NEW YORK -- It was the eighth inning on Opening Day with a sellout crowd on hand at Petco Park when Cameron Maybin stepped up to the plate at home and launched a 445-foot, two-run homer off Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen. Anything was possible with a brand-new season.
On Friday morning, Maybin walked into the MLB Fan Cave, along with Padres teammates Yonder Alonso and Andy Parrino. Maybin sat on the throne for an interview, next to the giant orange tube slide. Everyone was having fun. He was 5-for-10 the previous two games. It was perhaps the happiest moment for him since that first night of the season.
"You know what, that's the crazy thing about baseball -- there's a lot of ups and downs," Maybin said, as his teammates chatted with the nine Cave Dwellers. "I had a little bit of a down spell early, but I've done a pretty good job of competing. The last two days are just a prime example of [how] you have to continue to keep the faith and continue to work hard and things will change.
"I'm a firm believer of 'all things shall pass,' so you've got to continue to go out and grind it out. This game's tough. Night-in and night-out, you've got somebody on that bump who's getting paid an awful lot of money to get you out. That's their job. But I've enjoyed every challenge that I've faced this year. That's why I've been playing this game since I was 3. It's a test of character. This game builds tremendous character. I love it. ... I wouldn't trade what I do for anything in the world."
The test of character can be seen in Maybin's stats since signing a contract extension that locks him up through 2016, with a club option for '17. No, he has not hit a home run since that opener. Yes, he entered Friday night's game against the Mets with a .224 average and a .317 on-base percentage. But stringing together multihit games for the first time, and banging three of San Diego's 18 hits on Thursday to help the Padres score in double digits for the first time this season, there was something to be positive about.
"He's really focusing on using the middle of the field," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He's trying to hit the ball up the middle more and he's doing a better job laying off the slider down and away. Cam's been doing a better job of that."
Maybin hit .188 in April and is hitting .259 in May. A lot of fantasy owners are hoping it is a sign, and Padres manager Bud Black obviously notices it. After the opener of this series at Citi Field, he said: "You can see guys are taking better swings and having better contact. The trick is to keep it going."
Can Maybin and the Padres do that?
"I'm here for the long haul," Maybin said. "I think we're definitely going in the right direction. You see it in the clubhouse. We're a little young in some areas, but I think we are definitely headed in the right direction."
On June 4, the Padres will have four selections before the second round starts in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, which will be broadcast on MLB Network. Maybin was asked to think back to seven years ago, when he was selected 10th overall by Detroit out of T.C. Roberson High School in Asheville, N.C. -- before he was sent to the Marlins during a 2007 Winter Meetings deal involving Miguel Cabrera, and before the Marlins traded him to San Diego in November 2010.
"It seems like it was yesterday. You look up, and now you're seven or eight years into professional baseball," Maybin said. "It's a day you enjoy, you cherish with people you care about, because it goes by quickly. After that, it doesn't get any easier.
"It's been an interesting road -- some turns, some winding roads, but you know, that's the game. I've been blessed to be able to be in this situation where I can play every day and can continue to improve myself. That's what I intend to do -- continue to show everybody that I'm here to stay, and it's going to be fun to watch."
He is definitely fun to watch when he gets on base. Maybin has 14 steals, second in the Majors only to Miami's Emilio Bonifacio, who has 20. On the same day that Maybin was at the Fan Cave, Bonifacio was undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb. Bonifacio is expected to be out four to six weeks
"Oh, Bonnie! My boy, Bonnie," Maybin said of his former teammate. "I haven't really tried to emulate my running game after too many guys, but I do take pride in getting those bags and trying to put my teammates in the best situations to drive in runs.
"Ever since last year, being able to work with Dave Roberts has been awesome. He's helped me become a much better basestealer. So, I take a lot of pride in trying to create havoc when I get on base and make things happen."
As Maybin spoke, his teammates had just completed their ride down the tube slide. They played skee-ball, made a video, raised $600 for Boys & Girls Clubs of America by playing home run derby on "MLB 12 The Show," and did a Facebook chat. Then the trio was conferring with the dwellers on how to do the perfect "shark" -- hand pointed up on top of the head, a gesture Maybin expected to introduce later that night as they watched him on TV.
"This is real baseball heaven right here," Maybin said. "You spend so much time in a room and you get a lot of time to rest, but it's good to come out and be able to enjoy the city a little bit and see some new things. ... This is an experience you don't get a chance to do quite often enough, it's been nice to get just a little bit of a getaway and help to relax a little bit."