Above photo of Caimyn Holiday by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru
BELTON- Caimyn Holiday is certainly one of the most recognizable figures on the UMHB baseball team.
His quickness has been spoken of time and time again. When he reaches first base, sometimes on a bunt single, other times on a hard-hit ball to the left side of the infield, fans begin drifting their gazes towards second. Because more often than not, Holiday will test the opposing catcher’s arm, and steal second base. There have been a handful of times he’s stolen third. Once, to take the lead against LeTourneau, the native of Selma, Texas stole home.
But even more than his sprinter’s speed, which has allowed him to become a focal point of head coach Mike Stawski’s offensive system, Holiday has been a consistent presence at shortstop. In fact, there have been just two games in his collegiate career that he has played in where he did not start. 120 starts to be exact.
His on-field play has been raved about. It is a large part of the reason why he will be getting an opportunity to play on scholarship for Our Lady of the Lake University, an NAIA program, following his graduation from UMHB in a couple of weeks. But it is not the only thing that sets him apart. That would be his humility and selflessness, two traits that have been huge in his ascension as a leader in a program that has been restructured under Stawski’s direction. Seldom does he talk about his own accomplishments. He would much rather be discussing the successes of his teammates.
“Obviously the talents on the field speak for themselves,” UMHB head coach Mike Stawski said of Holiday. “He will leave the program with the assists record and will be the most prolific base stealer this program has ever seen as well. But the transition from “what can you do for me” to “what can I do for you” is why this program is on the trajectory it is. He has taken the young guys under his wing and brought them along. He has been a leader by example and vocally.”
It has been very much that way since Holiday arrived on campus. The experience has made him a more-polished player, but from his freshman year on, he was thrust into a starting role. And he soon adjusted, emerging both as a leader and a consistent all-around player in the lineup.
It was his only year playing under the direction of former head coach Ben Shipp, but Holiday credits him and his son, former assistant Nate Shipp, for initially getting him to UMHB four years ago.
“When I went through the recruiting process, the Shipps heavily invested in me as an individual,” Holiday said. “It felt like they wanted me here more than anything. That’s really important going from high school to college. Being with a coaching staff that really wants you here and wants you as a person, not just another name they can add to the lineup or the roster.”
That initial introduction to a program and a university that has, in the years since, given him life-changing opportunities and experiences has not been forgotten. Even under a new coaching staff, the impact the Shipps made on Holiday has remained.
“I can never thank them enough. In our baseball banquet, I gave a speech and the first thing I said was, ‘I want to thank the Shipps for investing in me and getting me here.’”
Though he grew tremendously in that freshman season, he still hit just .248 with the adjustment to college pitching, and had 21 fielding errors. Naturally, that made him a little nervous when Stawski was hired in November of 2020. Coming from a nationally-ranked program, there was question as to how many of the current players Stawski would retain.
“I was blown away actually when Stawski got here and he didn’t wipe the table clean with the recruits,” Holiday recalls. “He invested in the players that were here and wanted the players to experience what college baseball was and what it could be.”
“What it could be” included postseason opportunities. The 2020 season was cut short just 15 games in, but the following year, in 2021, the Cru clinched a spot in the ASC Tournament, and defeated Concordia in their opening game. For Holiday, it was more than a cliche response to say reaching the tournament has been the highlight of his career. He never experienced the postseason in high school either, playing at Converse Judson, so everything was new.
“I never took it for granted,” Holiday said. “That was the most amazing experience of my entire life. I think if you ask anyone on the team what their favorite moment was in their Cru baseball history, 95 percent of them would say winning that first game in the tournament. It was a statement that we were meant to be there.”
He stole two bases over those three postseason contests, a total of 22 for the year. This season, he has already beaten that mark by two. Holiday brings a lot to the program, as Stawski mentioned, but his speed, both at shortstop and on the basepaths makes him an X-Factor. And it works well, because Stawski’s offensive philosophy, which places a great emphasis on baserunning, bunting, and stolen bases, plays right into Holiday’s skill set.
“It really helps because at the D3 level you don’t have a lot of guys who just slug, like you do at the D1 and D2 levels,” Holiday noted. “Except for Malek [Bolin], none of the guys in our lineup have over seven home runs. It helps us generate runs, put the ball in play, and you can see it’s been a big factor as we’ve started to score a lot more than we used to.”
When Stawski came to Belton, Holiday did not waste any time buying into the new coaching style. And even with several new faces coming in, he used it as an opportunity to grow as a leader, on and off the field.
“The guys he brings in are guys who really listen and the competitive drive is something I noticed from the first time they got to campus,” Holiday recalls. “They fit his system. He doesn’t recruit the big sluggers, but high-contact guys who are sometimes overlooked but they get here and they shine because Stawski puts them in those situations.”
He was not recruited by this coaching staff, but Holiday certainly could fit that description. He came out of high school with few offers, but leaves Belton as the program’s all-time putout assists leader, and is just three stolen bases shy of breaking the UMHB career record in that category, with 62. He has shone for one of the ASC’s programs on the rise, and as Stawski said Tuesday, his impact on the program will not be able to be replaced.
“He wants to win, he exudes it, and that energy reverberates throughout the program,” Stawski said. “We won’t replace him because we can’t replace him, but he will leave behind a piece of himself in many of his teammates, so we will see flashes of Caimyn Holiday on the field for years to come.”
His time with the Cru is not over quite yet. Holiday and his teammates will look to improve on last year’s showing at the ASC Tournament, which begins Friday in Marshall, Texas. UMHB battles McMurry at 3 p.m. on May 6.