To understand the esteem for outfielder Roberto Campos within the Tigers’ organization, you have to go back to 2016 to the Punta Cuna International Tournament, an 800-player competition in the Dominican Republic.
Representing the Cuban National Team, a 13-year-old Campos and his 14-year-old brother Raul, said goodbye to their teammates during their championship celebration, climbed into a vehicle and exited the tournament.
Their departure launched an investigation into their disappearance, but for the Campos brothers, they finally had something to hope for. And as any Cuban national will tell you, hope holds a different definition.
“Let’s put it this way, the word ‘hope’ in our vocabulary, it doesn’t mean anything,” High-A West Michigan Whitecaps manager and Cuban native Brayan Peña said. “When you are desperate and living in a country that there is no hope, you are looking for whatever route or destination for you to go out there and be able to just be free.”
Settling in the Dominican Republic, Campos wouldn’t see competitive baseball for another three years, focusing his time instead on training.
The Tigers took a gamble on the youngster in 2019, signing the 16-year-old for $2.85 million, then a franchise record bonus for an international amateur.
Fast-forward to 2023, and the 20-year-old Campos finds himself under the watchful eye of Peña in West Michigan. Through 24 games, Campos slashed .247/.311/.452 with three home runs in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League.
In addition to Campos’ athletic profile and resilience, Peña has also taken notice of the young righthanded hitter’s determination to adapt to his surroundings.
“You see him asking questions. You see him going up there and watching the way they work,” Peña said. “You see how much he already proved from that being with all the players right next to him, and that is something that really make us all happy.
“He’s taking advantage of this opportunity he’s having, to be able to play with all the guys, and at the same time he’s just getting ready for the next level.”