When Leonardo Reginatto poked a two-run single to left field to give the Hudson Valley Renegades a 3-2 win on Monday afternoon, the first person to meet the hero in the infield to celebrate was outfielder Joel Caminero. The 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic had laid down a successful sacrifice bunt to set up the situation that Reginatto cashed in on.
A photographer noted that of all the shots he had in the postgame celebration, Caminero's feet were not touching the ground in a single one.
"He's the bounciest player I've ever seen," remarked the Renegades radio broadcaster.
Earlier this year, Caminero experienced the disappointment of being sent down a level, as he started the season with the Low-A Bowling Green Hot Rods but was sent to Hudson Valley when the Renegades' season commenced. However, the outfielder has not let that damage his positive attitude.
"He's a happy-go-lucky guy," said Dan Dement, the Hudson Valley hitting coach. "He talks a lot, I always hear him in the clubhouse."
"It's very important to be happy," Caminero said. "I like my team here, it's good."
Caminero's zeal and enthusiasm carries over to the diamond, which can be both good and bad. DeMent described him as an aggressive hitter, and he is working on trying to be a little more patient at the plate.
"One of the things we've been working on has been being selectively aggressive," DeMent said. "He's been really good at that, but it's still a work in progress. He's going to go after some pitches, so we're trying to really work on him getting good pitches."
The work has started to show with Caminero hitting .296/.310/.408 in 23 games played with the Renegades. He has two homeruns, five doubles, and 16 RBI. The 6'1" right-handed hitter has had success against left-handed pitching, hitting .360 with a 1.040 OPS against southpaws.
"When he gets good pitches he's been hitting the ball hard," DeMent said. "We're just going to keep working on getting his pitch early in the count."
Caminero was one of the best hitters on last year's Princeton Rays team, where he hit for a .330/.347/.489 line, earning him the straight promotion to Bowling Green for the 2012 season. However, Caminero struggled with the Hot Rods, where he hit for a .209 batting average. He was sent to Hudson Valley to work on his pitch recognition and patience, after striking out 27 times to only five walks.
That ratio has not improved at Hudson Valley, with 21 strikeouts to one walk in 15 less games. But the rest of his hitting numbers have dramatically improved, thanks a lot to his ability to hit a fastball. He has also enjoyed some recent success at the plate. In his last seven games, he has 10 hits in 24 at-bats.
"He gets on those fastballs," DeMent said. "That's a good trait to have for a hitter; you're not going to be very successful if you keep taking fastballs. He doesn't take too many fastballs that are close to the zone. We're just working on taming him, keeping that aggression and getting a good pitch to hit."
Caminero is a staple of the Renegades' outfield rotation and has played half his games in Hudson Valley in left field and the other half split between center and right, committing just one error as a Renegade.
He has also seen success in clutch situations, hitting .314 with runners in scoring position and .345 with runners on base.
"He's a high-energy guy," DeMent said. "He likes to be put in situations where there's a chance to drive a guy in, he likes to be in a situation to win a ballgame. He's a confident player."
For Caminero, it's all about putting in the work necessary to get back to where he started the year, but also enjoying the ride.
"I feel good. It's good because here I play every day," Caminero said. "I'm working a lot, on hitting, on defense. Just working hard every day."
Eric Vander Voort is the Hudson Valley beat writer for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @ecvandervoort.
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