Former Detroit Tigers outfielder Cameron Maybin has retired from MLB after 15 seasons, a “bittersweet” decision he finalized Monday following self-reflection and conversations with his wife and children.
The 34-year-old played 1,162 games for 11 teams, including stints with the Tigers in 2007, 2016 and 2020. He also took the field for the Miami Marlins, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and New York Mets.
“The love that I have for Detroit and the fans, it chokes me up sometimes when I think about how much love I’ve gotten from those fans,” Maybin said Tuesday. “It’s hard to describe. It makes me emotional when I think about that. … I loved every minute of it.”
Maybin finished his career with a .254 batting average, 72 home runs, 354 RBIs, 187 stolen bases, 368 walks and 921 strikeouts. He turned down minor-league offers and an opportunity to play in the Korea Baseball Organization earlier this offseason.
When the time is right, Maybin hopes to return to baseball in the front office, as a coach or as a media member. He will continue to work with The Players Alliance, just more in a “hands-on role” going forward.
“I’m extremely proud of the person I was in the clubhouse,” Maybin said. “I’m looking forward to doing it from another side. I’m such a charismatic, energetic person, and I feel like I have so much to give. Being around as much as I have, I really feel like I have experience and can make a club a lot better.”
‘It was insane’
The Tigers drafted Maybin with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2005 draft from T.C. Roberson High School in Asheville, North Carolina. He signed for a $2.65 million bonus and immediately ranked as one of the team’s top prospects.
Maybin, in his age-19 season, made his professional debut in 2006 for Low-A West Michigan, hitting .304, stealing 27 bases in 34 attempts and winning Midwest League Prospect of the Year.
“It was life-changing,” Maybin said. “I don’t think I could have been drafted by a better organization. … From the city of Detroit to the fans, just how passionate and supportive they were, they really respected that hard-nosed, grinder mentality. I played every out like it was my last. They appreciated that. It seemed like a perfect fit.”
In 2007, Maybin grew close to High-A Lakeland hitting coach Larry Herndon. He hit .304 with five triples and 10 homers, stealing 25 bases in 31 attempts, in 83 games for the Flying Tigers.
Maybin was promoted to Double-A Erie on Aug. 9 and hit .400 with four homers in six games.
“I remember calling my dad,” Maybin said. “At the break, all these guys were going to Double-A. I was pissed. Like, why am I not getting moved up? That’s just the competitor in me. Shortly after complaining to my dad, I got called up to Double-A. I was thinking about nothing more than just finishing the year in Double-A.
“And then they called me to the big leagues. It was insane.”
Jim Leyland ‘set me up for success’
Maybin made his MLB debut against the Yankees on Aug. 17, 2007. His parents, Rudy and Renee, and his grandmother, Ruby, were among the 54,290 fans at old Yankee Stadium.
But Maybin nearly missed the game.
He lost his wallet and driver’s license during his flight from Florida to Pennsylvania to join the Double-A team. That meant Maybin, who didn’t have a passport, couldn’t fly to New York for his MLB debut. His former agent, Robert Baratta, drove from New York City to Reading, Pennsylvania, to pick up his client.
“We ended up getting a speeding ticket,” said Maybin, adding he traveled at least 90 mph in Baratta’s BMW. “I’m this kid with a little afro and braces in the passenger seat. We got there right before batting practice.”
The Tigers began Aug. 17 with a half-game lead over Cleveland for first place in the American League Central. (Detroit finished 88-74 in 2007, second in the AL Central, and missed the playoffs.)
“I don’t know if he’s ready. We’ll see,” then-Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said about Maybin. “This is a big jump, but he can make a lot of things happen because he can run. It changes the look of our ballclub. We’ve become a little more athletic.”
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At 20 years old, Maybin was the youngest active player in the AL. He hit No. 2 in the batting order — between Curtis Granderson and Gary Sheffield — and finished 0-for-4 with two strikeouts against five-time World Series champion Andy Pettitte.
“After the game in the shower, Sheff was cracking up,” Maybin said. “I’m like, ‘What’s up, man?’ He’s like, ‘Bro, I wish you could’ve saw yourself in your first at-bat. Your feet were moving all over the place.’
“I also remember coming back (to the dugout) after my second strikeout against Pettitte. I came back to Brandon Inge, and all these guys are cracking up. I was like, ‘He’s throwing me this pitch, y’all. It’s not breaking, but it’s going to my back foot. I can’t see spin, but it’s moving.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, that’s called a cutter, young buck. You don’t see those in Double-A.’ I was like, ‘Holy crap.’ It was a wake-up call for how good these guys really were.”
Maybin appeared in his second game Aug. 18 and faced seven-time AL Cy Young winner Roger Clemens. He collected his first-career hit on a third-inning single to right field. The Yankees’ shortstop, first-ballot Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, tossed the ball to the Tigers’ dugout for keepsake.
“The older you get, you realize how important managing is,” Maybin said. “I’m so thankful for the experience I had being managed by Jim Leyland. … Before I walked up to the plate for that at-bat, he literally grabbed me and said, ‘Hey, Maybs. First pitch is yours; second pitch is hit-and-run.’ Everybody knows Jim Leyland doesn’t mess around. So I’m thinking, be ready to hit. I better swing or I’m going back to Double-A.
“First pitch, he throws me a fastball right down the middle. I could not pull the trigger. Just nerves, just anxious. So I’m stepping out, no sign, and I’m going, ‘Oh shit, I know I got to swing.’ They already got the sign in, so I better swing. The next pitch, he throws me another heater, right down the middle.
“I swung. It was beautiful. To execute something put on by the manager was so huge for me. … To help me get that first one out of the way quick, like Jim Leyland, I give him total credit for understanding the moment. That’s just awareness. He literally set me up for success right there.”
