For Naquin, it's all about attitude and determination
June 28, 2012
Long after the Scrappers put the finishing touches on a 6-2 victory on Tuesday that vanquished a four game losing streak, Tyler Naquin wasn’t in the locker room celebrating the victory with the rest of his teammates.
Naquin wasn’t in the food line, or catching a post-game shower, or visiting the trainer, or talking in front of a camera. Instead he was halfway down the first-base line, signing an autograph for a patient and adoring little girl that had stuck around in the hopes of getting her glove signed by the outfielder.
In an age of prima donnas and me-first attitudes, sights like that can be hard to find, especially from a top pick in the Major League Baseball draft. But ‘prima donna’ is the last adjective you would ever hear to describe Naquin. ‘Humble,’ ‘polite,’ ‘demure’. Those might be better descriptors.
“I was blessed with talent and a hard work ethic,” says Naquin. “If I’m going to push this hard and make it this far, and it’s a little kid’s dream to get a first-round pick’s signature, then that’s something I’m going to do for them. It means the world to them. I’d rather spend an extra thirty minutes after the game to make everyone happy rather than me going in the clubhouse everyone saying “Man, that guy’s mean.’”
Maybe just plain nice fits him best.
But nobody should let the gentle descriptions and modest demeanor fool them. The left-handed hitter has already begun molding his legend between the lines, shaping his reputation as a ferocious competitor. Through his first four games, Naquin has done more than impress, carrying a .438 batting average with a pair of doubles and RBI. He’s certainly earned the praise of his manager Ted Kubiak.
“I think he’s a little different than most number one picks that I’ve been involved with, in that I think he’s more relaxed about that situation,” said Kubiak of his center fielder. “That's something a lot of guys struggle with. He plays hard and he’s hung in against left handers well. He’s done a lot of good things.”
Not to mention his forget-about-yesterday mindset. Coming off his first rough professional game where he was saddled with three strikeouts, he didn’t panic or let frustration eat away at him. Instead, he came right back out the next night and went 3-for-4 with a couple of RBI.
“You’re not going to be perfect every night,” Naquin said. “One of the hardest things to do is hit a baseball. I’m not blaming anybody but myself; you know you’re going to have those nights. But it’s all about what you do with the game on the line. You’ve got to bounce back and know you have tomorrow.”
The biggest thing that can be said of Tyler is a secret to the box score. He has stolen the attention of everyone with his hair-on-fire style of play, whether it’s tearing out of the batter’s box on routine flies to the outfield, or putting his entire body into a bullet to the cutoff man to make runners think twice about tagging up. Naquin plays every out like it’s his last.
“It’s been a blast," Naquin said. "Baseball’s baseball, and it’s something I want to do. Each time I get a chance to play I’m going to play hard and go head first. That's what I do.”
Naquin has reaped the fruits of his hard work. After a brilliant high school career where he earned all-state honors twice, he was selected in the 2009 draft by the Baltimore Orioles in the 33rd round. He instead chose to attend Texas A&M to play college baseball, where a sophomore season of batting .381 with 23 doubles earned him Big 12 Player of the Year honors and put him on the map.
Naquin followed that with a junior season of .380 and 18 doubles. That offensive output combined with his defensive prowess was more enough for the Indians, who drafted him with their first round pick this year.
Now, armed with his positive attitude and ruthless passion for the game, Naquin is poised to climb the ladder and accomplish his dream of playing in the major leagues. If his raucous greetings at Eastwood Field are any indicator, it won’t be long until he wins over the fans at Progressive Field, wowing the Tribe faithful with his hustle and determination.
“If he keeps doing what he’s doing, things are going to turn out good for him,” said Kubiak. “He runs well, he handles the bat well, and he wants to hit...he’s just a good athlete.”
And he will, no doubt, still be the last guy out on the field signing autographs, even when he’s a big league superstar. That’s just who he is.
Matt can be reached via email at email@example.com, or followed on Twitter @MMillerBaseball.
You DON'T take a corner OF (moved to cf already and they already have Brantley) that high with no power/production-which is why he precipitously dropped.