Gyorko remaining the same level-headed man, even after his big contract extension
Forget designer jeans and gold necklaces. Armani? Not for this guy.
Jedd Gyorko’s big fashion statement comes on those days when he breezes into the clubhouse to punch in for work rocking a Cabela’s cap.
Uh, that’s Cabela’s.
You know, "The World’s Foremost Outfitter for Hunting, Fishing & Outdoor Gear." Says so right on the company’s Web site.
"That’s part of what makes Jedd the ballplayer he is," Padres manager Bud Black says. "His personality. His attitude."
Whoa, let’s slow down here for just a millisecond and make sure we’re clear.
Black’s point is not that Gyorko’s highly successful debut for the Padres is because he enjoys the outdoors, therefore he’s comfortable at second base.
No. The skipper’s point is this: "I think he truly knows his purpose as a player is to play. To play to win. To perform to win.
"All the extras that go along with being a player, the celebrity-type benefits, he’s not into it. He’s a ballplayer. And that attitude will always play."
Gyorko – prounounced "Jerk-O" – was in the news last week after having earned a five-year, $35 million extension from the Padres. He was in the news last year because of his steady play at second base over 125 games and leading all major-league rookie qualifiers in home runs (23), extra-base hits (49), total bases (216), on-base percentage (.301), slugging percentage (.444) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.745).
He figures to be in the news for quite some time if he can continue this steady progression as the Padres work toward climbing the NL West standings. Though he’s eschewing the headlines for some serious extra time in the batting cage these days with his average still only .152 and his on-base percentage just .240.
Which is where the all-work, no-bling demeanor Black speaks of should play a big role.
"I am very quiet off the field," Gyorko says, chuckling when Black’s comments are relayed to him. "Everything goes onto the field. With me, that’s just how it is.
"Iâm not flashy. I’m not going to be going out all the time, if ever."
So after signing his first big contract, no, a brand new Bentley or an upgrade to a crib with a killer ocean view is not on the table.
"Newborn diapers and [baby] bottles," Gyorko quipped at the news conference last week to announce the deal.
His wife, Karley, is due with twin boys – Brody and Kadin – next month. The two met back in school in their native West Virginia, and the rocket ride to The Show following Gyorko’s selection as the Padres’ second-round pick in the 2010 draft has not changed them.
A big night out?
"Going out to dinner with my wife," Gyorko says.
They live downtown, and his commute to work is a short walk to the ballpark. It is the best of both worlds: Jedd and Karley get their fill of "city living" during the season. Then they downshift into a slower "country living" during the winter, returning to their home in Morgantown, W.V., just 10 or so minutes away from the University of West Virginia, where Jedd not only was a high draft pick but also named to the Athletic Director’s Academic Honor Roll.
Yes, their city life includes fish tacos. And going to the beach. And when they have those big nights out, the Gyorkos concentrate on sampling new restaurants each time, the better to get to know the area.
"There are so many good places to try in San Diego," Gyorko says.
During the offseason, their big nights out in West Virginia really are just big nights in: Both Jedd’s and Karley’s families live nearby, and they love to have family over and throw steaks on the grill.
Though he’s made the transition to second base look fairly easy – it’s what a true pro does – Gyorko was a third baseman for the Mountaineers. He hadn’t played second base since his freshman season. But with the aid of special tutors Glenn Hoffman (Padres third-base coach) and Rick Renteria (former bench coach and now Cubs manager) – "they did an unbelievable job," Gyorko says – he’s become a natural.
Big thing, he says, was to re-adjust to the angle of the ball coming off of the bat from the other side of the infield, as well as the speed of the major-league game.
Truthfully, though, that’s only one of many significant adjustments he’s had to make on the fly at the major-league level. He’s batted cleanup now in eight of the Padres’ first 19 games, and he did it 11 times last summer.
For a 25-year-old, second-year player with just 145 major-league games on his resume, batting fourth really is somewhere between absurd and ludicrous. Bryce Harper, for example, has batted fourth just 19 times in 275 games for the Nationals. The Angels’ Mike Trout has never started a game batting cleanup in 355 big-league contests.
But with Carlos Quentin forever on the disabled list, and in a light-hitting lineup, that’s where Gyorko has found himself much of this season, fair or not.
Another potential land mine in the immediate aftermath of his new contract could have been his relationship with Chase Headley, whose future here remains murky. For a time, it was Headley who appeared in line for a long-term contract that would make him a key foundation piece.
Now Gyorko will have that chance and Headley likely won’t.
Yet, on a close-knit team, what could have been an awkward situation in the past week hasn’t been. Gyorko is as close to Headley as anybody in the clubhouse.
"Great relationship," Gyorko says. "And he was excited for me. It’s different from person to person, but we’re such a close-linked team, everybody was happy for me."
Biggest thing at the moment, without question, is to get his bat going.
"It’s early, but these games count," he says. "The first game is just as important as the last.
"I feel like as a middle-of-the-order guy, I need to drive in runs."
So he keeps showing up for early batting practice, keeps his head on straight and keeps the blinders adjusted to block out the extraneous temptations of a major-league lifestyle.
And sometimes, he swaps out that Cabela’s cap for a camouflage number.
"That’s me bringing the country to Southern California," he says, chuckling, security in hand, twins on the way, an open San Diego canvas still stretched out wide in front of him.
Longtime baseball columnist Scott Miller will be a weekly contributor to FOXSportsSanDiego.com, discussing the San Diego Padres and Major League Baseball. Follow Scott on Twitter at @ScottMillerBbl.