Snider reflects on last year
Blue Jays’ Travis Snider arrived in camp last season with a guaranteed job but things aren’t quite as clear cut this time around. He is in a heated competition with Eric Thames in left field and the loser of that battle likely is headed for Triple-A Las Vegas. On the main Blue Jays website, you’ll find my feature on Snider who talks about that competition, his previous struggles and what he needs to do to get back on track.
Also on the main site, there is a notebook with an update on the bizarre ailment currently facing right-hander Carlos Villanueva. Also included in that article are two small pieces on Toronto’s intrasquad game later this week, and the need to control the running game better than a year ago.
Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB where I’m posting daily pictures and various tidbits from around Spring Training. In the meantime, there was simply too much stuff about Snider to fit into one article so I have provided the transcript of my one-on-one interview with him, which took place on Sunday.
Did the wrist injury you suffered at the end of last season have an impact on how you were able to approach the offseason?
“I definitely spent some time rehabbing that, getting it strong, and adding some more focus on forearm and wrist strengthening as well as a maintenance program to carry me throughout the season.”
Did it push back any of your workouts or cause problems with your usual offseason schedule?
“I don’t usually start hitting until around Christmas anyways so it wasn’t a setback for the offseason by any means. I didn’t jump right into my upper body lifting just because I wanted to make sure everything was strong, healthy and 100% before I started to push myself in the weight room. But it wasn’t much of a setback, it wasn’t anything that stopped me from coming here prepared, it’s not a thought in mind anymore.”
You went through a major mechanical change with your swing in 2011. Where does that stand now and did you have to make any further adjustments during the offseason?
“I think what (Triple-A hitting coach Chad Mottola) and I established right before I got hurt, was an end product of a lot of adjustments and changes that I’ve been trying to make over the last two-to-three years. I finally got my hands into a lower position to start, which for me coming out of high school and all the way through the Minor Leagues I held my hands high. Coaches in the past had tried to make that suggestion, Dwayne Murphy being one of them, but it really took a whole summer in Vegas to get the repetitions needed to find the level of comfort to go into the cage every day as well as practice and carry it over into games.
“Unfortunately, where I left off the last week before I got hurt was when we started seeing the results in the games but it was a good platform for us to build off of going into the offseason and really understanding where I needed to be in my offseason training, in the cages as well as coming down here knowing what I needed to accomplish each day.”
How difficult is it to make that kind of adjustment during the middle of a season? It often results in having to take a step or two back before making real progress.
“I think any time you make a major mechanical change, the mindset is something I really learned about. Going into that adjustments in the past, I’ve always struggled with the idea of making a drastic change instead of understanding there is a process to it and it’s not going to happen overnight. But the better mindset you can take into it, the more productive and more successful you’re going to be in a shorter amount of time.
“Instead of getting caught up and saying, okay I need one week to be able to drop my hands and get comfortable with it, it’s sort of a gradual process and there’s a lot of trial and error we had to go through to get to the point where I am now being comfortable with my hands, my stance, I was more of an upright hitter the last couple of years and had some success at the end of 2009 with that, which I wanted to carry over in 2010 but that wasn’t the case. It came time to make that adjustment and I feel comfortable with where I’m at.”
Seems like you and Mottola have developed a very strong relationship. Was he a key factor in all of this?
“I don’t think there could have been a better, not only coach, but personality. Chad, he’s been through the grinder through his own experiences in baseball and he relates to guys very well whether it’s struggling to make an adjustment because of your mindset or making adjustments that needed to be made because of mechanical flaws. He knows how to mold his style of coaching into each personality and I’d say that’s probably the hitting coach to do because we all have egos, we all have things that have worked in the past for us.
“For a lot of us as competitors it’s hard to let go and he does a very good job of working through that process with you and establishing to mindset every day that, hey we’re here to get better and if things aren’t great today it doesn’t mean you can’t go out and get three hits and it also doesn’t mean you’re going to wake up tomorrow feeling great so you have to keep the right mindset.”
I can only imagine the level of frustration you went through last year. How was Mottola able to help you through those low moments?
“From the experiences that I’ve had with him over the years, we have built a strong personal relationship where he understands my personality and he can tell, even I’m not saying something, if I don’t agree, and he can take that and use it against you in a great way. He’ll say, ‘okay I know you might not be comfortable with this, or it might not be what you want to do, but let’s try it.’
