He picked up that ethic from his father, Lee. "He was so mentally tough," Caminiti says. Every morning Lee left the family home in San Jose to work at Lockheed. He never told his children what he did there. It was classified information. Whenever Ken would ask, Lee would respond only with, "I work in space, son." Lee is retired now. Ken still does not know what his father did at Lockheed.
Caminiti earned a scholarship to San Jose State, where he played two years, was drafted in the third round by Houston in 1984 and was in the big leagues three years later. He enjoyed the major league lifestyle, especially on the road. He was out drinking virtually every night on trips. Once, after several drinks following a day game in Chicago, he walked into a tattoo parlor and came out with a panther on his left calf. By 1993 he was often telling himself in the morning that this was the day the drinking would stop—and by nighttime he was in another bar, telling himself tomorrow would be the last of it, for sure. Finally, after that season, and after a full week of crying, he did "the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life." He admitted he wasn't so tough. He admitted he needed help. He checked into a clinic.
Caminiti avoids public discussion about his drinking. But the rehabilitation clearly turned around his career and his life. "Oh, yeah, I've noticed a change," Nancy says. "Just to be able to sit still, be calm. And he's more talkative."
Now a fitness buff, well-sculpted at 220 pounds, Caminiti has gained 20 pounds of muscle while reducing his body fat from 16% to 9%. He entered rehab a .257 career hitter and has batted .301 since, which includes the past two seasons with San Diego after being sent there as part of a 12-player trade by Houston. Post-rehab, he has hit more home runs (75 to 57) in less than half as many at bats.
Caminiti is still getting better. Last month he set franchise records with 14 home runs and 38 RBIs. "I'm in a tree," Caminiti says, "and I'm holding on to the branch. Right now I'm groovin'."
Caminiti travels with two stacks of pictures: one of Nancy and their two daughters, the other of the motorcycle and the '55 Chevy. The car has 1,100 horsepower. He has put $11,000 into the exhaust system alone. Caminiti acquired the car from a little old lady in Oklahoma five years ago for $3,900, and he rebuilt it so meticulously that he applied the front bumper in eight seamlessly welded sections so "it fits like a glove."
"When he gets back to the room after a game," Livingstone says, "he doesn't even like to watch himself on SportsCenter highlights. He just likes to talk about his motorcycle and his car."
Scary Man can intimidate even his own teammates. "I played with Kirk Gibson in Detroit and was his partner in cards," Livingstone says. "He was so intense, there were times I was afraid to put down the wrong card and set him off. Cami is intense like that too. You've really got to know him before you joke around with him, and even if you do, he might take it the wrong way. We like to say he has a hard laugh at a joke if more than one tooth shows. Guys on this team just watch him and are in awe. You see bow many guys on this team have goatees? It's because of him. It's like a tribute." No one, though, has quite captured the ferocity of Caminiti's look. Of course Nancy laughs about this Scary Man business. "I think it's funny," she says.
Tough? You know that panther tattoo? After Nancy caught one look at it, Ken spent the next three nights sleeping on the couch. And the goatee? "It's gone after the last inning of the last game," he says.
"Actually, I think he looks better without it," Nancy says, "but last year he shaved it during the season, and all the [Padres] pitchers begged him to grow it back. They said he looks a lot tougher with it."