By Danny Torres
TOLEDO – “There’s no crying in baseball.”
Who remembers Academy Award winner Tom Hank’s iconic scene in the 1992 motion picture, A League of the Own, where Hanks delivers this memorable line that has carried on throughout baseball folklore?
For over three decades, it truly proves that Hanks and Hollywood got it all wrong.
Because let’s be honest: how many of us cried (ok…I did grab some Kleenex) when another Academy Award winner Kevin Costner whose character Ray Kinsella finally meets his late father John, as a youthful ballplayer, who appeared from the cornfields at the conclusion of this 1989 phenomenal movie?
Thirty years ago, Field of Dreams, had everyone crying in the movie theaters across the country. Towards the end of the film, it was an endearing moment between a father and son on a ball field in Iowa and those memorable words spoken would forever be etched in our hearts and minds:
“Dad, you wanna have a catch?
For Daz Cameron, 22, not only did he play catch with his beloved father Mike Cameron, a former Major League Baseball All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner, who had an impressive 17-year career that included hitting four home runs in one game on May 2, 2002.
And yes…he was a starting outfielder for the New York Mets.
In this EXCLUSIVE sit-down at Fifth Third Field in downtown Toledo, I’m interviewing for the very first time the son of this former MLB player. Fifteen years ago, I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing his father countless times during his tenure with the Mets and since his retirement we have continued a friendship that has lasted to this very day.
Just like his gifted father, Daz understands the importance of hard work, respecting the game, spending a few moments with his already die-hard fan base in Toledo, accommodating the working media and most importantly a strong belief in God.
These are attributes he learned from his supportive parents, siblings and a doting grandmother in LaGrange, Georgia who proclaimed that her grandson was born to play this beloved sport.
And considering there are so many churches in this northwestern part of Ohio, there’s an old catchphrase once made famous on TV that is quite apropos for Daz Cameron as he makes his indelible mark with the 2019 Mud Hens– “Holy Toledo.”
First, what can you tell me about your hometown LaGrange, Georgia?
First and foremost, I have a lot of family there. LaGrange is the place I always went on weekends to spend time with my grandma and other family members. We had a lot of fun and there’s a lot of land. We rode dirt bikes. We had a lot of fun playing outside. Great hospitality.
When did you realize you were falling in love with this sport? What age?
My grandma said I fell in love with this sport before I even picked up a bat. When you are born, obviously you have no clue what a bat is but my grandma said I picked it up and was always swinging it. I would say I must have been around 5 years old. My first Tee-Ball team was in Seattle and I remember posing like Ichiro and that’s when I knew it was real. The love and passion for the game started at a very young age. And it’s going to continue to be in my heart forever. I know it will.
When would you say you heard your dad say for the first time, ‘Man, my son is pretty good’ [laughs]?
I would probably say my freshman year in high school. He was probably realizing that I could go D-1 and can get drafted. At that age, I was playing with an older team and we played in a lot of 17U tournaments. I felt I was going to get better by playing in that type of competition at such a young age. I knew if I kept working hard and not be naïve to some of the things my dad said that I was going to turn out well.
Growing up in the shadow of a famous father who was not only a Gold Glove outfielder but an All-Star ballplayer, how much of an influence has he had in your career? In some instances, a father being his son’s teacher/coach can be challenging.
My dad has been more than influential on the baseball side and the life part of it. He’s been there to help me on the mental side – the physical and mental – everything that comes with this game. He has given me tips. I would say the guy he asked for me to lean on the most is [David Ortiz] Big Papi. He gave me some hitting tips. My dad said I use to run up on Barry Larkin. He used to throw BP to me.
What are your recollections of being a part of the 2015 MLB Draft?
It was great and I had a lot of family and friends there. It was a truly a dream come true. I worked hard to be drafted. And to be drafted where I wanted, it was great. God is good and I will always look back at it as a milestone for me. The bigger picture is to play in the big leagues for a long time. I knew when I was drafted that is what I wanted to work towards. Keep faith in God and it will turn out the way I want.
In 2000, your dad was part of a blockbuster trade where Ken Griffey Jr. was headed to Cincinnati and your father to Seattle. Two years ago, you were a part of a blockbuster deal that sent Justin Verlander to Houston and now you are part of the Detroit Tigers organization. Did it hurt leaving Houston?
Nah…it was bittersweet. It was Justin Verlander. He’s going to the Hall of Fame. You look at his resume and all of his accolades. But, I was like man, I made some good relationships over there in Houston but I looked at the brighter side. I’m with Detroit and there are good people over here too. We got good coaches and a good opportunity. I’m happy to be here.
At this point playing with the Mud Hens, what do you feel you really need to improve on?
I really think I need to really work on every aspect of my game. That’s what it’s going to take to play everyday at the highest level. I want to say when it’s all done I gave it my all. I’m trying to grow into that person. I have to be myself. You’re not going to be perfect but I know if I go out there everyday and give in my all, that’s what matters the most.
If there is a favorite quote your dad says to you often, what would it be?
He’s got a lot of them. Baseball – it’s a new day.
Final question – Can you talk about your faith?
I have a strong relationship with God. Everyday, I’m praying for everything. Praying for people to have a better relationship with God. For me, he has guided me to keep my eyes on the prize. Having that strong faith in him is going to take care of me to not worry. There are times we get lost, but keep your faith, pray not only for yourself but others as well.
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