Following a stellar rookie season for the Cleveland Indians, Tyler Naquin is refusing to allow a demotion and injury drain morale.
Back on October 25, 2016, Cleveland Indians rookie Tyler Naquin stepped out of the third base dugout and onto Progressive Field. The Texas A&M product had only played in 122 MLB games but was extremely confident for Game 1 of the World Series.
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He looked around the familiar confines and soaked in the magnitude of the moment. After all, how many rookies get to play for a championship?
“It was incredible, man. It’s everybody’s dream,” said Naquin. “It was a special experience. It all happened pretty fast, and I look forward to getting back there and being part of that team again.”
Naquin, a first-round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, burst onto the Major League scene last season. The 26-year old batted .296 with 14 home runs and 43 RBIs in 116 games, earning 3rd place in the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Nearly eight months after the memory of a lifetime, Naquin does not wear a red C on a navy cap. Instead, he dons the same letter but of a different team.
A season of hustle, home runs and igniting the “Rock and Roll Capital of the World” was forgotten in 6 games.
“I had a bad month.”
Naquin began the 2017 season as the starting center fielder in Cleveland. He batted .333 in Spring Training making manager Terry Francona‘s decision a no-brainer.
After just 17 at-bats, he was on his way to Triple-A Columbus.
Regardless of circumstances, baseball never lost its luster to the Texan and, in turn, he refused to relinquish his confidence.
“It’s out of my control. I just go out there and keep playing. I’ll find myself in a good spot,” said Naquin. “I have so much fun.”
Immediately after demotion, the hits began to pile up for the 6’2″ outfielder. He added hit after hit, leading to a 14-game hit streak and .396 average within a month of being optioned. A promotion was imminent.
“The injury bug” had other plans, though.
For the third time in four years, an ailment took a bite of Naquin’s season. In the midst of one of his most successful spans, the game he loved was ripped from his hot-hitting hands.
However, his confidence still never wavered.
“You got to realize all the work you’ve put in and how much success that you’ve had,” he said. “If I’m healthy, I’m in a good spot. I’m getting healthy, and I feel really good. Injuries are part of the game.”
Returning from lower back tightness on June 13, Naquin is starting over. His 14-game hit streak has evaporated, but he is gradually rediscovering his groove.
In the past five games, Naquin has three home runs and seven RBIs, including a grand slam on June 17.
A return to Cleveland could very well be on the horizon; yet, he is not worried in the least.
“I’m just sitting here, taking it day-by-day,” Naquin said. “I’ve gone out there and proved I can do it at the highest level.
“Different times on and off the field call for different situations and opportunities to come up. I’ll have another go at it up there in Cleveland. I love that ballpark, love the staff and love playing for that city.”