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Cameron close to exclusive company

Cameron close to exclusive company

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MILWAUKEE -- Brewers center fielder Mike Cameron is very well aware that he's knocking on the door of history.

He hit his fifth home run of the season on Monday night, giving Cameron 246 for his career. With four more, he'll become just the 20th player in Major League history to produce 250 homers and 250 stolen bases. He already has 291 career steals.

"Twenty players in the history of the game," Cameron said. "Come on, you know I know that. And then there's only six players with 300 [homers] and 300 [steals], and I'm only nine bags away from that. It might take me a few more years to get the homers. That's some pretty exclusive company, so I definitely know about it."

(Can you name the six players in the 300-300 club? Cameron can, and when he quizzed Brewers teammates in Spring Training two names surprised many of the younger players. The answer is at the end.)

"So, for all those people on the road who always tell me I stink, I've got a chance to be one of the best players to ever play the game," Cameron said. "To be one of the 20 greatest players [in terms of home runs and steals], that would be a big compliment. If I didn't play in some of those cavernous places, I'd probably already have it."

The pitcher-friendly ballparks that Cameron has called home include Seattle's Safeco Field, New York's Shea Stadium and San Diego's PETCO Park.

Cameron entered Tuesday's game batting .328 with five home runs and 12 RBIs. He was tied with Ryan Braun atop the team's homer leaderboard, and trailed only Prince Fielder (16 RBIs) and Braun (14) in runs batted in. Among the regulars, only the red-hot Braun had a better batting average (.343, up from .222 in the span of seven games).

Asked what was behind his fast start, Cameron grinned.

"Because I can," he said. "Talent."

Hard work has played a role, too. Cameron is 36 years old, but he worked just as extensively with new Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum as the 20-somethings that litter the Brewers' roster. He adjusted his hand positioning and his balance, leaving him in a better hitting position.

The strikeout numbers have fallen, Cameron said, as a result of that work. He has struck out 13 times in 64 at-bats, or once every 4.92 at-bats. Compare that to 2008, when Cameron led the Brewers with 142 strikeouts despite playing only 120 games, and whiffed once every 3.13 at-bats. Entering this season, he had whiffed once every 3.59 at-bats in his career.

At the same time, his walks are way up. Cameron has walked 12 times, for a walks-to-strikeouts ratio of .92. Last year it was .38, and for his career that ratio is .46.

"I've just been able to make a lot of contact with the baseball, and when I have made contact, I've been able to do some damage," Cameron said. "I'm just trying to maintain. Everything is kind of going well, flowing right now, and I don't want to lose it, so I work hard to maintain."

He'll have to maintain for a few more years to join that exclusive 300-homer, 300-stolen base club. It already includes Willie Mays, Bobby Bonds, Andre Dawson, Barry Bonds, plus the two players who stumped many of Cameron's young teammates: Steve Finley and Reggie Sanders. Finley hit 304 home runs with 320 stolen bases, and Sanders compiled 305 home runs and 304 steals.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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