The feeling still hasn’t completely sunk in for Cameron Maybin.
But he vividly remembers running in from center field and diving into the Houston Astros’ dogpile at Dodger Stadium after winning the World Series.
“You probably just saw some dreadlocks and some feet hanging out of that [pile],” Maybin said. “The feeling that you get [after] 12, 13 years playing baseball and never having been to the playoffs … for me, it’s a feeling you never had before playing baseball at any level.”
Picked up off waivers by Houston before the final month of the season, Maybin witnessed the culmination of the Astros’ long-term plan to build a championship team.
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Maybin is seeing a similar process in its earliest stages these days in his second stint with the Marlins.
Once a highly touted prospect himself who broke into the majors at age 20, and a year later, came to the Marlins in the trade that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Detroit Tigers, Maybin is becoming a mentor to the Marlins’ current crop of young talent.
“This is one of the most athletic clubhouses I’ve been a part of,” said Maybin, who signed a one-year, $3.25 million deal Feb. 21 with the Marlins. “It’s special, man. It’s great to be around guys that are eager to listen and eager to learn. That makes it fun to come in every day and share little things I’ve seen or done.”
Maybin’s career didn’t live up to its initial high expectations.
But at 30, Maybin has found a way to adapt and continue to contribute after 11 major-league seasons.
After breaking in with the Detroit Tigers, who drafted him with the 10th pick in the 2005 draft out of T.C. Roberson High in Asheville, North Carolina, Maybin spent three seasons with the Marlins during which he hit .257 with 12 home runs and 43 RBI in 144 games (499 at-bats).
After being traded to San Diego, Maybin played his first two full major-league seasons with the Padres and spent four years with them before brief stints in Atlanta, Detroit and Los Angeles with the Angels preceding his championship stint last year with Houston.
“Obviously, he’s had enough sustainable success,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “It’s not what people probably thought at the beginning, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not big years in there. Some guys catch on at a different moment, and then all of a sudden, it takes off. You don’t play 11 years without having some sort of success. Either you’re really good defensively or your speed is a tool. You’re still hitting enough to get on base. Things like that.”
Maybin knows the challenges that come with high expectations.
And it’s that knowledge that he’s trying to share with top outfield prospects in the Marlins clubhouse this spring, including Lewis Brinson, Magneuris Sierra and Braxton Lee.
For the Marlins’ young players to excel, Maybin believes it has to happen collectively.
“We’ve got to do this together,” Maybin said. “We’ve got a lot of talent, a lot of athleticism, a lot of youth. When you’re young, sometimes you may try to do things on your own or by yourself. If we’re going to have success this year, we have to do everything together. We have to hold each other accountable, whether it’s running bases, whether it’s overshooting the cutoff man. Just holding each and every body accountable in here for what we do as a group.”
Maybin hit .228 in 395 at-bats combined last year with the Angels and Astros, but stole 33 bases and could bring a speed element the Marlins need this season after trading stolen base champ Dee Gordon to Seattle.
Already this spring, Maybin has shown glimpses of it and his athleticism in the outfield, which could prove a valuable defensive combination with Brinson and Lee or Sierra if either wins starting jobs.
“There’s going to be predictions,” Maybin said. “They are what they are, but you don’t play the game on paper. If we can stay healthy, play together, leave the egos outside the door and play for each other, we can have some fun here. There’s a lot of youthful talent. It’s fun to be a part of.”
▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Jose Urena vs. New York Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Dan Straily vs. Atlanta Braves RHP Mike Foltynewicz, 1:05 p.m., Lake Buena Vista.