and ended with the Locos taking home the inaugural Lemonade League title with a record of 12-8. Vieaux's pitching staff racked up a 1.07 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the best of the two teams.
"I didn't do as much instruction as much as just talking to kids about situations when they had questions. I would just tell them what was going through my mind and kind of bounce things back and forth between each other. I think it was a new experience for the kids, having a coach like that. It was pretty easygoing."
The biggest thing Vieaux pulled from his professional pitching experience was to trust his fastball. That's what got him to the next level, and he made sure to relay that to his players.
"I think that with the way [the game is played today], people are falling in love with having that good big breaking ball or slider," Vieaux said. "One thing I wanted to stick with them is that they all had good fastballs."
He also pulled from the coaches that got him to where he is today. The one that stands out the most is Matt Ford, pitching coach for the Bradenton Marauders when Vieaux made stops there in 2017 and '18.
It wasn't Ford's techniques or mechanical workouts that drew Vieaux to his coaching style - although Vieaux said he used Ford's same scheduling sheets and copied a lot of what he did - but the similarity between their two personalities.
"He's kind of a goofball like me, pretty easygoing, but at the same time takes care of business," Vieaux said.
While Vieaux was coaching during the summer, he still had to get his workouts in regularly to trick his arm into thinking it had pitched a full season. Despite the busy schedule, being able to work out with the collegiate players turned out to be an advantage.
Not only did Vieaux bring lessons with him to his coaching experience, but he received some in return.
"I just learned that everyone kind of does everything differently," Vieaux said. "No two pitches are the same, so that's kind of interesting to just be able to work with all these different guys and see how their bodies work. When I go do my workouts at the end of the day, I can kind of take pieces from those guys and what works for them and try it out for my own mechanics."
Now, those lessons are things Vieaux can take with him as the focus shifts to 2021 and his return to playing - instead of coaching - baseball.
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International League Stories from December 17, 2020
- Cam Vieaux Coaches his Way Through 2020 - Indianapolis Indians
- Staff Highlight: Joey Stevenson, Director of Field Operations - Indianapolis Indians
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