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Maybin 'having a blast' playing in Atlanta

Center fielder falls triple short of cycle as Braves race past Phillies

ATLANTA -- Cameron Maybin's long-awaited breakout season has been influenced by good health and the immediate connection he has drawn with Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer. But the veteran center fielder has also been rejuvenated by the opportunity to play approximately three hours south of his North Carolina home for the team he grew up watching.

Making the most of the opportunity to play before friends and family members who were in attendance for Saturday night's 9-5 win over the Phillies, Maybin finished a triple shy of the cycle and further strengthened the argument that he has been the Braves' most valuable player.

"[Being close to home] has a lot to do with it," Maybin said. "I had my son with me all day today. We got to get on the field and hit early. Things like that are important and special. Being able to be close to my mom, father, family and friends has given me a newfound energy."

Given that he had batted .222 and compiled a .595 OPS as injuries limited him to a total of 109 games over the past two seasons, Maybin was not viewed as a potential difference maker when the Braves acquired him via the Opening Day eve trade that sent Craig Kimbrel to San Diego. That thought didn't necessarily change as he spent April sharing the center-field position with Eric Young Jr.

But over the past two months, Maybin has lived up to the great expectations that were set when he was one of the game's top overall prospects. The 28-year-old veteran has batted .295 with seven home runs, 15 stolen bases and a .782 OPS through this season's first 81 games.

"He's a beast man; I tell him all the time. He comes to play every single day," Braves pitcher Alex Wood said. "And the only thing you see out of him is hustle and heart from start to finish and it's really, really fun to watch."

Video: [email protected]: Maybin hits an RBI single to right field

Maybin certainly entertained Saturday as he doubled during a four-run first inning, homered in the second inning and helped chase Phillies starter Kevin Correia with an RBI single in the four-run fourth inning. His bid for the cycle evaporated when he produced a couple of ground balls in his final two plate appearances. But this was yet another night when he made his presence known.

Since becoming Atlanta's everyday center fielder May 2, he has batted .318 and produced a .802 OPS. Early on, there might have been reason to wonder if he was simply in the midst of a hot streak. But now that this impressive streak has stretched over more than two months, there is reason to wonder if he truly has come into his own now that he is close to home.

"I'm having a blast playing here," Maybin said. "Hopefully we'll see what happens. But I'm really enjoying my time here."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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