When the Packers baseball season begins - and their state title defense - there will be plenty of fresh faces taking the field, but one familiar face will be that of senior ace pitcher Camran Bonnema.
Bonnema is the son of Tim and Jody Bonnema. He has spent his entire life in the West Fargo area and, despite only playing baseball, loves all sports.
The right-handed Bonnema was one of just three players to see the field regularly last season that wasn't a senior, finishing with a 9-1 record on the mound (including playoffs) and striking out 52 batters.
"He has really become the kind of pitcher we envisioned him being," head coach Brett Peterson said. "He's a big-game player who wants the ball and wants to throw for seven innings. He does whatever he can to earn the win, and he's really become the leader in games and in practice. He's that 'first to show up, last to leave' kind of guy. I think he missed two workouts all winter. Sometimes you see seniors put it in cruise control, but he's been working hard to build on what he did last year."
He is also no slouch at the plate, hitting .349 in the 2012 season. He plays right field when he is not pitching, but prefers to be the player in focus.
"I want to be the one everyone's watching and having the game on my shoulders," Bonnema said. "I like being a part of that big moment."
He will not get as many big moments this year, however, as the prolonged winter means a shorter spring season with very few days to rest between games.
"Assuming we only get a three-week regular season, Camran may only get three or four starts," Peterson said. "He will still be 'that guy' for us, especially come playoff time."
Without the chance to be on the mound as much, expectations of Bonnema include helping the less experienced pitchers whenever possible.
"If I see something they are doing wrong - if, say, they are staring at their glove while they are throwing to home - I'll do what I can to make them better pitchers," Bonnema said.
"He's definitely been a mentor to the younger guys," Peterson said. "I think all of our guys look to him, and the few that have been varsity players before."
Despite being one of the few players on the team with varsity experience, Bonnema sees plenty of potential in the young team.
"We may not have the offensive power of last year from a home run standpoint, but I think we'll be able to play small ball and scratch some runs out," Bonnema said. "Defensively, I would say we're just as strong as last year. From a pitching standpoint, we have eight to 10 guys that can throw strikes, so I don't think we'll struggle there."
Upon graduating, Bonnema has committed to pitch at Mayville State University, where he will pursue a degree in biology, planning to "do something non-teaching."
"A kid like that knows what he has to do at the college level," Peterson said. "He's a good kid, and he has a chance to become a great pitcher at that next step."
When asked if the team can repeat the success of last season, Bonnema showed the faith he has in his team.
"I think we have a good chance of getting back to that state championship, and that really excites me," Bonnema said. "We are a really hard working team, the guys have good heads on their shoulders, and we have three great coaches."
The Packers next scheduled game will take place - weather permitting - on Tuesday against Valley City.