Caminiti Arrested for Cocaine Possession

Phil Nevin, Ken Caminiti. They’ve been linked since Nevin was drafted first overall by the Astros in 1992, when Caminiti was playing third base in Houston. Nevin was to be his heir apparent. It never happened. Several years later, and quite by accident, Nevin ended up replacing Cammy at the hot corner in San Diego. Now, in November 2001, on the same day Nevin signs a 4-year contract with the Padres, Caminiti is arrested for possession of crack cocaine.

I don’t usually think or talk a lot about big-league players as people, because, frankly, it’s difficult for me to relate to a guy making millions of dollars a year. But Caminiti was something of a folk-hero during his time in San Diego. From the “Snickers” game, to the 1996 MVP Award, to the 1998 World Series, the guy just brought so much to the Padres. Without question, he was the second most popular guy on the team among fans.

And by all accounts Cammy was a pretty good person. Sure, he’d battled some demons earlier in his career and worked hard to overcome a drinking problem, but by the time he arrived in San Diego he was a solid citizen. He let slugger Greg Vaughn live with his family when he came over from Milwaukee and didn’t have a place to stay. Cammy was one of the good guys.

I wasn’t there the night this happened but Caminiti once showed up at a local park to watch a buddy of his play softball in a recreational league. After the game he stuck around to watch the next game, which featured the team I was on at the time. After that game he hung out and chatted with some of my teammates for several minutes before excusing himself to get ready for his own playoff game the following day. I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet him; I’m told he was very humble and down-to-earth, not what you’d expect from a guy in his position.

And now I’m sorry to see Cammy in a bad situation again. I know just enough about addiction to appreciate how damaging it can be and I’m grateful that I’ve never experienced it firsthand. When I look at ballplayers on the field, I see numbers. I see on-base percentages, slugging percentages, and ERAs. Sometimes I see dollar signs. But very rarely do I see a guy with a wife and kids, struggling to get it right. I just don’t think about professional athletes that way.

But when I see what Caminiti’s gotten himself into now, with all that he brought to the Padres and to the city of San Diego, all I can think about is his family. He’s a good man in a very bad situation. I can’t make excuses for him but I sure as heck can hope he finds the strength to get through this and get it right.

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Finally, I’ve posted my Arizona Fall League article. Enjoy!

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