TAMPA, Fla. - When Cameron Rupp enrolled in 2007 at the University of Texas, he became an education major.
If his baseball career did not pan out, he planned to be a high school coach. His father coached Rupp's baseball and football teams when Rupp was growing up. His uncle was a college baseball coach.
"I guess I'd have to be a teacher if I wanted to be a coach. So I went that route," Rupp said before Thursday night's game against the New York Yankees. "But it worked out this way."
Rupp put his coaching plans on hold when the Phillies drafted him in 2010. He has spent most of the last five years in the minor leagues, but that should change this season. Rupp is a likely candidate to make his first opening-day lineup as the team's second catcher.
"It would be a dream come true. That's every kid's goal growing up," said Rupp, 26. "Especially as soon as you get drafted. You're always fighting for a job. You're trying to make the big squad as soon as you can. Being up for parts of the last two years has been quite an experience, and this would top it off."
Manager Ryne Sandberg said Rupp is in better shape this spring, which has helped his moves behind the plate. He said Rupp and the team's other catchers benefit by learning from Carlos Ruiz. The 36-year-old is revered by the team's pitching staff for his stable defense and ability to call a game.
Rupp has started five games this spring, second only to Ruiz. The righthander was hitting .364 in 11 at-bats entering the game against the Yankees on Thursday night. It was the highest mark among Phillies catchers. Rupp debuted in the majors in September 2013 and has played 22 games with the Phillies over the last two seasons. His father, grandfather, and uncle played in the minors.
"He's a guy that has some righthanded pop when he makes contact," Sandberg said. "He's been showing some of that this spring. . . . All in all, he brings a lot to the table."
Rupp grew up in Plano, Texas, fewer than 20 miles north of Dallas. He is an unabashed Cowboys fan but has yet to see a win at AT&T Stadium. He was at last season's loss on Thanksgiving against the Eagles and the overtime loss to Washington on Monday Night Football. The game was bittersweet because Rupp went to college with Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy.
"I'm, like, 0 and 9," Rupp said. "I try to go to games now that don't matter."
Rupp's competitors for the opening-day roster are Koyie Hill and Tommy Joseph. Hill is starting Friday for the third time this season. The 36-year-old is hitless in nine at-bats. Joseph, 23, has started four times but did not play past double A last season.
"I'm showing them everything I have," Rupp said. "I'm going to come out, work every day, and when I'm in the lineup, I'm going to show what I can do."