Just over one year ago, Cameron Gray found out what everyone eventually learns: life is not fair.
It’s that knowledge, that moments we treasure are fleeting, he’ll lean on to make sense of whatever happens this weekend at the State Tournament in Sulphur.
In 2016, the hard-throwing righty was fresh off a sophomore campaign that had Lakeside fans and college scouts buzzing. With a fastball clocked as high as 89 mph by one scout, Gray was beginning to attract major D-I universities after earning both All-Area and All-Parish Pitcher of the Year and 2A All-State honors.
While Lakeside was preparing for Gray’s junior season, he began to feel discomfort in his right shoulder. As the Warriors’ ace on the mound, he tried to throw through the pain because his team needed him.
Gray went on to start four games that season. The last was a 4-2 loss to Calvary Baptist in April 2016 in which Gray threw 5.0 innings, struck out five and allowed five hits. Later that month, following a doctor’s visit, Gray got the bad news: a torn labrum and torn biceps.
He had surgery shortly after on May 6 and has been working his way back ever since.
“He almost threw a complete game against Calvary with a torn labrum that year,” Cameron’s older brother Preston Gray, a pitcher/infielder on the 2011 semifinal team said. “(Cameron) had something special.”
In the surgery’s aftermath, Gray, like many athletes in his position, struggled to cope mentally with his misfortune.
“Coach Bob (Gray) really helped me,” Cameron said. “He set-up all my doctors visits and got me in really quick. He kept telling me to take things one step at a time, and that got me through it a lot.”
With encouragement from all around the Lakeside program, Gray got busy working on controlling the things he could, like his approach at the plate and his ability to find a spot in the field.
He eventually did just that, taking over in right field and making large enough strides at the plate to land in the middle of the Warrior’s lineup where he’s driven in 23 RBIs and accounted for 10 extra-base hits this season.
Although he’s highly-unlikely to be called on to pitch this weekend, Gray did get to make his peace with the pitcher’s mound this year, making two starts.
In his last outing, he threw a three-inning no-hitter against district opponent Lakeview.
“I had two outs in the last inning and I had been throwing about 80 percent all night,” Gray said.
“Coach Bob came out to the mound and could see I was hurting pretty bad. He told me it was my last high-school batter and to let it rip, so I did.”
The first full-speed pitch was a strike, however, the second found the shoulder of a Lakeview batter. The next batter Gray let it rip one last time, inducing a ground ball to end the game; he walked off the field in tears, soaking up the moment.
Win or lose, Gray has one more lifelong memory to make this weekend with a group of teammates he says feel more like brothers.
“Everybody on the team really hangs out together,” Gray said. “It’s going to be pretty special. For me and Jake (Gray), it’s nice because every other Gray who’s played at Lakeside has been to the semifinals; we finally made it.”
Gray is weighing whether he wants to accept an invitation from Panola Junior College in Texas to come rehab and try to throw in the fall or to start instrumentation at Northwest Louisiana Technical College.
That decision can wait.
The battle-tested senior has plenty of time to figure out the future and a state championship to win this weekend.