By: Brian Frank
Cameron Eden is off to a fast start on the bases this season. The speedy outfielder has stolen 24 bases in 25 attempts. If Eden continues to steal bases at his current rate, Buffalo’s modern-era stolen base record is certainly within reach. The Bisons’ modern era dates back to 1985 when the team returned to Triple-A. The current single-season modern-era stolen base record is 43, set by Roemon Fields in 2017. Eden is more than halfway to the mark with four months remaining in the season.
“I have a green light most of the time,” Eden said in a recent interview with The Herd Chronicles. “I’m always working with the coaches to try to find what the tells are for a pitcher and be able to steal. That’s a huge point of emphasis for me this season, so we’re staying on top of it as much as we can. I’m going as much as I can.”
What kinds of things does he look for when he’s deciding whether to steal?
“I think one of the biggest things is the count and trying to get an off-speed count,” he said. “I try to go when I think an off-speed pitch will be coming. Other than that, each pitcher is a little different. Some guys kind of have a little lean before they throw, so you kind of go off that. It’s hard for pitchers to hold a guy on when he’s trying to dominate the hitter. I just try to take advantage of that as much as I can and use my speed to get to second and be able to have the guys hit me in.”
Ready to rake at Sahlen Field. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles
Eden grew up in Yuba City, California, about a two-hour drive northeast of San Francisco. He grew up going to Giants and A’s games.
“We really liked the Giants stadium, so when I was a kid those were the games we went to the most,” he said. “We’d go to a few A’s games, but the Giants definitely were my team.
Eden played shortstop growing up, so his favorite player was naturally the shortstop for his favorite team.
“Brandon Crawford was my guy,” he said. “I really liked him and tried to play the infield like him.”
Eden starred at Yuba City High School. He had a huge season his senior year, batting .429, winning the league Most Valuable Player award, and leading Yuba City to the Tri-County Conference Championship. However, when asked to name a moment that stood out from his high school career, he picked a game from his junior season.
“My junior year when we won the championship, that was definitely my favorite moment,” he smiled. “We played against our hometown rival (River Valley High School) in the championship, so it was really cool. The whole city was there. It was awesome.”
After graduating from Yuba City High School, Eden attended the University of California, Berkeley to play college baseball.
“Cal ended up being my only offer – which was a really good offer to have obviously,” he said. “It was super attractive to me. It was close to home and a high level education. They had a great program and I really trusted the coaches there, so it was a pretty easy decision for me. I got to play against a lot of the best pitchers, a lot of the best players in the country.”
He didn’t miss a step playing against the high level competition in the Pac-12, slashing .315/.361/.472 during his freshman season. He played in 97 games at shortstop between his freshman and sophomore seasons, before a major turning point in his baseball career took place. He changed positions his junior year and began playing the outfield.
“I think it was the second week into our season,” he remembered. “I was taking groundballs in the infield and a groundball hopped up and hit my index finger on my throwing hand and it fractured a little bone. I couldn’t really grip the ball very well or throw it very well, so it was kind of like, well, let’s go to the outfield where I’ll have maybe a couple throws a game – or less volume of throws. I ended up going to the outfield and then our team started playing really well. Our other shortstop was a really good shortstop. It just kind of all fit together. Our center fielder actually got hurt – I’d been playing left mainly, but then when our center fielder got hurt I moved to center field and I kind of stuck there for the rest of the year.”
Even though he’d never played outfield before, he quickly took to his new position.
“Maybe the first weekend, the first three games felt a little unnatural – but chasing down balls always came natural to me,” he said. “It didn’t take very long for me to feel comfortable, like that was my position. I think at a higher level, I can play the outfield better than I could the infield. So it all worked out.”
He slashed .365/.435/.555 with eight home runs and 20 stolen bases during his junior season with the Golden Bears, before being selected by the Blue Jays in the sixth round of the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft.
