Senior relief pitcher acts as a role model for young players

AJ Taylor

Senior relief pitcher James Chamberlin has earned a particular reputation amongst his teammates.

Commended for his positive energy, and model work ethic, Chamberlin, or Chambo as he is called, is acknowledged as a strong presence in the weight room, clubhouse, and especially on the mound.

But this was not always the case. When Chamberlin came to Sacramento State from San Mateo City College as a junior, he “had a lot of work to do.”

“He was kind of out of shape,” said head coach Reggie Christiansen. “His arm wasn’t in shape. He has worked really hard to get to where he’s at today.”

Today, Chamberlin serves his Hornets as the main set-up man to closer Brandon Sandoval. In that role Chamberlin owns the team’s best ERA (1.46).

“James is one of the biggest parts of our team,” said starting pitcher Dallas Chadwick. “He’s a guy who comes in and shuts it down for us.”

Sandoval’s first save of the season came against UC Davis, and was set up by Chamberlin.

Coming in and shutting it down, Chamberlin pitched in relief for starter Karl Maas. Those two allowed Sandoval to earn a two-inning save, clinching the season series against UC Davis for the first time since 2002.

A non-scholarship, recruited walk-on, Chamberlin could have pitched somewhere else to earn a scholarship. Instead he came to Sac State, looking for nothing more than a fair chance to play.

“(Christiansen) basically told me, “You’re going to have a chance to compete. You’re going to have a chance to play,'” Chamberlin said. “I said, “If you give me a fair shot, I’m down.’ He gave me a fair shot just like he said and I’ve been here ever since.”

Chamberlin had plenty of good times in San Mateo, but he is happy to be pitching in Sacramento. Had he chased a scholarship out of state, his parents would not have been able to watch him pitch as they do every game.

Christiansen and his staff debated the topic of converting Chamberlin to a starter this season, but the decision was eventually made to save Chamberlin’s experience for the late innings.

“The older guys are more mature,” Christiansen said, “They’re more experienced, and the last nine outs of a baseball game are probably the hardest nine outs to get. They did a really good job in understanding, they kind of took one for the team so to speak because anybody wants to be a starter, but they understand what we want to do.”

Christiansen said he has implemented this theory of winning, and players like Chamberlin, among others, are key agents of that theory. Working hard, leading by example, and keeping an even keel are just some components of this theory.

“I’m not really that outspoken, but I feel like I lead by example,” Chamberlin said. “I try to do the right thing every time. Everyone can see that I compete my ass off on the mound. No matter what the score is no matter who I’m facing I’m going to get him out.”

Chamberlin holds that contributing to a winning team is all he is interested in, whether it be out of the bullpen or starting the game.

His competitive energy acts as a catalyst for the Hornets. His teammates say his energy is “infectious.” His head coach says he is “always doing the right thing on the baseball field.”

“He’s one of those guys who’s always talking,” said catcher Derrick Chung, “He’s energetic in the clubhouse. Just being around him makes us feel better. He’s one of those guys.”

Chamberlin, now beginning his second season as part of the Hornet pitching staff, continues to do his part in helping the younger members of the staff.

Dallas Chadwick, Tanner Mendonca and Sam Kuykendall, all freshmen, make up the Hornets starting pitching staff. In all of the Western Athletic Conference there are two other freshman starting pitchers.

“He’s a great leader for those younger pitchers,” Chung said. “He’s been a great leader for every single one of them.”

Chamberlin has embraced that role. He prides himself in setting the bar, and setting the bar high.

“At certain situations I say, “Hey bro, this pitch would have been better, you can understand why,'” Chamberlin said. “Just give them a little bit of my knowledge, what I’ve been through. I’ve been through it all pretty much.”

But at the end of the day, Chamberlin says he is just a simple guy.

“(My biggest struggle is) just giving up runs,” Chamberlin said. “That’s what really pisses me off. I hate giving up runs.”

You can reach AJ Taylor at [email protected]