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Hometown hero Cam Maybin is holiday Angel to local kids

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By Pete Zamplas- Baseball standout Cam Maybin, hailed as Asheville’s most successful current pro athlete native son, is helping with a holiday gift project and other charitable efforts in his hometown through his family’s new Maybin Mission Holiday Project.

Cameron Keith Maybin, 29, a T.C. Roberson 2005 graduate, was dealt by the Detroit Tigers traded earlier this month to the Los Angeles Angels after his best season (.315).

Home in the off-season, Maybin is expanding efforts as an angel to his community by getting behind the “Angel Tree” project which culminates with a luncheon Saturday, Dec. 10.

The Maybin family is coordinating with the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Clubs of Buncombe County for 32 child “angel” recipients to get “adopted” for Christmas toys and clothing gifts. Eight were adopted and 24 were needing sponsors, as of this Monday.

Donors online via MaybinMission.com/holidayproject can donate money to the holiday project, or adopt a specific child and list gifts they will buy. The site describes each child’s age and activity and toy desires such as Barbie dolls, stuffed animals or Pokemon. They should do so this month, for on Dec. 1 the “North Pole workshop closes,” Maybin jested on Facebook.

The month-long project began last week on Nov. 9 and goes to Dec. 8, when most of “Santa’s” gifts go to the children’s parents, Maybin publicist Christina Coleman said.

Then on Dec. 10, Cameron and his family host the Maybin Mission Holiday Luncheon. It is in the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Clubs of Buncombe County, at 750 Haywood Road (N.C. 191) in Asheville. Bonus gifts will be given then. “We’ll hold back one gift, and add a special item on behalf of the Maybin family,” Coleman said. Cam said, “I can’t wait to meet our 30-plus ‘angels.’”

Salvation Army started the national Angel Tree program in 1979. For Christmas a year ago, Maybin Makes a Difference provided dinner and gifts for six local families. His wife Courtney (Barnwell) Maybin said they aim to “brighten the holiday season, for so many families in need.”

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As Thanksgiving approaches, Cam Maybin is grateful for his career and family. “ I try to approach humility over pride, with thankfulness for what we have,” he told The Tribune on Saturday. “I give thanks to Christ himself, for helping turn my life around.” And as an athlete trying his best on many fronts, “I’m not afraid to make mistakes.”

Cam (as he prefers being called) sees philanthropy as “huge,” an “honor” producing a “beautiful feeling.” Maybin figures “playing baseball is a privilege. The pleasure of being a professional ballplayer is giving back to my hometown, which I love so much. Not everybody gets the same opportunity.”

He spends off-seasons in Asheville. “This is my hometown. It’s where I come back for rest and recuperation.” He likes change of seasons. “I’m a mountain boy.”

Maybin relished the Boys and Girls Club, as his after-school home. During elementary school, he spent up to two hours a day there after school, until his parents (Rudy, a school bus mechanic, and Renee Maybin, a medical receptionist) got off of work. “My sister (Camille Maybin), cousin (Jasmine Shepard) and myself grew up as kids of that club,” he said.

“It had a huge impact, in keeping me active and out of trouble” and helping sponsor his youth baseball travels. The Club “does amazing work,” he said. Looking back, he relishes “mostly being around other kids, to socialize and play sports. Everybody loves kickball. It’s a great place to get away. Our parents knew it’s a safe haven, in a good environment, and not too expensive.” After homework time there, “we could run around.”

The Maybins stay grounded by shunning most frills of celebrity, and sticking to basics. The house Cam grew up in is back in his family. His aim is to financially “create longevity, and take care of my wife and kids.” He married longtime girlfriend Courtney in early 2015. Sons are Trenton, age 9, and Maxwell who turns 4 on Nov. 22. Their daughter is seven-month-old Laila Monae Maybin.

Trenton is showing aptitude in baseball. Sports equipment are all he wants, Cam added. Maxwell “has great imagination. He loves his superheroes. He has the wrestling man I had when I was a kid. They’re not needy kids. We’re raising them to know that you have to earn everything you get.” His own parents also “raised us to be respectful citizens. Treat people as you’d like to be treated — with respect and kindness, even if they don’t” in return.

