Sunday, August 6, 2017

Getting to Know Quad Cities OF Daz Cameron

Last month in Quad Cities, I finally got to catch up with Daz Cameron. I had hoped to talk to him last year on my trip to Tri-City, but a broken finger ended his season shortly before I got there. And I really wasn't sure what to expect from the 2015 first round pick, but what I found was a very pleasant surprise.

Daz Cameron - July 2017
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Cameron is as down-to-earth, personable, good-natured and enjoyable to talk with as they come. If you expect him to wear his top prospect status as something that sets him apart, you will be disappointed. In Cameron's own words, "I'm pretty much the guy that's laid back, chill ... stay at home, play video games, laughing all the time, goofy guy. I like to go out. I like to enjoy hanging out with friends."

My very first sighting of Cameron was of him showing off some dance moves in the pre-game dugout. So I had an inkling that we would hit it off. Nothing ground-breaking or earth-shattering came from our conversation. Honestly, it was more like two baseball fans just sitting around shooting the breeze on a lazy Sunday. I ended up telling him as much about myself as I learned from him. But I digress.

Before I talked with Cameron, I got some background from Quad Cities Manager Russ Steinhorn, "Huge bounceback year which didn't start the way anybody would have hoped for. Last year, he got off to a rough start here [Quad Cities]. He got sent to Tri-City, was playing really well and then he got hurt. He's overcome a lot of adversity early on with a lot of hype coming out of the draft. But to do what he's done so far and not get discouraged, I think speaks a lot about his mentality on how he can handle the adversity that's been thrown at him."

Steinhorn continued, "He was floating around .170 the first half of the season and now he's up to .250 with 11 home runs [now 12], leading the team in stolen bases. He is now playing and showing the tools that everybody was talking about when he was coming out of the draft. I'm glad to see that out of him because when there's a lot of hype surrounding a young kid, it's hard to see how he'll take it. But he's got a good baseball background. [Cameron's father is 17-season MLB OF Mike Cameron, a 3-time Gold Glove winner.] I'm sure he's got a lot of support with his Dad. You can tell that he's stayed focused and it's paying off which is good to see."

My first question to Cameron was whether he had ever had any doubts about signing out of high school. "Well, for me, it was just going with my heart ... just following my heart in what I wanted to do. And I think I (made) the right decision, me coming into professional baseball, because it's something I've wanted to do since I was five, since the first time that I could hold a bat. For me to make the decision, back then, a long time ago really helped me when the draft was taking place," said Cameron.

As to how he's dealt with the pressure that comes with being a top draft pick signing out of high school, Cameron told me, "I somewhat felt a little pressure at first, at the beginning. But I had to realize that it's just baseball and pressure comes with baseball anyway. My Dad helped me deal with it. (He helped me understand) to not worry about it, to just go out and play the game hard and play the game I've been playing since I was five. It's not going to change. Going out and playing the game is the same thing as (when) you were going out and playing the game when you were (a kid). Just having fun with it has allowed me to get away from all the worries and stuff. All the prospect rankings and all that stuff ... it's just there. I know it means something, but for me to just put it aside and go out and have fun has worked for me."

Hanging out with his Dad in major league clubhouses growing up was a lot of fun for him, but it also taught him a lot about the baseball mindset and how to prepare. "We used to go to the ballpark all the time. Just for me to be around the guys in the clubhouse, it's really helped me about how I want to go about my day. The clubhouse, the atmosphere has helped me get in the routine of things. Just looking at other guys and see what they do before games and even before they come to the ballpark; it's just helped me all around to become the player that I'm becoming," said Cameron. One of the players that Cameron really enjoyed getting to know was Brewers 1B Prince Fielder who his father Mike played with in 2008 and 2009, but he got to know quite a few great players along the way and acknowledged, "There were a lot of guys that were really cool with me. There were a lot of guys that gave me a lot of advice and have helped me today."

Cameron started off his 2016 season slowly and suffered the same fate in 2017, hitting .185/.260/.338 in his first 43 games through the end of May. But he started to really turn things around in June and is now hitting his stride, hitting .325/.385/.544 with seven doubles, three triples, four home runs and 25 RBI in the 30 games since July 1st. What is clicking for him? "Just the mental approach, me going out there and just being myself and not worrying about, 'I need to do this.' Just going out there and just playing. The rest will take care of itself. For me, I know there's up and downs in baseball and up and downs in life so I have to take that into (consideration) and just really go out there, working hard every day and believing in what I can do. That was the main thing for me."

It's not just one aspect of his game that Cameron is working on improving. He said, "For me, it's just work on my approach and my craft and everything ... defense, all-around, just everything ... just to keep getting better. I'm never going to be satisfied because in baseball, you've always got to work hard every day. Just working hard every day to be the best player I can be, keep working towards it."

Cameron obviously has a great deal of physical ability. What else does he bring to the game? "(I'm) just a good guy around the clubhouse. I like to be on good terms with everybody in the clubhouse. I like to feel the vibe of ... a good atmosphere in the clubhouse, winning atmosphere. I want to win. I don't want to lose. Just tell everybody to keep playing the game hard. Just be there to pick guys up on and off the field when they need it." He works at finding some connection with each and every player on the team, understanding that even a small connection can become big in terms of building team chemistry. But most of all, he just tries to be himself. "I'm not trying to be somebody I'm not," he said.

I would say that another of Cameron's intangibles is his ready laugh. Although he cited Chuckie Robinson as one of his funniest teammates, he admitted that it doesn't take that much to make him laugh and most of his teammates can pull that off, "I like to laugh. I laugh a lot so it's not really that one guy in particular that makes me laugh all the time. I'm a goofy person. Anything can make me laugh, literally."

The River Bandits crew that I saw in late July had an immense amount of talent. Cameron may be a top prospect, but he's in good company. Cameron said, "We have a lot of good guys, but the guy that stands out to me the most would probably be Ronnie [Dawson]. Ronnie is a good player. He's got everything. He can do a lot of things on the field. He can run for his size. I enjoy watching him play. When he gets it going, I love watching his swing. His swing ... it's nice when it gets going. Just to watch everybody doing their own thing ... it's a team effort. When I look at everybody and see everybody doing (well), it's good. Feeling good. The vibe's good. And even when we're not doing good, we know we've got to pick each other up and keep it going because it's baseball. It's a game of failure. It's a good team. I enjoy playing with these guys. That's for sure."

In response to my final question, Cameron told me, "I love the Astros organization. I feel like we have a lot of things that are here to benefit us on and off the field. I enjoy being here as a player. I love the coaches (and) the fans here. It's a good place to be. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else." With that said, he understands the business side of baseball, the potential for trades and such, but he's perfectly happy with where he is. But, honestly, Cameron strikes me as someone who will be happy no matter where life takes him. Personally, I hope to see him in Astros orange and blue for a nice long time because he is a joy to watch on the field and a pleasure to know off the field.

Thank you for your time, Daz, and the best of luck as your season and your career continue.

Other Recent Interviews:
Marcos Almonte and Abdiel Saldana

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