Passing the torch
Ken Caminiti’s greatness at third base is reflected in the players he inspired.
It’s tough to quantify Ken Caminiti’s greatness at third base.
Metrics and stats didn’t capture the emotional side of seeing Ken play third—the feeling that you were bearing witness to something you’d never seen before.
Watching Ken at third base made you feel alive.
That’s what happened for a boy in the Dominican Republic. The Astros were appearing on ESPN in 1991, one of the team’s rare appearances on a major broadcast, and the boy was transfixed by Ken Caminiti’s play—his dives, his arm, his makeup, his fearlessness, his presence. The boy adored tennis and basketball growing up, but when he saw Ken at the hot corner, he knew he had found his calling, his passion. Adrián Beltré wanted to play third base like Ken Caminiti.
“I saw how hard he played. I saw the plays he made. And I got serious about baseball,” Beltré said of his idol in 1999 as he embarked on a career during which he would win five Gold Glove awards.
Beltré played the hot corner a lot like Ken did.
A different kid, one in Orange County, grew up watching Beltré during his Dodgers days, wanting to emulate him, wanting to play third base just like him. Beltré seemed to make an impact every game, whether with his glove or bat.
The Orange County kid—Nolan Arenado—has won nine Gold Gloves so far and currently mans the hot corner for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Somewhere, baseball’s next great third baseman is watching Arenado play and thinking, I want to play third base just like him. Like Adrián. Like Ken.