In the fifth inning, Maybin — who said it took 300 at-bats to “get those young-kid jitters out of the way” — took Clemens deep to center field for his first career home run.
Maybin ended 2007 with a .143 batting average and one home run in 24 games, though he had five steals and never got caught.
The conclusion of Maybin’s first stint with the Tigers came Dec. 4, 2007, when the Tigers and Florida Marlins agreed to a blockbuster trade. The deal sent Miguel Cabrera, who now boasts a Hall of Fame résumé, and pitcher Dontrelle Willis to Detroit.
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“I remember playing my Xbox,” Maybin said. “It was around the first time Xbox Live was going. I’m playing Madden on my Xbox, and I swear to God, I saw the line at the bottom: Cameron Maybin and five others traded to Marlins. I’m like, this can’t be real. But this is new, like video games are online now. Everything is online. I said, ‘Holy (expletive), this is crazy.’ I couldn’t believe it.
“I felt like it was a compliment, to be honest with you. They were getting a lot of really good young players for two really great players at the time. Miguel, to me, is arguably the best right-handed hitter of all time and one of my favorite teammates. Every trade until really late in my career, I always took it as a compliment. There was always a void I needed to fill.”
‘The business part of it’
“It was surprising because I had a great season in Atlanta,” Maybin said. “I was at a school reading to some kids in my hometown for my charity event. I remember getting a call, getting a call, and I kept getting calls.”
It was then-Braves general manager John Coppolella. Maybin swapped frustration for joy when he learned he was headed to Detroit.
In his age-29 campaign, Maybin teamed up with Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Nick Castellanos, Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez and Victor Martinez, as well as pitchers Justin Verlander, Michael Fulmer, Anibal Sanchez, Jordan Zimmermann and Matthew Boyd.
On June 30, the Tigers trailed the Tampa Bay Rays by five runs in the top of the ninth inning at Tropicana Field when Maybin led off with a single. He finished the eight-run rally with a three-run double for a 10-7 win.
Maybin hit .315 with four homers, 43 RBIs, 36 walks and 69 strikeouts in 94 games. He stole a team-high 15 bases in 21 attempts.
The 2016 Tigers finished 86-75 — second place in the AL Central — and missed the postseason with a 1-0 loss to the Braves on the final day of the regular season.
“We missed the playoffs by half a game,” Maybin said. “If we would’ve played anywhere but Atlanta closing down old Turner Field, I think we would have made the playoffs. (The Braves) were one of the hottest teams in the second half. We had a few things going on in-house.”
“That was the most bummed I’ve ever been getting traded,” Maybin said. “I didn’t have a lot of words. I was really disappointed. I thought I would be here for the next four years. But again, that’s the business part of it.”
2017 World Series
Before Maybin made his third stop with the Tigers, he won his first and only World Series with the Astros in 2017.
The Astros, managed by now-Tigers skipper AJ Hinch, claimed him off waivers from the Angels on Aug. 31. Maybin hit .186 in 21 games for the Astros in the regular season. In Game 2 of the World Series, he delivered a pinch-hit single in the 11th inning and stole second base before George Springer‘s go-ahead home run.
Maybin said the Astros trusted him after “a couple series,” so by early September, he learned about the team’s system to steal signs from opposing pitchers and relay the type of pitch to the hitter at the plate. He described the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, which utilized a video monitor, a camera and a trash can, as “just getting caught up in competitive nature.”
Here’s more of what Maybin said about his participation: “I just think it went a little far. But it didn’t have anything to do with like, let’s just screw the game of baseball, screw everybody. It’s a fraternity. A lot of unspoken things go on in baseball that all baseball players have heard about and know about. We were just like, how can we compete with the best? Because ‘the best’ are doing something to separate themselves from a competitive-advantage standpoint. … I take all accountability for being a part of it. If you were there, you were a part of it. Let’s just be honest.”
Does Maybin wish he would’ve spoken up?
“Hell no,” he said. “That’s another conversation. When it came out (in November 2019, from ex-Astros pitcher Mike Fiers), there was some bitterness in it. There was some malice behind that. He was a little upset that he wasn’t on the playoff roster. It happened the way it was supposed to happen. People always say, ‘We’re you mad you didn’t say something?’ I always say, ‘No.’ That shit started way before I got there, and it could have been nipped in the bud way before I got there. It wasn’t my job to come in and start blowing whistles.”
‘Really appreciated Al Avila’
“I really appreciated Al Avila,” Maybin said. “I’m big on character. If an organization brings a guy back three times, I feel like it says a lot of about his character. I was thankful for Al seeing something in me as a person to bring me back.”
Maybin, age 33 at the time, played 14 games for the Tigers in the 2020 season shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic. He was traded to the Cubs at the Aug. 31 trade deadline for infield prospect Zack Short.
“He was a huge impact for us in the locker room and on the field, just as far as preparation goes (and) showing young guys what it’s like to be a professional,” former Tigers outfielder JaCoby Jones said after the trade. “When I got called up to the big leagues, he was like a big brother to me. When he came back over here, he still was. He’s like a big brother to everybody, honestly. One of the best teammates I’ve ever had, so we’ll miss him dearly.”
Maybin didn’t make an All-Star team or win a slew of awards, but the combination of his athleticism and leadership helped him appear in 15 MLB seasons and spend 132 games, or 11.4% of his career, with the Tigers in three different decades.
All tracing back to the 2005 draft.
“I was a kid who dreamed of playing on a big-league field,” Maybin said. “Detroit allowed me to fulfill my childhood dream. I’m forever a Tiger. People who know me, they know I represent. When I’m out and about, I’m rocking Detroit gear all the time. I’m always a Tiger. Forever.”