MINNEAPOLIS - If unbridled enthusiasm for the game of baseball could be bottled and sold, Cameron Varga might just be a very wealthy young man.
Varga, who will be a junior at the IMG Baseball Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in the fall, was at the Metrodome on the edge of downtown Minneapolis Tuesday and Wednesday for the 2012 Perfect Game Junior National Showcase, an annual event that this year welcomed almost 140 of the top underclass prospects in the country.
Varga, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound hard-throwing right-hander, is ranked the No. 6 overall national prospect in the class of 2014 and the No. 1 right-handed pitcher. When speaking with Varga, it quickly becomes evident he has a real passion for the game.
"I love being here," Varga said Wednesday morning, only about 12 hours after he pitched in PG Gold's first showcase game. "I get to play with some of the top kids in the country and you just get to compete with everyone and show off your skills. I think it's an awesome experience."
Varga's outing on Tuesday was a strong one, as he got his fastball to sit in the 90-92 mph range while topping out at 93. It prompted a PG scout to report that "He has a good athletic build and showed very easy arm action, making a very projectable prospect."
"I felt good, I felt smooth and I felt like my mechanics were good, but my velocity I don't think was there," Varga said of the outing. "I've been up to 95-96 before and I could have done better, but it was a solid showing."
If there was anyone else in the Metrodome who seemed to be enjoying the PG Junior National experience as much as Varga, it just may have been his mother, Kristie. She sat in a box seat behind the first base dugout Wednesday morning and watched while Cameron played shortstop and got some at-bats.
"I love it. It's always been fun from the very beginning and you kind of get used to it after awhile; it becomes part of life," Kristie said. "Anytime (the prospects) get to play and be out here amongst this kind of competition, it's good. It helps them get better."
Cameron still loves the rush he gets pitching in front of scouts and college coaches.
"It's fun looking up and seeing all the people out there and just getting to play and have fun and go out and do what you do" he said. "I'm past having the butterflies now. I kind of got over that a couple of years ago."
Varga has already committed to the University of Florida and head coach Kevin O'Sullivan. The Gators are back in Omaha this week at yet another College World Series, and the success the program has enjoyed under O'Sullivan is big reason why Varga chose to continue his education and his baseball career in Gainesville.
"It's close to home and I wanted to stay in-state," he said. "I really loved the coaches at the University of Florida and I really like the direction that they're going. I think they're going to be a powerhouse for a lot of years."
Kristie and her husband Chad - a former basketball standout at the University of Pittsburgh who played professionally in Spain for several years - also have a daughter, Kiersten, who is an accomplished volleyball and beach volleyball player. The two parents take turns following their kids to different events; Kristie is with Cameron this week and Chad is with Kiersten.
"Between the sand on the volleyball court and the baseball fields, this is life for us," Kristie said with a laugh.
Because of Chad's basketball background, that was the sport Cameron started out playing the most when he was a grade-schooler, his mother said. Ultimately, right around the age of 10, Cameron chose to concentrate on baseball, which now seems to be a sound decision.
"It was kind of neat," Kristie said. "My husband was kind of taken aback by it a little bit but after we realized his love for the game and how good he was at it, we just knew that he made the right decision; he's not looked back since. Baseball has kind of been his love since the beginning."
This year's Junior National is the 17th Perfect Game Varga has attended since 2009 (at 17-years-old he is one of the older prospects in his graduating class). In 2011 alone, Varga attended 10 PG events, including his first Perfect Game Junior National Showcase in Fort Myers and his first PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., as a member of the All-American Prospects/Indians Scout Team.
The number of PG events he attends will shoot through the roof over the next two summers due to Varga's recently becoming a member of the East Cobb Braves 17u squad.
"I'm really excited about that," he said. "I get to play with some of my old friends over there, guys I used to play with when I was young, guys like Travis Demeritte and a couple of others."
The PG Junior National is the first event Varga has been to this summer after a spring in which he said played pretty well for IMG Academy.
He will attend the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars team trials in Cary, N.C., in the coming weeks and then will gear-up for a busy month of July playing for the EC Braves 17u at PG WWBA and PG BCS Finals tournaments in Marietta, Ga., and Fort Myers, Fla.
By attending IMG Baseball Academy, Varga has received a very baseball-heavy education (he does carry a 3.6 GPA in the classroom) and feels like it has been a very beneficial experience.
"I've really learned a lot there," Varga said. "We really play a lot of baseball; it's non-stop. We get done with school and we just play baseball and workout all the time."
"He really enjoys the coaches, the kids, the atmosphere - it's kind of got that sports mentality about it, so you're surrounded by kids that love the game as much as you do," Kristie said. "Anytime you can be in a situation like that, it's such a positive."