Detroit Tigers' Daz Cameron struggles with his helmet, but wants 'to show I can belong'

Evan Petzold
Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers rookie Daz Cameron's helmet began to bobble as he sprinted around third base. He wishes he would've let it fly, but he continued readjusting it until he was one step and a head-first dive away from home plate.

That's when he decided to give up on fixing his helmet.

Left fielder Eddie Rosario's throw to catcher Mitch Garver beat Cameron to home plate. It wasn't even close. The throw — or Cameron's helmet fiasco — kept the Tigers from tying the game in the fifth inning of a 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins in 10 innings Tuesday at Target Field.

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"Every road trip, every time I get on base, I start running and my helmet falls off," Cameron said Tuesday. "Every single time. I have the right size, but it's still a little bit big enough to where it falls off and falls back every time I run. Definitely be getting a new helmet, for sure."

In future scenarios, Cameron said he's just going to let his helmet fly off his head. Would he have been safe? Probably not. But the play at the plate would've been much closer.

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"Listen, it was one of those plays where Reyes hit a bullet to left, we were sending him with two outs and hoping something good happened," interim manager Lloyd McClendon said. "The first person I went to was (Ramon Santiago, third base coach) and told him, 'Great move.' You got to be aggressive in that situation."

Cameron's helmet is one problem, but his offense is another component to keep in mind. After starting his career 1-for-27 with 11 strikeouts through eight games, the organization's No. 7 prospect is 5-for-11 in his last four contests. He made up for his fifth-inning helmet fumble with his second double in the top of the seventh, later scoring what was then the go-ahead run.

The 23-year-old is starting to get the hang of hitting in the majors.

"The last few games, I've just been trying to keep it real simple and stay within my routine and work before the game," Cameron said. "It's able to pay off right now."

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Detroit Tigers right fielder Daz Cameron (41) celebrates with designated hitter Miguel Cabrera after scoring a run in the seventh inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field, Sept. 22, 2020.

For climbing out of that slump, he has newly retired manager Ron Gardenhire to thank. One of Gardenhire's final moves in his career came Sept. 18 Friday against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. Trailing 1-0 with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, he put Cameron in as a pinch-hitter.

He delivered a line-drive triple.

"Being his last move as a manager was special," Cameron said. "Definitely something I'm going to remember because Gardy was (a) good manager, and he had a lot of wins. I'm very proud to be a part of his accomplishment with that. It's pretty special."

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Cameron's first double Tuesday went off the center-field wall. Based on the highlights he's viewed over the years on "SportsCenter," he thought Byron Buxton was going to plow into the wall and rob him of extra bases.

When the ball thumped off the wall, Cameron sped up and then cruised into second base.

"Wow, I hit a line drive over Buxton's head," Cameron said, smiling.

Those types of hits — not the helmet situation — show Cameron's potential. McClendon said the most important part of the end of the season, with the Tigers now five games back of a playoff spot, is seeing younger players make strides. They're all competing for a 2021 roster spot.

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"Your growth, your maturity and how you go about your business is being evaluated on a daily basis," McClendon said. "So, you need to go out and give us everything you got every day and play as hard as you can play."

Riding a 5-for-11 streak, Cameron is fulfilling McClendon's request.

"I just want to come out here and show I can belong," Cameron said. "I'm willing to put in the work every day to make that happen. The rest will take care of itself."

Detroit Tigers right fielder Daz Cameron catches a fly ball in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field, Sept. 22, 2020.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here's how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content