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Athlete Worth Watching: Cam Nolet from Annapolis High School

Jun 04, 2018 12:00AM ● By Brian Saucedo
For Cam Nolet, life is all about grit and determination. The Annapolis High senior has needed every bit of it on his long road to overcoming dyslexia while preparing to play college baseball at the University of South Carolina Aiken  on a scholarship next season. 

Two colleges that initially recruited him aggressively for baseball—Radford University and Georgia College—turned him down after they requested, and his mother supplied them with, documentation of his learning disorders, which also include Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The game changer was a unique program offered by South Carolina Aiken’s Office of Disability Services. It works with students like Nolet.

“Some teachers don’t know how to teach people like me,” Nolet says. “But that school has teachers that know how to work with us. I thought it was a good fit for me. I wouldn’t set myself up for failure if I went to the school.”

To hear Nolet and his mother Kim talk about it, his love of baseball and his talent for playing the sport have been crucial in facing the daunting challenge of a childhood learning disability. He dominated high school baseball as a left-handed pitcher, spending three years at St. Mary’s before transferring to Annapolis High this school year. 

There’s little doubt that baseball provided a welcome outlet to the grueling challenge Nolet faced in the classroom during his early school years.

“He spent every summer since the first grade in school,” Kim says. “He never had
a summer off until the 11th grade. He’d always be with reading tutors.” Former St. Mary’s baseball coach Johnny Poss also mentored Nolet through his difficulties and stuck with him for the three years he played with the Saints.

Nolet decided to transfer to Annapolis after Poss left the program last year.

“He grinded through the academic part of it to make the changes necessary to be successful in the classroom,” Poss says. “Cam now has the tools to be successful for four years in college. The things he had to overcome in order to succeed were more than I have ever witnessed before.”

According to the International Dyslexia Association’s website, dyslexia is a neurobiological learning disability characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by
poor spelling and decoding abilities. 

Nolet’s condition was complicated by a relatively late diagnosis that came during September of his freshman year at St. Mary’s. It caused him to fall severely behind the normal academic learning curve.

“I had been saying he has been (dyslexic) since he was in elementary school,” Kim says. “All the special education teachers kept saying it was something else. I kept saying, ‘I am pretty sure he is dyslexic,’ and they were saying no. I should have listened to myself and gotten him professionally looked at by a doctor, but I didn’t do that until the 9th grade.”

Despite this, Nolet gave his schoolwork everything he had. That included working with teachers before school and skipping practices; playing only in games during his freshman year on the St. Mary’s junior varsity team because he spent 12 hours with tutors per week at the Huntington Learning Center in Gambrills.

“He was always behind,” his mother says. “It would take him 10 times the amount of time than everyone else to get his homework done. Homework was a five-hour process. Not a two-hour
process. He had tutors all the time.”

Nolet is still somewhat reticent when it comes to talking about dyslexia, but his mother encourages him to be more open about it. He says he is.

“If you ask me I will tell you,” Nolet explains. “I just didn’t want to talk about it in my freshman and sophomore years. I just kept it to myself.” 

Nolet’s mother says that her son’s love of baseball and talent have served as a great pressure release from his academic struggles. “He was two different kids: one kid on the field and a different kid in school,” she says. “Baseball is all Cam ever talks about now. He’s so comfortable with baseball. It’s 24-7.”

Annapolis baseball coach Gus Kaplanges is thrilled to have a player as talented as Nolet. Young players crowd the Panthers’ roster, and the team hasn’t been very good in recent years.

“He’s like having another assistant coach around,” Kaplanges says. “I ask him to work with another kid, and he’s right on it. He is really good at working with other kids.” Nolet serves as one of the team’s co-captains, and he enjoys the role of working with his teammates.

“I had to realize I was playing with a bunch of younger kids,” Nolet says. “So many of them didn’t start playing until high school. I would have to pull them over to the side and tell them what
they did wrong and how to fix it.”

Nolet quickly became Annapolis’ ace, starting 3-1 with a 1.40 ERA. He fanned 46 batters in 25 innings while yielding only 10 hits as the Panthers improved from 4-16 to 5-8 this spring. 

“His velocity is only a part of his success,” Kaplanges says of the hurler with an impressive three-pitch repertoire. “The movement he has. His ball breaks at the precise moment its supposed to
break in the hitting zone.” 

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Nolet also excelled in his two seasons on the St. Mary’s varsity squad, including going 5-1 as a junior with 70 strikeouts in 36 innings and yielding only 14 hits. “For
a small guy, he throws extremely hard and hides the ball very well,” Poss says. “He has great control of three pitches. He will progress in to being a very good collegiate pitcher.”