By Dan Guttenplan
---- — Cam Kneeland doesn’t want to make an annual tradition of earning awards in the Can-Am Baseball League.
For this year, he is willing to accept the award bestowed on his yesterday: Can Am League Rookie of the Year. Kneeland, a Triton Regional High and UMass Lowell alumnus, hit .306 for the Trois-Rivieres Aigles, and ranked in the top five in the league in three offensive categories. He was second in the league with 29 doubles and third with 62 RBI. Kneeland was also tied for third in the league with 114 base hits.
“I was pretty consistent the whole year, which is something my coaches have been stressing,” Kneeland said. “Now, this offseason, I want to work on my body, getting bigger and stronger. My goal is to play MLB baseball and get out of independent ball.”
Kneeland has tryouts with the Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks lined up for this offseason. He was also invited to play winter ball, but decided to pass so he could work for his father, who owns his own plumbing company.
“I’m not really sure how important the tryouts will be,” Kneeland said. “Typically every team has about 20 guys out for tryouts. Some of the 20 might get contract offers, but some of the other guys are just there to fill space. I’m not sure which one I’ll be.”
Aigles manager Pete LaForest believes Kneeland could have a decent career with an MLB franchise.
“(Kneeland) has great tools,” said Aigles Manager Pete LaForest. “He has quick hands and real good bat speed, his glove work at third was fantastic. Guys wanted to be around him, they gravitated toward Cam,” said LaForest. “Kneeland was a leader in the clubhouse.”
After earning Daily News Player of the Year during his senior baseball season at Triton in 2008, Kneeland put up impressive numbers at UMass Lowell. A four-year .325 hitter, the infielder is among the River Hawks’ career leaders with 189 hits, 44 doubles and 144 RBIs.
Kneeland was undrafted after his senior season and chose to pursue independent ball to keep his hopes for a baseball career alive.
“He bloomed a little later than some others,” said LaForest. “But I am convinced that he will get a shot with some major league organization.”
“As the summer went on he worked on driving the ball to right field and right center,” said LaForest. “He also learned to drive the off speed pitches.”