Naquin Shines In Professional Debut
By Dave Roberts
On June 4, the Cleveland Indians made Tyler Naquin their number one draft pick, instantly vaulting him into the spotlight of Cleveland fans. With the new Major League Baseball deadline for signing prospects set at July 13, the Indians wasted no time in signing the youngster on June 15. This new deadline is already providing dividends for Naquin for after being assigned to Cleveland’s Single-A affiliate Mahoning Valley Scrappers he appeared in his first professional game on June 20, just five days after signing his contract.
The Spring, Texas native grew up with baseball and was innovative in his training. “Growing up, I hit a lot of rocks on Spring Creek with a broom stick probably for 10 years or so,” Naquin said. “Still try to do it when I have a shot.”
The unconventional training obviously paid off for him as he was a two-time All-State athlete for Klein Collins High School and was subsequently drafted by the Orioles in the 33rd round of 2009 Draft after graduation. Instead of going pro, he took his talents to Texas A&M, where over three years he clubbed seven home runs, 49 doubles, 13 triples, 112 runs batted in and 153 runs scored in 187 games. He was awarded Big 12 Player of the Year and First Team All-American as a sophomore and emerged a finalist for the Golden Spikes award after his junior year.
During his college days Naquin manned right field for the Aggies but the Indians plan to move him back to center, a position he is familiar with from his past. “I played center field all the way through high school and then right field through college,” Naquin said. “I believe it’s easier to play [center field] you’re not worried about slices or the wall.”
Another question that arose for Naquin is a common one that faces all college players when they enter the pros, the transition from a metal to wooden bat. “I like the wood bat a lot better, little more pop but smaller sweet spot.”
The whirlwind short time-span that brought him from college standout to a professional baseball player has been quite the trip for the 21-year-old Texan. “It’s an unbelievably feeling, you dream about it day and day out.”
Cleveland left the youngster very little time to sit in reverie as just five days after his signing he made his professional debut in front of a crowd of 5,122 at Eastwood Field in Niles, Ohio where the Mahoning Valley Scrappers took on the Jamestown Jammers in Mahoning Valley’s home opener.
Naquin profiled as the best arm and bat in the draft did not disappoint the organization or the fans on his debut. He when 3-4 collecting two singles, a double and a stolen base before striking out in his final at bat. Meanwhile he displayed his canon of an arm on a deep fly to center that he effortlessly tossed back in to the infield. The youngster was all smiles as his teammates were able to take the opener in the 11-inning contest by a 2-1 final. “I just wanted to go out there and play, and be calm, and be myself”.
Well if what fans viewed opening night was Naquin being himself then fans are surely excited for him to continue being himself for a long time and hopefully in an Indians uniform. As for who is Tyler Naquin, he gave fans that answer at Mahoning Valley’s Media Day. “I enjoy country music and eating steak I guess I’m a typical Texan”.