Even at the rather advanced baseball age of 38, Mike Cameron still packs some punch at bat. He proved that with a pair of two home run games this season, the first with the Red Sox against Seattle and then, after being traded to Florida, against Washington.
08/05/2011 3:47 PM ET
Longevity is key for Cameron
Marlins outfielder is in his 17th Major League season
By Hal Bock / MLBPLAYERS.com
He is the only player in Major League history to have multi-homer games with eight different teams -- the Red Sox, Marlins, White Sox, Reds, Mariners, Mets, Padres and Brewers.
"That's pretty cool," Cameron said. "It's something I didn't know. It's something to be proud of."
There's a lot more. There are three Gold Gloves in his resume as one of the finest center fielders of his generation. He is one of just 20 players with more than 250 home runs and 250 stolen bases. And he is one of just 15 players, and the only one still active, to hit four home runs in one game.
None of those accomplishments rank No. 1 with Cameron.
"The thing I'm proudest of," he said, "is my longevity. Longevity allowed me to do some of those things. I don't look at individual things like that. I look at the opportunity to do this for so long. Longevity is No. 1, the opportunity to use my God-given ability on a daily basis.
"The four home runs -- that's a great day. But it's just one day. The Gold Gloves? I should have had more. Sometimes politics enter into it. I got three of them, and that's great. What I look at is the opportunity to do this for so long."
Cameron is in his 17th Major League season and an important presence in the Marlins clubhouse, where he is surrounded by a roster of young players. He offers a wealth of experience and a professional approach to the game.
"It's a joy to be with these young kids," he said. "I haven't had that experience in a while."
And if the kids ask, Cameron can always point to that line in the history book about most home runs in one game. He is on a list that includes five Hall of Famers. Cameron hit his four homers with Seattle on May 2, 2002, in Chicago. It was particularly satisfying because the White Sox were his first team, the team he signed his first contract with and the team that traded him away.
"I always had bad intentions going back to Chicago," he said. "They traded me young. They didn't give me a chance to become what I became. I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. That made it more satisfying.
"I remember looking over in their dugout and seeing their faces. That meant more to me then. It's a little different now."
Cameron remembered being zeroed in that day, his concentration level high.
"There were no distractions," he said. "You're in that zone. I had been struggling late in April, but it all came together that day. The first one was against Jon Rauch. I think it was his first start. Before the second homer, I hit another one that just went foul. In my fifth at-bat, I almost hit another one out, but Jeff Liefer caught it at the fence. The fans gave me a standing ovation. You play well and the people appreciate it."
Cameron has become something of a baseball vagabond. After four seasons in Seattle, there have been two with the Mets, two with San Diego, two with Milwaukee and then a stop in Boston before landing with the Marlins. "It means somebody always wants you," he said.
He is leaving his options open for next year. There are incentives.
"I'm closing in on some personal milestones," he said, "stuff like 300 homers and 300 steals."
He needs three stolen bases for 300 but is 25 away from 300 homers. Could he reach that number? He sure looked like it when he had that pair of two homer games earlier this season.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.