James steps down as Cameron coach

CAMERON – For Eric James, it was supposed to be a short-term gig.

Instead, it turned into one of the more successful high school baseball coaching runs in recent Ohio Valley history.

James, who guided Cameron High School’s program since 2003, announced Wednesday he’s stepping down from his post following more than 200 wins and eight Class A sectional crowns.

Simply put, it was time.

“It’s kind of good to go out when the cupboard’s not bare,” James said. “We have some talent. The program is established in the area. It’s to the point now where we’re competitive year in and year out.”

That’s due, in part, to James’ passion, not only for the game and the school, but for the youth of Marshall County.

“It’s been a good run,” he said. “I always said I wanted to leave something better than it was than when I inherited it. I truly think our baseball program is in pretty good shape right now.”

James, a John Marshall High School graduate, took over the reins of the Dragons from Jim Potts after a stint as an assistant at his alma mater under legendary coach Bob Montgomery. He had also been a coach at Bishop Donahue.

“Coach Potts basically took the program to another level,” James said. “My first season I had five pretty solid seniors and two juniors. That first year we won 23 games and beat St. Marys in the sectional final.

“From there, I just told the kids I wanted to try to have us in that position year in and year out.”

Originally, James was only going to stay on for a season or so. But once the program became successful, it became harder to walk away.

“When your program is having success and getting notoriety and the kids are excited about it, it’s tough to let go.

“But one thing in looking back on all of it is I made some really good relationships that are going to last, not just with players and area coaches, but with the people at the different places you play at.”

In addition to guiding the program, James was a familiar face in Little League programs around the Cameron area.

His efforts to build the sport around Cameron proved fruitful. During his tenure, James’ teams won 20 or more games three times, an OVAC regular-season title, and appeared in an OVAC Tournament final, losing to Linsly. In 2012, he received a Coach of the Year Award from the Ohio Valley Baseball Coaches Association.

“That was really nice,” he said. “To me, that was not a reflection on me as a coach, but a reflection on the program.”

James also served as an assistant football coach, assistant girls’ basketball coach and assistant boys’ basketball coach during his time as baseball coach.

Now, he’ll have some more time to watch his high school-age children – Lander and Jensen – compete in their sports, baseball and track/cross-country, respectively. He’s also thinking about delving into umpiring, just to stay close to the game.

Since announcing his move, James said he’s been overwhelmed by the show of support from his players, former players, opposing coaches and community members.

“It kind of makes you feel good that you’ve had such a positive impact,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t realize the effect you have on people until you step back.”

Thorp can be reached at rthorp@timesleader-online.com