If anyone can learn something from Columbus Clippers outfielder Carlos Moncrief’s experience in professional baseball, it would be the importance of hard work and taking it one day at a time.
“[It’s been] hard work, I can tell you that,” Moncrief said. “When I think back on it, it was a tough road, but when you’re stuck in the grind, you’re just thinking about that day. I had times where I was thinking about the future, but when I started to understand to take it one day at a time, that was the biggest thing for me and I carry it on to today.”
Moncrief has been in the Cleveland Indians farm system since the 2008 season when he was only 19-years old. He spent two years at the Rookie levels in the Gulf Coast League and the Arizona League. However, Moncrief was not an outfielder at the time; he was a pitcher.
In 2010, he moved up to Short Season Single-A Mahoning Valley and made the switch to outfielder. Moncrief played for the Scrappers for 66 games and the Kinston Indians for five games during the season.
Moncrief made the next step up in 2011 where he played 122 games for the Lake County Captains where he got 108 hits, 16 home runs and a .233 batting average. The following year he spent with Carolina and refined his batting skills. Moncrief hit .249 with 88 hits and 15 home runs with the Mudcats as well as reducing his strikeout total by 32 from the previous season.
He spent this past season in Akron at the Double-A level and continued to fine tune his batting skills. Moncrief raised his batting average by .035 to .284 on the season with the Aeros on top of getting 51 more hits (139 in 2013) and reducing his strikeout total for a second-consecutive season with 98 on the year, a total of 28 less than the year before. He also hit 17 home runs with the Aeros in 2013, marking his career high for home runs.
Moncrief has been splitting time between right field and center field with the Clippers, but he has spent the majority of the time in right. Clippers Manager Chris Tremie sees positive production in Moncrief in the field and at the plate.
“He’s continuing to work at centerfield and he’s played a lot of right field in the past,” Tremie said. “He’s got some athleticism, some good tools, a good strong arm and projects to be a really good outfielder.”
The Jackson, Miss., native has a natural love for the game and he said he’s been like that all of his life.
“My dad had told me when I was like 4-years old, I told my Granny that I was going to play in the big leagues,” Moncrief said. “I didn’t know about the minor leagues, I didn’t know I was going to have to go to college, but I always felt like I was going to play in the big leagues. If I didn’t play baseball, honestly, I don’t know exactly what I’d be doing.”
Work ethic is something that Moncrief takes a lot of pride in and he brings his best to the field every chance he gets.
“I play hard. It’s natural for me to do,” Moncrief said. “Nobody has to tell me to run hard down the first base line because if I mishit a ball, I’ll be so mad about it that I’ll run faster. Playing hard every single day is what I bring to the table. I can’t necessarily hit home runs or steal bases, but I play hard every day regardless of the outcome.”
Before entering the Cleveland Indians minor league system, Moncrief played outfield and pitcher at Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla., but he has been surprising people ever since he first picked up a baseball bat.
“The first time I played organized baseball I was 7-years old,” Moncrief said. “[The coaches] asked [my dad] if I had ever played before, and he told them, ‘No it’s his first year.’ I used to play second base, and in my first game, there was a guy on first base, [the batter] hit a ground ball, I tagged him and threw it to first base. The coaches asked [my dad], ‘are you sure he’s never played baseball before?’ But when you’re a baseball player, you’re born with it. It’s natural since I’ve been a kid.”
Bourn started the season on rehabilitation assignment with the Clippers and Moncrief found a mentor in him.
“When Bourn was here, we talked a lot in the clubhouse,” Moncrief said. “Whether it be about the past, where we’re from. What he showed me, without me saying anything, was be yourself and be respectful of others around you, but don’t try to change for different purposes. Just be yourself, try to be better every day at being yourself.”
Morgan was only recently sent down to the Clippers after Bourn finished his rehabilitation, but Moncrief was able to see the contagious energy he brings to Columbus.
“With Morgan, he brings energy and fun,” Moncrief said. “That’s the biggest thing to me is having fun and being yourself, too. But with those guys, they love playing the game. Morgan gets into another zone when he gets on the field. He’s just a gamer. They’re guys that just jump out there and play the game, regardless.”
Despite having to watch games from the bench because of roster adjustments, Moncrief said he loves what he does.
“My favorite part is just being able to play the game I love, to be honest,” he said. “Regardless of the lights, the cameras, the autographs and people trying to give you what you want, all of that doesn’t really matter to me. It’s just about coming out on the field and playing the game I’ve been playing since I was a little kid.”
The Clippers swept the Toledo Mud Hens (Triple-A Detroit) in a two-game series in Toledo, and then returned to Columbus for a three-game home series with the Mud Hens. After today’s game, the Clippers’ home stand will continue when they host the Gwinnett Braves (Triple-A Atlanta) April 22-25.
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer