Athlete of the Week: CJ Chambley dominates dominates the mound and the plate for the Rams

Published 11:43 am Saturday, March 9, 2024

Valley’s baseball team is off to a 10-1 start this season, and most of the team’s success is thanks to senior leadership. One of the team’s most important leaders at the plate and on the mound this season has been CJ Chambley. 

Chambley has stepped up his game this season at the plate, posting a .323 batting average and a .436 on-base percentage. On the mound, Chambley has been one of the team’s most consistent arms. Chambley has pitched 13 innings in three starts and currently holds a 3-0 record to go along with a 0.54 earned run average. 

Chambley’s production this season is in large part due to the work he has put in off the field, but he believes that the team’s overall camaraderie and attitude have helped him become a better player. 

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“As a team, we’ve just come to work together,” Chambley said. “We’ve grown a lot closer. We’ve got a lot of team chemistry. I think that team chemistry this year has given me a little more confidence in what I can do. When I’m on the mound … I know my teammates are there, and they’re going to get the job done.” 

The three main starters in the rotation, Jackson Sanders, Matthew Mcdonald and Chambley, have also grown closer this season. The three are consistent encouragers of one another, and they help each other on and off the field. 

Chambley has grown to have full faith in the defense behind him. That faith has allowed Chambley to just go on the mound and pitch with complete freedom. 

Chambley has also grown to be more confident in the rest of the lineup, and that has allowed him to worry less at the plate. 

“Having them behind me in the field, not making a lot of errors this year through the first part of the season,” he said about the confidence in his defense. “Having confidence in them and knowing that I don’t have to do everything by myself and just throw strikes, and [I’m] going to be able to get outs that way. I’m having confidence in the whole lineup being able to get the job done if I’m not able to. I know the next guy behind me can get it done.” 

Chambley is one of the few baseball players for Valley that plays more than one sport. Chambley started at linebacker this season for the Rams during football season. On the football field, Chambley finished with 48 tackles, two tackles for loss for the Ram defense and four touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball. 

With Chambley being one of the few dual-sport athletes on the baseball team, he had to ramp up his recovery and training before baseball season. 

“After football season, I gave myself a week off, and then I got back in the gym, started lifting weights again, trying to get stronger but also trying to improve my quick twitch muscles and get faster as well,” Chambley said. 

“Having those fast twitch muscles in baseball is everything. Started a throwing program to get my arm in shape because this is a long season. Being able to have my arm in shape to go the distance this year. Those are probably the three main things that I tried to do.” 

Despite being more than a solid player on the gridiron, baseball has always been Chambley’s passion.

“I’ve always been more of a baseball guy,” Chambley said. “I took a break from football in my younger years for about two or three years and picked it back up in middle school. I’ve always liked baseball more. I understood the game more. Football has always been fun to me, and I’ve always been pretty decent at it. But I’ve always felt like I’ve excelled more in baseball.” 

Despite one sport being higher on the totem pole for Chambley, he has learned a plethora of lessons from each. Football has also helped Chambley to become a better baseball player and vice versa. 

“I think probably the main thing, in both sports you’re going to fail a lot,” Chambley said. “You’re not always going to be your best all the time. Just keeping a positive mindset has probably been my main thing. During my freshman and sophomore years, we were still in 6A, we failed a good bit. We came to work every day the same.” 

Chambley’s production this season has been phenomenal, but his leadership has been more important. 

Chambley has always vowed to be the senior that he did not have as a younger player, and he works every day to make the younger players on the team feel welcome. 

“My eighth grade and freshman year, the seniors were a little more seniority guys,” Chambley said. “They kind of made the freshmen do everything. I didn’t like it like that, so I always told myself growing up that I wasn’t going to be that guy, and I didn’t want our senior class to be those guys. We’re going to pick the younger guys up and show them how to do it, not make them do it.” 

The Rams’ pitching staff has been on a pitch or inning limit through the early parts of the season, but that has not stopped Chambley from pitching deep into games. 

Chambley has been the team’s most trusty inning eater through the early parts of the season, and that has been due to his trust in Valley’s defense. Chambley has pitched to contact more this season, and it has allowed him to keep his pitch count down and pitch deeper into games. 

“I don’t have as many strikeouts as I have in the past,” Chambley said. “We’ve seen a lot of better hitters. So far, we’ve been anywhere from the fourth or fifth inning or 60 pitches, whichever one comes first. They don’t want us to overdo it right now during the early parts of the season. Pitching to contact is a big thing for us this year. We feel like we have a defense that can make plays on any baseball that is put in play.” 

Chambley has been a dominant athlete in multiple sports for the Rams, but he currently does not have plans to continue playing at the collegiate level. Instead, Chambley plans to go to the University of Alabama to study construction engineering and keep himself from continuing to add more wear and tear to his body. 

“I was debating on walking on for baseball there, but seeing one of my friends going and playing baseball at Huntingdon … and some of the stuff they go through, I doubt that I end up walking on,” Chambley said. “I’ll probably just go for school, just because of the fact that my body has been through a lot throughout high school with sports. Not that I’m not good enough to play somewhere, maybe just a little burnout.” 

Chambley grew to have a passion for construction at an early age, and now he is ready to fully focus on that part of his life. Chambley has always participated in athletics, so not playing in college will be a big change. However, it will give Chambley the opportunity to fully focus on his other passion and prepare for his career. 

“Growing up, I’ve always kind of had an interest in being outside and building,” Chambley said. “I’ve been able to build small things, read instructions and put things together. When I was about eight or nine years old, my dad cut some trees down at our house. I took the trees and ended up building myself a little tree stand out in the woods where we lived. That actually stayed up for a couple of years.” 

It is Chambley’s senior season, and his time in a Rams uniform is winding down. Chambley is not looking too far into the future yet though as Valley is fully focused on taking the baseball program to the next level and winning a state championship. 

“Before the season, we all had one thing in mind, and that’s to try to bring a baseball state championship back to Valley,” Chambley said.