EVANSVILLE — Already, this might be the best family tradition in Gibson County Baseball history. And it is continuing.
Cameron Decker, 17-year-old Evansville North junior, who batted .303 as a freshman but had his sophomore season canceled by COVID-19, is slated to play shortstop and bat third in a season that was to start Wednesday at Evansville Memorial.
Cameron’s brother, Cole Decker, is a freshman that will turn 16 on Saturday who hopes to return from injury and play centerfielder when the North Freshman opens Monday at Evansville Reitz. Tuesday, they will visit Gibson Southern.
Cameron and Cole are the sons of Chad Decker, who was a four-year starter as a first baseman and occasional pitcher and shortstop in route to 1991 graduation from Princeton Community, where he also quarterbacked the football Tigers as a junior and senior and Libby Goldbach Decker, the late Jeff Goldbach’s aunt who served as Princeton bat girl for the man who is now her husband.
The family tradition also includes Joe Don Decker, the boy’s grandfather who started in baseball and basketball at Princeton, played both sports at Indiana State and in the Cincinnati Reds’ farm system, became Pete Rose’s spring training roommate in 1962.
“My grandfather Don (Joe Don’s father) played high school basketball,” Chad Decker said. “He not only played baseball but became a south All-Star as a Princeton senior and started at Indiana State in that sport.
“Dad lives in Sarasota, Florida. He’ll be up here May 3 to celebrate his 80th birthday and will also see Cameron and Cole play baseball before going back to Sarasota.
After playing three years in the Reds farm system, Dad earned a dentistry degree and practiced in Princeton from about 1967 on until retiring and moving to Florida along with my mom, Merry, who was in Evansville North first graduating class. Her dad Irvin played basketball at the University of Evansville along with Wilfred Doerner.”
Chad also notes that if you ask Tim Nonte, Princeton’s former High School Baseball coach and All-American Legion Manager, “Jeff Goldbach and I are his only players for four years.”
Chad helped the Tigers win a sectional title in the Class L era and also played first base on the Post 25 Legion team that won sectional and regional titles and reached the state tournament semifinals in 1990.
There’s more. Chad’s older brother Kurt pitched and played first base for the Tigers en route pitched and played first base for the Tigers en route to 1987 graduation.
Younger brother Quinn pitched for the Tigers and in a 1994 sectional opener, beat South Spencer and Josh Garrett 1-0. Jarrett became the Boston Red Sox first round draft choice in 1996.
Quinn also beat Evansville Memorial 2-1 in a 1995 regular season and would’ve pitched for Indiana State, where he remained on a baseball scholarship and did work for the Sports Information department except for a rotator cuff injury.
Dr. James Andrews, who performed surgery on numerous major leaguers, performed Quinn’s surgery, but Quinn still couldn’t pitch after that.
“We’re well aware of our family’s baseball tradition and all that they’ve accomplished, and I want to make sure that I can pass it on,” said Cameron, who, before starting his junior year, aspected a baseball scholarship to Central Florida University near Orlando.
This after a summer season with the Indiana Canes travel team for whom he batted .411 with four home runs.
“I also had scholarship offers from Evansville and Indiana State but chose Central Florida but coach Ted Tom that is a community for all the players,” Cameron said. “I also like that it’s warm in Florida and I can play baseball year-round.”
Cameron, who now plays shortstop after playing first base his freshman year, received offers from Purdue and Western Kentucky after committing to UCF.
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“My brother Cameron knows all of our family’s baseball past and how baseball is family,” said Cole Decker, a left-hander who will play center fielder for the North freshman. I want to be a baseball player like everybody else in our family.”
As of Monday night, when the Decker’s were interviewed in their family home in the subdivision just south of Cambridge Golf Course, Cole was still recovering from a tendon stress fracture suffered six weeks ago.
“I was taking a light at-bat when that happened, said Cole.” Dad added, “that happens to a lot of young athletes that have put on a lot of muscle like Cole has.”
Cameron also knows what it’s like to be injured. He broke his left wrist while riding a bike at age 12 and suffered a broken nose a year ago in high school basketball.
“I took an elbow to the face in practice,” said Cameron. “Cameron suffered a ligament tear when he rounded first base in a 2019 travel team game,” Chad said. “He was sidelined for two months.
Libby Decker noted that “both our boy’s played basketball in a league until this year when they put their concentration on baseball.”
Cole, however, played Tennis this past fall, holding the No. 3 singles position on the North team that won a sectional title.
“We’ve coached Cameron and Cole from day one,” Chad said. “We don’t force a thing; the desire is there’s. It’s something they enjoy; they love baseball. They hit on their own.”
“The travel baseball season is long. It starts in early June and runs through July. After a break in August, it resumes it resumes in September and October.” Last summer Cameron played in seven tournaments in Atlanta, Columbus, Kansas City, Cedar Rapids, Iowa and three in Indianapolis. The Canes won two of those tournaments.”
Like Chad, Libby is “so proud of her boys.
“I’m so proud to be their mom,” Libby said. “Seeing how much they love baseball makes me happy. I hate to miss a game.”
Chad noted, “We are at their games every Thursday through Sunday.”
There’s even more. “We’ve made a lot of friends by going to games,” Libby said. “My niece is Carrie Wilderman, who pitched Gibson Southern to the state finals in 2005.”
The family star’s on and off the field. Injury ended Chad’s baseball career after one Central Florida season, so he transferred to Indiana University and there earned both Bachelors and Master’s degrees.
Today he is vice president for Angus Dental and Vision INC., based in Tampa, Florida. Libby graduated from Indiana State and earned her Master’s Degree from Central Florida. She works as a case manager for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the world’s second-largest medical company.
Quinn is a sales manager who sells furniture to hotels. Kurt works as a sales consultant for Heritage Credit Union in Evansville.
Want more? “Cameron and Cole are both straight-A students,” said Libby.