“I was in the car driving when it popped up,” he said of the moment he learned he was drafted. “I’d talked to my agent earlier in the day, so I kind of knew the area I was going to be picked in. I remember him telling me that the Blue Jays wanted me with that specific pick if it got to there. I was actually driving when it happened. One of my friends had the notification pop up that I was drafted. I was super excited to get going with my pro career.”
Eden has starred in the Bisons outfield this season. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles
His professional baseball career began in Low-A with the Vancouver Canadians.
“It was honestly a pretty tough transition,” he said of moving from college to professional baseball. “I didn’t play very well. That was obviously a tough thing your first year, not playing well. I was lucky enough to be in Vancouver, which is a beautiful city. Being in Canada was really cool, super fun – but it was definitely a huge learning experience. It wasn’t the smoothest transition for me. But I think it was a big growing year.”
The biggest challenge for him was getting used to facing better pitching on a daily basis.
“I definitely wasn’t used to the velocity,” he said. “Really high velocity and most stuff’s moving. Even the fastballs are moving one way or the other. It was definitely a transition from a hitting perspective, a hundred percent.”
In 2020, when the minor-league season was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Eden returned to Northern California for the summer.
“I was home in Yuba City and I was lucky enough to have a high school coach who was around,” he said. “My high school coaches were really supportive and always helping me out. I was able to hit BP with him and for the most part stay ready with the swing and play a lot of catch. I just did as much as I could with the circumstances. I stayed in the gym too. I pretty much just stayed on a normal offseason routine.”
When minor-league baseball resumed in 2021, Eden returned to the Canadians, who had become the Blue Jays High-A affiliate after minor-league restructuring. However, the team had to play its home games in Hillsboro, Oregon, rather than Vancouver, due to the fact the U.S.-Canada border was still closed because of the pandemic.
“I had never really spent time in the Pacific Northwest – and I actually fell in love with it,” Eden said. “I really fell in love with the Oregon and Washington area. It was a fun year for me. I finally felt comfortable and settled into pro ball. I found some success, which was huge for me – and I really enjoyed it.”
He had a breakout season with the Canadians, slashing .274/.383/.402 and raising his stolen base total from eight the season before the pandemic to 30. He partly credited his increase in stolen bases to a new rule in High-A that that required pitchers to disengage from the rubber prior to throwing to a base. But he also believes the large increase was due to the fact that he was on base more and was being more aggressive once reaching base.
“For me it was just more that I was able to get on base more, so I had more opportunities to steal,” he explained. “My first season, I wasn’t on base at all. But I think it was more just like a trust thing in myself and a real belief that I could do it. I just told myself to play free and play loose and do what I could do.”
Last season, Eden played for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, where his batting average dipped to .215, but he still managed to swipe 32 bases.
“It was definitely a learning experience, kind of like the transition from college to pro ball,” he said. “Just getting to the higher level at Double-A, the pitching was better. I kind of had to learn some strengths and weaknesses and work on some different stuff. It definitely was a learning experience and a learning year to help me propel the rest of my career.”
Eden leads the way after another Bisons victory. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles
He’s been one of the catalysts for the Herd this season, not only on the base paths, but also defensively, as he patrols center field at Sahlen Field.
“It’s been pretty fun,” he said. “It’s kind of cool seeing the transition from us not hitting so well (in April) to some of the success we’ve had lately. It’s pretty awesome to see and it’s pretty contagious. Being around a lot of guys who are really smart hitters, I’ve learned a lot from them. It’s been fun coming up with guys on base too, getting some opportunities to hit guys in. We’re all clicking pretty well in the lineup and it’s been fun.”
His focus this season is making more contact – which should lead to getting on base more and stealing even more bases.
“I have a big emphasis on improving my contact rate,” he said. “So basically reducing my strikeouts as much as possible. That’s my big point of emphasis at the plate. Just to be able to get on base more to steal more bases and get into scoring position more for the team to get me in. Other than that, defense and base running are my two big areas – I guess you could say my bread and butter – where I’m going to make an impact. So I’m always super focused on those.”