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Cam is a lanky six-foot-three. His 6-5 father, an Asheville High athlete, “taught me everything I knew” early in sports. At TCR, basketball coach Richie Sizemore stressed “outworking the next person,” while baseball coach Tom Smith urged to “put egos aside and focus on the team,” Maybin said.

Detroit Tigers fiery manager Brad Ausmus called oft-grinning Maybin his main “sparkplug” for offense and spirit. “He can steal. So he distracts the pitcher,” Ausmus said on Fox Detroit’s “Tigers Live” this summer. “He’s great in the dugout. He’s talking about the pitches he saw, to the guys coming up behind him (to hit). He’s been a big catalyst.”

Maybin sensed teammates figured “this guy’s exuberant and vibrant. But he has also been around,” he said. “It’s easier for them to jump on board” to be expressing joy. He has pride in his “emotion and passion for the game. You never know when your last game is gonna be. Cherish that privilege.”

Maybin on Nov. 3 was in his fifth trade. He shifts to left field, joining superstar CF Mike Trout and RF Kole Calhoun. G.M. Billy Eppler noted the Angels will pick up Maybin’s $9 million option for 2017. Detroit gets wild hard thrower Victor Alcantara, 23. Shedding payroll helped Detroit retain its closer “K-Rod,” for $6 million.

Maybin, Baseball America’s Youth Player of the Year in ’04, was the 10th overall pick in the 2005 MLB draft — by Detroit. His initial $2.65 million contract was a WNC baseball record. He debuted in the majors Aug. 17, 2007, and played 24 games. In his second game, he smacked a home run off famed Roger Clemens in Yankee Stadium.

Detroit traded top prospects Maybin and Andrew Miller (now a star reliever) after ‘07, to the Marlins to land premier slugger Miguel Cabrera and become a major contender. After three Marlins seasons, Maybin played for San Diego in 2011-14 and became full-time. In his breakout season of ’11, Maybin stole 40 bases and scored 82 runs while batting .264. In 2015, Atlanta shockingly parted with star closer Craig Kimbrel, and got Maybin and Carlos Quentin. Maybin stole 23 bases, and scored 65 runs.

Maybin returned to Detroit, via trade a year ago. His .315 season in 2016 is 56 points better than his .259 career average. He hit .380 with runners in scoring position. He peaked with an on-base mark of .383, and OPS (on-base/slugging) of .801. He led the American League at .437 for two months — from May 16 to the All-Star Game July 12 — and overall at .341 by the break.

He hit .418 at home through June 4, and safely in 21 of his first 22 home games — to mid-July.

The Tigers scored over two-thirds of a run more with Maybin in the lineup. He scored 65 runs, in mostly batting second and in front of star slugger Cabrera for whom he was dealt 11 years earlier. Maybin stole 15 bases in ’16, for 131 in his MLB career.

All of this was in merely 349 at-bats — due to wrist, shoulder and thumb injuries. He missed the first month and half due to a fractured wrist, when hit by a pitch.

His much better average stems from greater contact, and playing in Detroit’s star-filled lineup. First he played extra, winter ball after the ‘14 season. Then Maybin joined the Braves. Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer got “amazing” results in reforming Maybin’s swing, Maybin said. He learned to “trust in patience” for a hittable pitch, “stay strong-willed,” choke up on the bat, bounce pitches through the infield, and drive outside pitches to the opposite outfield.

The man once hailed for fast wrist swing and power shifted priorities. “Do you want to swing for the fences, but hit just .240?,” he asked, or hit a dozen homers but often get on base and score runs? “It’s about maturity.”

Yet he also youthfully entertains. His signature move since 2015 is a spoon-feeding gesture after a hit or scoring a run. It adapts rapper Lil B’s “cooking dance” moves. Some say it means doing well. Others such as Maybin interprets it as to stay hungry, to keep succeeding.

“I have three kids and a beautiful wife, to feed,” he explained. “You just ‘gotta eat.’ It gets the team fired up. We gotta eat, and be hungrier than the next guy.”

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