Very few players in the game can shake up a lineup like the Brewers most recent free agent acquisition, Mike Cameron. He is widely regarded as one of the leagues best centerfielders and best teammates. But, his impeccable reputation took blow last October when he announced, prior to the official release from the commissioner’s office, that he had tested positive for a banned stimulant and had been suspended for 25 games to start the 2008 season.
Cameron stands by his statement following the suspension: "After all of the analysis and testing, I can only conclude that a nutritional supplement I was taking was tainted," he said. "Unfortunately, the actual supplement is gone, and therefore cannot be tested. Without the actual supplement in hand, the rules are clear, and I must accept the suspension."
Now, he looks forward to what he calls a "golden opportunity" in Milwaukee. A new centerfielder means the Crew will have a new third baseman (Bill Hall) and a new left fielder (Ryan Braun) to open the season. Doug Melvin believes Cameron’s gold glove is the final piece, with Jason Kendall, JJ Hardy, and Rickie Weeks, that completes the "middle" defense upgrade. The Brewers feel Cameron is worth the wait and worthy of the dramatic shift in roles.
The man from McDonough (Georgia), Mike Cameron, recently sat down for a visit in the House of Blogs.
Brian Anderson: Mike…welcome to Milwaukee. Why the Brewers?
Mike Cameron: I looked at all the quality free agents they’ve signed and I just felt Milwaukee was going to be a quality fit for me. Having a chance to experience what it’s like to play here at Miller Park as an opponent, I like where the franchise is going and this is where I wanted to be.
BA: What exactly did you see in the Brewers from the other dugout?
MC: A lot of quality. Quality young players that have already shared some good experiences together and have put some years together as a group. Hopefully, they continue to grow and continue to perform and I can come in and fulfill my role, and we can earn a post-season birth.
BA: How will you handle the suspension?
MC: It’s going to kill me not to be able to play, especially with new teammates, a new city, etc…but, I’ll put myself in the mindset of treating it like an injury. Nobody wants this on their record but it’s done and I have to serve the suspension and deal with it. I’ve worked hard to have good character and good relationships and I’ll continue to do so. I’ll go to Spring Training and play hard and give the guys (players and coaches) an idea of what I can do and what I can’t do. When I signed with to San Diego (2006), I pulled my oblique the last day of spring and missed 18 games. That’s how I’ll treat it. I’ll spend extra time down there working on the extra things to get better, then, during the suspension, practice hard and stay strong so when I return, I can step right in the fire and continue the winning ways that I expect to be happening while I’m gone.
MC: I just try to be me. It’s good to have a good reputation because when all else fails, you want people who know you to look at how you are as a person. That’s the way I was raised…to become a man before I become a baseball player. Those are the characteristics that I carry every single day of my life. Being here in Milwaukee, it definitely helps out to have character because it allows the people that you work with to accept you. You don’t want to have any disruptive behavior that destroys something that has already been built strong here. Hopefully, I can come in and shed some light on some of the things I’ve experienced and help them become quality major league baseball players for and extended period of time.
BA: Your signing has created two position changes, outfielder to outfielder, what can Ryan Braun expect in left?
MC: He’s a good athlete and that definitely helps. That being said, there are some nuances that you have to really be aware of in the Major Leagues. Number one, the lights. That will be the biggest adjustment, tracking the ball through the lights. The ball gets on you quicker. The only way to get comfortable is through experience and repetition. It’s more than just taking fly balls from a coach. Batting practice is the best time to get a lot of reps so, in the beginning, he’ll have to work just as hard in BP as the game. Once we get to Spring Training, I’ll be able to take a look at him and figure out how I can help him throughout the course of the season.
BA: Where did you get the nickname "Swiss Army Knife?"
MC: Lou Piniella…when I was with the Mariners. He gave me that name because of my versatility. Defense, offense, speed, power…I feel like I still have all of those tools and that has allowed me to play this long. I don’t focus on ONE quality that can help a team win, I focus on keeping ALL the tools sharp so I can help the team win in all aspects of the game. Speed is a big part of my game and as long as I can run, I should be able to play a long time.
BA: You’re a career .343 hitter at Miller Park and a .300+ hitter in all NL Central ballparks. Is there something more to that than just the numbers?
MC: Miller Park is fair. The ball travels well here, especially when it heats up. I think that is true throughout the Central division. There are a lot of runs scored in this division. Having played in Petco (San Diego), a pitchers park, it definitely hurts your offensive numbers. You try not to let it change your game but mentally, you know it’s going to be tough.
Coming here, I’m going to feel very good coming to this ballpark everyday because you know if you hit one good, especially to right center – my power field – it’s got a chance to go out of the ballpark instead of being an out. Believe me, I’m looking forward to it!
…and in honor of Brewers newest Georgian, here’s a classic from a couple of pioneers. If this doesn’t make you smile, you don’t love music. CLICK
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