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Arizona baseball: Cameron Cannon passes on hometown Diamondbacks to play college ball

The Phoenix product had a tough decision to make

Cameron Cannon prepares for an at bat against Eastern Kentucky
Jason Bartel

Cameron Cannon was a 21st round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

So it became a choice of playing for the hometown D’Backs, or traveling south to Tucson from Glendale and play college ball for the Arizona Wildcats.

“It definitely made it harder,” Cannon said of it being that particular team drafting him. “It’s the Diamondbacks, and my brother (Tanner Murphy) is with the Rockies, so we would have been in the same facility for Spring Training, so that would have been a lot of fun.”

“But I’m glad I came here.”

Even though it was pretty much a guarantee that Cannon would get drafted at some point, he still said that moment was unreal.

“Dream come true for sure, especially from the D’Backs,” he explained. “Growing up watching ‘em since I was little. It was just awesome.”

“I was just listening (to the draft webcast) at home and eating breakfast, and my mom was washing dishes and we heard my name and it was just surreal,” he remembered of that moment. “They (the Diamondbacks) called and gave me some time to think about it, and then I ended up choosing here (U of A) obviously.”

“I had my mind more towards college,” Cannon added about his mindset heading into the draft. “Just because of the experience and I’d like to mature more as a player and a person before I head into pro ball, so I’m really glad I came here.”

Now starting his first college season, Cannon did not start the first two games for the Wildcats, a decision that Jay Johnson referred to as easing some of these freshmen into the college atmosphere.

But on Sunday, Cannon got his name written on the starting lineup for the first time as a Wildcat.

“I was nervous,” he admitted about getting the start. “It was a decent crowd, bigger than anything I’ve ever played in front of. The guys helped me a lot and I had a lot of fun with it.”

“I just wanted to do anything I could to help this team win which is seeing the ball good and getting a good pitch to hit and staying positive in the dugout,” he added about his mindset when taking the field.

He certainly got good pitches to hit, picking up a single in his first at bat, a triple in his third, and a double in his fifth.

In the eighth inning, he came to the plate needing a home run for the cycle.

“I did know that,” he responded with a smile when asked if he knew the situation. “I was just trying to keep the same approach though and pack on some runs.”

“Oh I did, we all did,” JJ Matijevic joked about letting Cannon know he needed the home run. “A freshman going for the cycle, so we were like ‘just dip and rip’ right here. I let him know.”

Cannon ended up with his second single of the day instead, making him 4-for-6 with a couple of RBI in his first start. The game was an 18-4 demolition of Eastern Kentucky, and Cannon was the only starter not removed early.

“I thought he was outstanding,” coach Johnson said about Cannon’s first start. “I’ve had a very positive thought on what type of player he’s going to be based on what he’s shown us through fall workouts and when we recruited him.”

“It was great to see him get in there and he’s had some really good success so far.”

In the field, Cannon started the game at second, but eventually played shortstop as well, which is where he’s played most of his life. He also started at shortstop on Monday, but eventually moved to second base.

“I mean I played short my whole life, but I’ve been working a lot at second base since I’ve been here, so I’m pretty comfortable with both,” he explained about where he feels comfortable defensively. “Whatever it takes to win that day, I’ll be ready for anything.”

He’s also made slight adjustments in his approach at the plate since arriving in Tucson.

“Coach (Marc) Wanaka has helped me a lot with just driving the ball up the middle,” Cannon stated. “It’s helped a lot. I’ve changed my hands a couple times, but nothing too big.”

“He’s been pretty good since he got here,” Johnson added. “And that’s great. You don’t get Kobi Simmons, Rawle Alkins, and Lauri Markkanen very often, and you certainly don’t get it in baseball very often. But those guys played about as ready as you could so far.”

Cannon, along with several other freshmen on this particular team, have earned the respect of the older guys simply through personality and work ethic moreso than the skills they bring to the diamond every day.

“He’s just a great kid,” Matijevic said of his teammate. “Great player, plays the game hard. He doesn’t worry about his mistakes or he doesn’t let anything else affect him.”

This is just the beginning of a three-year stint at Arizona, and combined with other freshmen like Nick Quintana, Matt Fraizer, and Shane Martinez, the present and future are bright for these Cats.

Overall, Cannon was 6-for-11 in his first weekend as a Wildcat, and drove in three runs. His .545 batting average trailed only Quintana among guys that had more than one at bat.