Jan 8, 2016

Mid 2000's Mets Outfielder: Mike Cameron (2003-2004)

Michael Terrance Cameron was born on January 8, 1973 in LaGrange, Georgia. The tall six foot two right handed hitting outfielder got drafted in the 18th round of the 1991 draft by the Chicago White Sox.

By the time he got to AA ball in 1995 he stole 21 bases & hit 11 HRs in 107 games although he only batted .249 & struck out 104 times. The next year he improved to .300 with 39 stolen bases 28 HRs & 77 RBIs. Cameron came up briefly as a late season call up both those years, by 1997 he was the White Sox regular centerfielder.

He was an excellent outfielder with speed, great range and a strong throwing arm. He showed some power at the plate hitting 14 HRs with 55 RBIs batting .259 coming in 6th in the Rookie of the Year voting but struck out 100 times. He would strike out over 100 times thirteen seasons, including eight straight times leading the league in 2002 (176).

His 1998 season was dreadful batting .210 with only 8 HRs in 141 games with 101 strike outs. In November of 1998 he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Paul Konerko. In one year spent in Cincinnati, he rebounded by hitting 21 HRs 34 doubles 38 stolen bases & a .256 batting average with 66 RBIs.

Trivia: Legendary Reds broadcaster Mary Brennaman once said that Cameron was one of his top ten all time players to be around.

In 2000 he was part of a highly publicized trade to Seattle, in a deal that brought Ken Griffey Jr. to his home town of Cincinnati.

Cameron became popular in Seattle even though he had big shoes to fill replacing Griffey. His outfield play was fantastic and he was subject of many ESPN highlight films on Sports Center almost nightly.

He spent four seasons in Seattle having his best year in 2001, hitting 25 HRs with 30 doubles 110 RBIs a .267 batting average & a .353 on base %, making his only All Star team. Cameron used his salary bonus to purchase All-Star Game warm-up jackets for all of his Seattle Mariner teammates.

In four seasons in Seattle he drove in 75 runs or better each season, had thirty plus doubles with 95 plus runs scored & 20 or more HRs twice. He was also a good base runner, stealing over thirty bases twice with Seattle.

Overall he stole 25 or more bases five different times coming in the league's top ten in that category four times. On May 2nd, 2002 he went onto the record books hitting four HRs in a single game against the White Sox at Comiskey Park in Chicago. In his last at bat that night he reached the warning track and just missed a record setting fifth HR by a few feet. 

In 2004 he signed with the New York Mets as a free agent for two seasons. In his first season in New York, he was the Mets center fielder & led the team in most offensive categories; games played (140) at bats (493) runs (76) HRs (30) stolen bases (22) doubles (30) and RBIs (76).

Cameron was always known as a good natured guy & one of the most down to earth players around. He always had time for autographs & interviews. In 2002 he co-wrote a baseball book geared to kids, where he says his keys to success are open mindedness, team work & self confidence.

Mike Cameron debuted as a Met on Opening Day 2004 in Atlanta, batting fifth & playing center field. He hit safely in his first seven games as a Met, bashing HRs in the second & third games of the year in Atlanta against the Braves.

One of his finest Mets moments came on June 18th, 2004. It was Mike Piazza Night where Piazza was honored for hitting the most All time HRs as a catcher.

Cameron hit a walk off HR in the inter league game against the Detroit Tigers to the delight of centerfieldmaz & the rest of the Shea faithful in attendance. On hand to honor Piazza that night were Gary Carter, Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, Johnny Bench, Lance Parrish & Pudge Rodriguez.

The next night had another game winning walk off hit in the bottom of the 9th inning, off the same Detroit pitcher, Danny Patterson. In that week Cameron drove in runs in six of eight games while in a seven game hit streak.

At the start of July he four HRs in a three game span, driving in six runs. On July 7th at Philadelphia, he hit two HRs, driving in three runs in a 10-1 Mets win. Then he hit HRs in the next two games (one in Philly & one in Florida) driving in six runs along the way. It came in the middle of a six game hit streak and a stretch of 31 out of 41 games where he had at least one hit.

