It's that time again. Spring Training is upon us. Time to meet all the new faces in the organization. Time to coat myself liberally with sunblock. Time to stretch for half an hour everyday. Time to be herded like sheep under the control of a foghorn. It's organized chaos around Papago Park, and I absolutely love it. All of the hard work I put in during the offseason starts to pay off.
It's beginning to be a role reversal for me. My place in the organization has changed over the past four years. I was once a wide eyed 19 year old. The new kid in town. Now I'm a grizzled 23 year old fresh off the rugged landscape called the Texas League. I was the one asking all the questions, but now I'm the one answering them. The older guys would often pull pranks on me. A few noteworthy ones were stacking 36 stools in front of my locker and completely taping it shut. Another one was the eye black on the inside of the hat. All in good fun though. It's not my style to pay things like that forward so the new guys caught a break there.
It's fun to see how optimistic all the new guys are. Everybody is just happy to be here and sees themselves in the big leagues in the very near future. The harsh reality is only a chosen few get the opportunity to play in The Show. Even having the slimmest chance of ever making it is more than enough for us to continue pursuing our dream.
Like I've said before, it's this uncertainty that drives us. This comes into effect more now than ever after the eventful offseason the team has had. I took a lap around the locker room and I don't even recognize most of the names. It just shows you how small of a window there is for a player to prove his worth. This is a make or break season for me. Only production on the field will provide job security.
I've had the same issue since I signed with the club. From day one some of the coaches wanted to completely change my swing. I am by all means coachable, so I tried all the ideas they threw my way. Unfortunately over the years I had so many things I was working on that I forgot how to hit the way I did. I forgot how to hit the way the A's liked enough to draft me in the 8th round. I lost my identity as a hitter. I lost my base. That's the worst case scenario. There was no square one for me to go back to.
I had a major breakthrough at the end of last season and carried it on to the offseason work I put in. Now instead of focusing on all of my flaws that apparently need to be fixed we are focusing on improving my strengths. That doesn't mean I'm not trying to minimize my flaws, but in the past we've put so much time and effort into fixing them that my strengths were ignored and those became flaws. No more.
I cringe whenever somebody calls me a 'prospect'. That term is used too loosely. People say players should ignore what's said about them in the media. I believe that's complete nonsense. Public perception is a huge to me. Image isn't everything, but on-field performance alone doesn't make the player. I see everything. I know I'm not the highest touted player in the system. Heck, I didn't even make the cut for this site's top 50 A's prospects. Just knowing that makes me work that much harder. Sometimes you just gotta kick the door down and let the big dog eat.
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