Standing in right field at Victory Field, Cameron Perkins is back home and just a step away from the big leagues.
"I'm very pleased with what's happened so far," said Perkins, a 6-foot-5, 23-year-old playing for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. "I feel like I'm ahead of schedule a little bit, climbing quickly. What's happened so far, I couldn't ask for a better scenario."
Perkins moved to Southport from Texas before his junior year of high school and promptly batted .727, still the Indiana state record. His high school career .628 batting average is also the Indiana state record.
"It's one of those kids that when he hits, everybody in the area stops and kind of looks," said Southport baseball coach Scott Whitlock, watching his former player at Victory Field. "You can just hear the sound of the ball off the bat. You know it's just exploding."
Perkins has steadily moved up the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system since being selected in the 6th round of the Major League Baseball draft two years ago out of Purdue.
"It's a grind," said Perkins, sitting in the visitors' dugout before Wednesday's game. "It definitely is. You play every day. Physically it can take its toll. I get to play a game for my career, so you'll never hear me complain. I'll play this game as long as they give me a uniform."
He led the Big Ten in runs batted in and helped the Boilermakers reach the NCAA tourney in 2012 before leaving Purdue after his junior season.
Perkins got the call up to triple-A Lehigh Valley in early June. That has given family and friends the first chance to see him play in Indianapolis since high school. About 100 people came out to cheer for Perkins each game during the IronPigs four game series in Indianapolis, which wrapped up Wednesday afternoon. Perkins was thrilled to be back home for a few days.
"I've been staying with my family for the past four nights and it's a lot better than staying in a hotel or a college dorm room," Perkins said with a chuckle.
His father Dale watched Wednesday from the right field stands, just a few hundred feet from his son in the outfield. Since his call up, Cameron is batting just .204 in 31 games for the IronPigs.
"Usually when he was in a slump, I always got him a cookies and cream candy bar," said Dale Perkins, laughing. "I bought him one when he came in this series here. It always seemed to help him relax and not think about too much."
Dad's candy bar must have worked. Cameron doubled and scored the tying run in Lehigh Valley's 7-4 win over the Indianapolis Indians Wednesday. Before his call up, Perkins batted .342 this season at double-A Reading, Pennsylvania.
"In tee ball, he hit his first home run and ran around the bases and didn't touch a base he was so excited," said Dale. "He has always been a pretty good hitter from day one."