At the end of July, he hit four HRs during a four game road trip to Montreal, including a July 29th contest where he hit two in the Mets 10-1 win. Overall that month July he hit ten HRs, with 19 RBIs. Cameron began August hitting HRs in three straight games while driving in runs in five straight games on the road in Atlanta & Milwaukee. On August 19th he hit a three run HR driving in four runs overall in a 10-8 Mets win against the Rockies in Colorado.

A productive August had him drive in 23 runs, with 8 HRs, while hitting safely in all but seven games in the month. On September 18th he hit a game winning sac fly off the Pirates Solomon Torres, in the top of the 10th inning at Pittsburgh. In September he hit less but still finished the year as the Mets most productive hitter, even ahead of Mike Piazza who's career was winding down a bit due to injuries.
The next season (2005) the Mets signed Carlos Beltran & Cameron was pushed over to right field, a move he was not happy with.

He started out the season on the DL after a Spring Training injury, not getting into the line up until May 5th. He started out the year with five HRs & 11 RBIs batting .372 at the month's end. He was hitting better at the plate and was up to .273 when he went down for the season after a brutal outfield collision with Carlos Beltran.

On August 11th 2005, at San Diego's Petco Park, the two collided into each other chasing a fly ball at full speed. It was a horrible scene & one of the worst in Mets history as well as in baseball that entire season. Cameron was removed from the field on a stretcher, as he suffered a concussion and fractures to his cheekbone & nose.

After 76 games he finished the year at .273 with 12 HRs 23 doubles 39 RBIs & 13 stolen bases. After becoming unhappy about switching over to left field & with the Mets moving forward to a more winning attitude Cameron's days were numbered.

That November he was traded to the San Diego Padres for Xavier Nady. There he joined his former Mets team mate Mike Piazza who had signed on as a free agent after the Mets had let him go to free agency.

Cameron had a good first year in San Diego, hitting 22 HRs with 34 doubles, 83 RBIs, 25 steals & a .268 average. He even received voted for the MVP Award becoming a popular player in Southern California.

He returned to Seattle in an interleague game and received a standing ovation from the Safeco Field crowd. He dropped to .242 in 2007 but hit 21 HRs with 78 RBIs. He signed on with the Milwaukee Brewers for the 2008 & 2009 seasons, hitting 24 HRs & driving in 70 runs both years but batting below .250 both times with over 140 strikeouts each year.

In 2010 he signed a two year deal with the Boston Red Sox but played in just 48 games due to a groin injury.

In 2011 he was traded to the Florida Marlins hitting 6 HRs there batting .238 in 45 games. He was released at the end of the season & signed on with the Washington Nationals for 2012 at age 38 but decided to retire instead.

He then signed a one day contract with the Seattle Mariners in order to retire as a Mariner. He threw out the first pitch of the 2012 Mariners home Opener. 

In his 17 year career Cameron has played in 1955 games batting .249 with 1700 hits, hitting 278 HRs (167th all time) 383 doubles (215th all time) 59 triples & 968 RBIs.

He has 60 sac flies (225th all time), 867 walks (191st all time) & 297 stolen bases with a .388 on base %. His 1901 strikeouts put him at ninth most all time.

In the outfield he played 1921 games (62nd most all time) playing 1787 in center field (14th most all time). As a center fielder he has 4698 put outs in center (12th all time) with 72 assists (75th all time) turning 19 double plays (67th most all time) & making 64 errors (40th all time) with a .987 fielding % (87th all time).

Charity Work: Cameron is the founder of the Cam4Kids Foundation and was host of the First State Golf Tournament for Inner City Kids in Seattle in 2002. This to raise money for scholarships to inner-city youth. He is actively involved with the Make A Wish Foundation & Starlight Foundation.

Family: His son; Daz Cameron played for Eagle's Landing Christian Academy & was drafted by the Houston Astros in 2015, 37th pick overall.

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