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With Mindset Change, Daz Cameron Turns Career Around

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Daz Cameron (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

JUPITER, Fla. — On the morning of June 15, 2017, Daz Cameron was batting .199 in a repeat season at low Class A. His first try at full-season ball had ended with a demotion to extended spring training. In his second try, the Astros’ 2015 supplemental first-rounder had the second-lowest batting average of any regular in the Midwest League.

He went home to Georgia at the minor league all-star break a frustrated, beaten-down prospect on a path few had bounced back from to become major leaguers.

It was there at Cameron’s home, during that three-day break, he had the talk with his All-Star father Mike that changed the course of his career.

“We would just have some talks about the mental side of the game,” Cameron said. “Some of the things he said just really clicked for me. It was just talks about (the need to) come back and play with confidence and just have fun.

“Gotta have confidence. That’s what makes players good the way they are.”

Since that talk, Cameron has been a comet. He hit .329 with a .950 OPS in the second half of 2017 and was included in the Astros’ trade for Justin Verlander. In his first full season in the Tigers' system last year, he rocketed from high Class A to Triple-A and was named one of the top 20 prospects in both the Florida State League and the Eastern League.

Now he’s playing with the big leaguers in spring training and on the cusp of his major league debut.

“It’s a joy to watch him play everyday and prepare himself,” said Mike Hessman, Cameron’s hitting coach at Double-A Erie last year. “He’s got a chance to be pretty good.”

From Cameron’s perspective, his mindset change has been the catalyst. In the past when he went 0-for-4 but made a great catch, he would focus on the 0-for-4. Now, he focuses on the great catch.

It’s a small thing, but the daily positives compounded. Before long, Cameron realized he was playing confident, loose and free, just as his father implored.

“I felt like I wasn’t able to just be myself,” Cameron said. “Now I’m sitting out there and I feel like I’m just out there being myself, having fun. I’ve always had fun, but I just feel like it’s not as forced.

“It’s not going to be all good everyday, that just is what it is. Me going out there and taking something good from the day and staying positive, that’s what is most important. If you sit there and try to pressure yourself to do good everyday, it’s not going to work out.”

The physical skills have always been there for Cameron, the Tigers' No. 5 prospect. A chiseled, 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, he’s long had the strength to impact the baseball and the athleticism to be a stout center fielder and prolific basestealer.

Understanding the mental side of the game—and the need to stay positive—just took a little longer, even if he never outwardly expressed his frustration.

“I never really saw him get down, he kind of kept that to himself,” said catcher Jake Rogers, who was traded with Cameron in the Verlander deal. “But then he really went off . . . and playing with him last year, he couldn’t get out. He’s an unreal player and just is fun to be around and fun to play with.”

At the rate he’s going, Cameron may very well find himself in Detroit soon. With the Tigers rebuilding and their outfield thin, in particular, Cameron will have every opportunity to rise to the majors if he performs.

He has the physicality to succeed. Now, just a year and a half after he was scuffling in low Class A, he has the mindset to as well.

“I dream of it everyday, playing with these guys in the big leagues,” Cameron said. “It feels close. It feels really close. But there is work to put in, I’m not trying to rush the process. Just keep working hard and do my part and, most importantly, be myself.”

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Daz Cameron Is Driven To Succeed

The center fielder turned in the most electrifying performance by a prospect in big league camp as he eyes a 2019 big league debut.

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