“He takes the positives from the negatives and puts it into your routine every day. In that situation, when you’re being sent down for the second time, third time in my career where I’m getting sent straight down to Triple-A, it was almost relieving to go back and see him and understand we’re going to pick up right where we left off the first time and just work with the process and not get caught up in everything else.”
What were you able to learn from everything that you went through?
“Taking the positives out of it is really the most important thing for me. I’ve always been overly competitive in a sense, when you get into this game, understanding how to deal with adversity. I never dealt with a lot of baseball adversity growing up and there were a lot of things off the field that I felt like I handled the right way but I think as we grow as players and as people you have to be able to make those adjustments on the fly and not get caught up in the logistics, the business side of things, and really concentrate on what you can control. That’s everyday, go in there, getting your routine established, working through that routine and making the adjustments as you go.”
John Farrell and Alex Anthopoulos have talked about the need for you to show more consistency at the Major League level. The counter argument from some people is that you haven’t been given enough of an opportunity to show that consistency at the Major League level. What’s your take on that situation — especially being sent down the second time last year?
“I had discussions with John and Alex about the second stint but when you look at the decision that had to be made I understand. With where I was at, the competition I had at that particular time, there wasn’t a whole lot of argument from me. Not being so concerned with why, versus how are we going to get back, how are we going to get this thing right, how are we going to get consistent.
“Consistency is the key. Any person at this level, whether you’re an offensive guy or a defensive guy, you have to be consistent. I understood that the consistency wasn’t there during the time I was up there. So, being able to say, okay we got some things accomplished, had a good couple of weeks, a tough week and a half to two weeks and you’re going down, but the mindset wasn’t bitterness or anger towards anybody but as an opportunity to go down, get things figured out. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and yeah I wish I could say I had 600 at-bats but that’s the way the cards fell. At the end of the day, there’s no guarantees in life, there’s no guarantees in this business and you have to work for everything you get and that’s going to continue to be my mindset going forward is just to control what I control and let the results speak for themselves.”
How do you avoid putting too much pressure on yourself when you know you might only have a short period of time to showcase your skills in that type of situation?
“I’ve experienced the over thinking, I’ve experiened enough of that side of things to understand that doesn’t lead to any success. I think the mindset has to be growth mindset. The challenges are going to be there, the adversity is going to be there, but what defines a person in life is how you overcome that adversity and for me I know I can sleep well at night if I know I went out there and gave it everything I have.
“Being able to work through struggles is important, but in this business and in this game you can only expect so much before you have to take the responsibility on yourself for your performance and your preparation. I think controlling your preparation and really putting everything into it that you need to get ready is the key to be successful and forgetting about all of the other things that can play into a certain situation.”
Did you find yourself over thinking things at times last year or was that something you got better at?
“I think it’s something I continue to learn from the experiences. Any time you are struggling as a hitter, you find ways to get inside of your own head and the greatest hitters don’t do that. For me, as I experienced two times last year, really struggled up there and understand the way your mind can trick what’s going on out there in the real world. For me it’s about concentrating on the present moment and what I can control at that particular time of the day, whether it’s going into the cage, my workout routine and staying on top of the maintenance stuff to keep me healthy and on the field playing to a high level. I think if you take care of those things and the rest will take care of itself.”
With that in mind, what do you think you need to do to win the job in left field?
“I don’t think there’s one particular thing. I think it’s a matter of going out, we’re about a week away from games, it’s a matter of maximizing what I need to accomplish to be in game shape and game ready starting on March 3rd when we get this thing rolling and going one day at a time. Like I said, putting into what I can each and every day to get the most out of myself when I step on the field and not worrying about if I have three hits or four strikeouts — you’re going to have those days — but at the end they’re going to make a decision and it’s their decision to make.”
What has Farrell told you about the current situation and what he’s expecting from you?
“The same thing he told you, the consistency, we’ve seen what it can be but I have higher expectations for myself than just having two good weeks. Going forward, it’s about not putting pressure on yourself if you have a bad couple of games but also understanding when things are good, they’re good, and when things are bad you have to just keep grinding, keep working, keep the right mindset and look at the challenges each day as an opportunity.”