In our weekly installment, we review some of the top performances in the Oakland A's system for the…
Chad Boyd Laying It All On The Line
"I never really had trouble [with plate discipline]. I know my zone really well. Your swing is never going to be perfect, so if you start thinking about your swing and tinkering with it too much, that is usually when you fall into a slump. Instead, I work on my approach at the plate. Finding holes in the defense, looking to see where they are playing me, going with pitches the other way, that sort of thing," Boyd said.
"If it's out of my zone, I don't swing at it. With two strikes, I like to shorten up. A lot of guys are still looking for that homerun with two-strikes, but I'm playing more for contact [at that point in the count]. My high school coach always said that if you make contact, something good will happen and I really try to follow that philosophy and try to make something happen."
Boyd was selected in the ninth round of the 2004 draft by Oakland out of El Camino Real High School in Southern California. He struggled at the plate during his first taste of professional baseball, batting only .207 in 35 games in the Arizona Rookie League. However, he recovered nicely in 2005, batting .283 and posting a .350 on-base percentage for the Vancouver Canadians.
Boyd was poised to begin his third professional season at low-A Kane County, but a knee injury sidelined him for the first half of the season. He rehabbed in Arizona at extended spring training and then played in five games in Vancouver before heading to the Cougars.
Since arriving at Kane County, Boyd has been a dangerous weapon in the Cougars' line-up. The corner outfielder is hitting .345 with a .491 slugging percentage in 110 at-bats for the Cougars. Boyd has only one homerun, but he has 13 doubles. He says that at this point in his career he is more concerned about collecting doubles than hitting homeruns.
"I know that the homeruns are going to come. They have been down lately. The Northwest League isn't the best place to hit them. My main concern is doubles. I know that as I grow, those doubles will turn into homeruns. I had 12 homeruns in high school, so I know I have that kind of power and that it will come eventually," Boyd said.
"Right now, I'm just focused on seeing the ball well and hitting it hard. Maybe someday I'll settle into a third or fourth spot in the batting order, we'll see."
Boyd has moved all over the batting order this season. He was mostly a middle-of-the order hitter in Vancouver. He then began his time in Kane County at the bottom of the order and, after his hot start, he has been moved up to the top slots in the order. Boyd doesn't mind moving around the order, however.
"I can hit anywhere in the line-up – one through nine. I just try to be consistent with my approach no matter where I am hitting in the line-up. I really try to give the guys behind me as much information about the pitcher as I can," Boyd said.
"I really believe that the key to success is knowing as much as you can about the pitcher. The more the guys behind me have a chance to see the pitcher, the better they will do, so I work on that a lot."
Boyd readily admits that his main focus right now is on his hitting. However, he does take pride in his defensive work. Although he is listed on milb.com as an infielder, Boyd has predominantly been an outfielder since high school. He has also spent some time at first.
"I like them both actually [outfield and first]. It's better down the road to be as flexible as possible [in terms of being able to play multiple positions]. My main focus is hitting, but I try to bring as much to the table as possible when I am out there on the field. If I can add another tool with my defense to help the team win, then that's what I try to do," Boyd said.
The Southern California native is enjoying his time in the Midwest League and with the Cougars.
"The atmosphere for hitting is much better here in the Midwest League. In the Northwest League, the air was a lot heavier. In the Midwest League, the weather is a little warmer and the ball flies a little bit better," Boyd said.
"It's been great playing on this team. I really like the group of guys I'm playing with."
Boyd is playing with a number of the same players on Kane County that he played with in Vancouver last season, when the Canadians won the division title but fell short of the Northwest League championship. The Cougars have already clinched a wild card playoff spot from the first half of the season and they are currently leading their division in the second half by two games.
Boyd points to the work ethic of the players as a big reason why he thinks the team has a good shot at playing deep into the playoffs.
"We fell short last season [in Vancouver] and this year we'd like to bring it all home. We work pretty hard as a group. It's almost August and we're still at the ballpark four or five hours before the game," Boyd said.
"I just got here a few weeks ago, but most of these guys have been here since April or March and they are still getting at it every day, coming in early for extra batting practice and all that stuff. We work hard and we're going to be successful down the road because of that work ethic."
Boyd says that the Cougar work ethic begins at the top with the coaching staff.
"[Cougar manager] Aaron Nieckula is a very hardworking manager and you want to match him with your hard work. [Cougar hitting coach] Tim Garland is one of the most intense coaches you'll meet. He works really hard and gets after it," Boyd said.
"We have a really great coaching staff. You can't have the same personalities from coach to coach, but these guys really work well together all the way from the clubhouse guys to the trainers to the coaches. They work perfectly together and when that happens, the rest takes care of itself."
Because he was drafted out of high school into an organization that tends to draft mostly college players, Boyd has been one of the youngest players on every team he has played on. He said that he has looked to some of the older players for guidance, and that teammate Wes Long has been particularly helpful in his development as a professional.
"Wes Long is a guy that I have played with since I signed. It's been an honor to move up with him. He has taught me a lot about the game and has helped me keep my head straight and kept me up when my knee was bothering me," Boyd said.
Another person in the A's organization who has helped Boyd is Vancouver manager and former A's scout Rick Magnante. Magnante is in his first season as the Canadians manager. Before that, he was the A's Southern California area scout and he scouted and signed Boyd back in 2004. Boyd was reunited briefly with Magnante in Vancouver this season.
"He's one of the people I really look up to as an adult, along with my dad. Rick is very knowledgeable about the game and very deserving of the opportunity he has in Vancouver. He really believes in me. It's great to have someone like him believe in your abilities," Boyd said.
Many scouts have described Boyd's style of play as "frenetic" and "all out." Boyd takes pride in playing the game at a maximum level, something that he picked up from one of his childhood baseball idols.
"My favorite player as a kid was Dave Roberts when he was with the Dodgers. He wasn't a guy that a lot of people talked about, but what I loved about him was that stain that he always had on the front of his jersey. He always went after it in every game," Boyd said.
"I try to play that way, too, and get after it on every play. When I struggle, sometimes I realize that I have gotten away from that [style of play] and I focus on getting back to it."
Boyd also drew inspiration from a childhood friend who has gone onto tremendous success with the Arizona Diamondbacks, former California Bear star Conor Jackson.
"Conor Jackson is another guy I looked up to. I've known Conor since we were kids. We kind of grew up together. He was a few years older than me, but his dad and my dad were the coaches as kids. I really look at his work ethic and try to work to stay on that same level," Boyd said.
Like Jackson, whose father is a well-known actor, Boyd has a Hollywood connection. Boyd appeared as a "stunt double" in the 1994 movie 3 Ninjas Kick Back, filling in during the baseball action scenes as the character Michael "Tum-Tum" Douglas. The appearance earned Boyd the nickname "Tum-Tum" from Northwest League fans last season who had seen the movie. Although Boyd doesn't see a full-time career in acting in his future, he did enjoy his on-screen experience.
"It was just being in the right place at the right time. It was a lot of fun," Boyd said.
The big screen might not be his future calling, but the eloquent Boyd does have designs on a media career once his playing days are done.
"I do think about getting into sports broadcasting [after his career is over]. I really enjoy analyzing players and that sort of thing. That would definitely interest me down the road," Boyd said.
At age 21, however, Boyd has a number of years as an interview subject in his future before he has to start thinking about holding the mic himself.
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