Three times a Tiger, Cameron Maybin announces his retirement after 15 seasons

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — He made us wait that day.

It was the first day of his third stint with the Tigers and Cameron Maybin, who announced his retirement on Monday, was busy getting himself situated in the new clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland. Compared to the old clubhouse, which he’d used in his two previous stints, this was palatial.

He had papers to sign. Teammates to greet. Shoot, he was already a couple weeks late to camp at that point, and there was a chance he might be coming in with a little bit of chip on his shoulder. He had finished the 2019 season on a tear with the Yankees, hitting a career-best 11 home runs in just 269 plate appearances and posting a 127 OPS-plus.

Cameron Maybin, who retired Monday, played three stints in Detroit.

And yet, a free agent going into his age-33 season in 2020, Maybin’s phone didn’t ring until the Tigers called on Feb. 12, offering him a modest one-year deal and $1.5 million. It was a Plan B of sorts. The Tigers that winter thought they’d secured another free agent outfielder — Kevin Pillar. A deal was agreed to but at the last minute, Boston swooped in and Pillar quickly bailed on the rebuilding Tigers in favor of the contending Red Sox.

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But if any of that bothered Maybin, he never let on. When he finally showed up at TigerTown on Feb. 16, as always, he was worth the wait. That million-dollar smile never left his still youthful face. Not even when the talk turned to the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal, which was the hot-button topic that spring.

He had played 21 regular-season games and six playoff games for the Astros in 2017. Hardly the face of the scandal. And yet, he didn’t duck the topic, didn’t try to absolve himself. As he did throughout his productive, though injury-hampered 15-year big-league career, he answered every question as thoughtfully and forthrightly as he could.

“Honestly, I feel like things that went on in the 2017 season with the Astros — which I was there for a month and some change — definitely doesn’t reflect how I approach the game and how I play the game,” Maybin said that day in 2020. “Hindsight is 20-20. It’s tough. Being in that locker room, knowing what was going on, we all could have said something about it.

“Personally, for me, it’s tough coming into an organization that late and thinking you’re just going to change something. Again, there’s no excuse. But to see all this unfold now, I can’t say I’m surprised.”

Maybin even allowed some good-natured ribbing. Given that he hit just .186 with the Astros, he was jokingly asked if he might’ve missed the memo about the banging of the trash cans.

He laughed.

"Yeah I guess so," he said, then started talking about how he was going to be a mentor to the young outfielders the Tigers had assembled that spring — which he did with joy.

Maybin, drafted by the Tigers out of T.C. Roberson High School in Asheville, N.C., the 10th overall pick in 2005, officially hung up his spikes Monday after 15 big-league seasons. He is 34.

“I’ve played this game since I was 4 years old,” he wrote in his retirement announcement. “Three decades later, my love for baseball is only matched by the love I have for the family that’s supported me every step of the way.

“I am the man I am today because of this game and the teams that gave a young kid from Asheville, North Carolina a chance to be great: the Tigers, Marlins, Padres, Braves, Angels, Astros, Mariners, Yankees, Cubs and Mets.

“To the coaches, agents, mentors and most importantly, the fans, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your support.”

Maybin made his big-league debut with the Tigers in 2007, in a series against the Yankees in New York and hit his first home run off Roger Clemens.

“I remember every second of that series,” he said. “The old Yankee Stadium, more than 50,000 fans in attendance, my grandmother in the stands with my parents and my family, and most notably, my first career hit and the bomb I blasted off Roger Clemens — a story my dad still tells his friends to this day.”

Maybin holds the distinction of being the only player in history to play three different stints with the Tigers, who traded him three times, most famously in December of 2007 to the Marlins in the trade that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit. After re-acquiring him from the Braves, Maybin hit .315 with an OPS of .801 for the Tigers in 2016, though injuries limited him to 94 games.

He was traded that winter to the Angels for right-handed pitcher Victor Alcantara.

The Tigers sent him off to the playoff-contending Cubs at the trade deadline in 2020, getting shortstop Zack Short in return.

In 15 seasons, he collected 973 hits and 187 stolen bases, with a career slashline of .254/.323/.374.

“Although my journey as a professional baseball player ends here with the announcement of my retirement, my work in this game is just getting started,” Maybin said.

He plans on continuing his work with the Players Alliance.

“I’m excited for what lies ahead, including my work with the Players Alliance in our effort to provide access and opportunity for the next generation of black ballplayers,” he said.

In his announcement, he personally thanked his family, his wife and children and the game itself. But he ended it, in classic Maybin style, with a note to his 4-year-old self.

“To 4-year-old Killa Cam: You did it, man. You never stopped believing in yourself, even when others didn’t believe in you. And never forget, the only person that can beat you is you — especially around those bases.”

Twitter: @cmccosky