WASHINGTON – Shawn Camp, a veteran Major Leaguer from Fairfax, was preparing for his second season with Tampa Bay when the team hired a new pitching coach.
It was before the 2007 season and Tampa Bay landed Jim Hickey to look over a young pitching staff, after he had veterans such as Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte with the Houston Astros.
Hickey took over for Mike Butcher and worked under manager Joe Maddon.
“Obviously it was his first year with the organization,” Camp, 44, told Federal Baseball on Monday, hours after Hickey was named the new pitching coach for the Nationals.
“Any time you have a chance to work under Joe Maddon (is a plus) … Jim was a positive guy. He is very hands on with his approach.”
“He simplified it for people. (Coaches) all have to get their experience, right? We did not have the best staff that year so it was challenging for him,” added Camp, a resident of Haymarket, Virginia, and the pitching coach at George Mason University, his alma mater.
Tampa Bay was 66-96 with an ERA of 5.53 in the first year under Hickey.
“Just a positive guy, an upbeat guy, one of the boys in the clubhouse,” Camp said of Hickey.
The new Nationals’ mentor – who replaces the departed Paul Menhart – noted Monday in a call with reporters that sometimes you treat Max Scherzer differently than Austin Voth.
Hickey will also have to deal with a bullpen that has struggled for the past two regular-seasons.
Virginia native and ODU product Daniel Hudson is slated to return but lefty Sean Doolittle, a University of Virginia product, could sign elsewhere as a free agent. The Nationals also have an improving Tanner Rainey, veteran Will Harris, and hot-or-cold Wander Suero.
“You obviously get a lot of help from your bullpen coach. A lot of relievers will rely on the bullpen coach,” Camp said. “I think the biggest thing for Jim and guys that have been successful pitching coaches in the big leagues is they don’t have a hierarchy.”
“Jim is not going to have a problem with the way the Nats run things. Mike Rizzo has done a great job there – I know him well. The fan base here is going to welcome him. He is going to fit in well. That is how Davey runs his clubhouse.”
“Those Tampa Bay boys stick together. I am waiting to hear Tom Foley come over,” Camp said of the former coach with the Rays from 2002-17.
Camp said Hickey and Martinez got along well on a staff at Tampa Bay that at times included Don Zimmer, Foley and George Hendricks.
“You could have put their (coaches) locker room inside of our (players) locker room; open-door policy,” Camp said of his days with Tampa Bay. “Davey Martinez has no enemies in the game. At the end of the day it is the manager’s team.”
Camp pitched at Robinson High and at George Mason University. The right-hander was a tireless bullpen arm in the majors and led the league in 2012 with 80 appearances while with the Cubs. He ended his career with the Phillies two years later and pitched in 541 games in his career – all as a reliever.
Camp has kept in touch with Washington manager Martinez, who was part of the coaching staff with Hickey at Tampa Bay. Camp sent a text to Martinez on Monday and said it was “awesome to see” Hickey join Washington.