Fink Provides Consistency for Otherwise Sinking Captains

The Lake County Captains have got off to a rough start in their 2014 season. Currently, the team is last in the Midwest League with a startling 9-24 record. Despite their on-the-field struggles, however, a quiet leader has emerged within the team.

Grant Fink, a 23 year-old infielder from Spokane, Washington, has been a constant producer for the Captains. He is in the lineup nearly every day, playing a combination of third base and first base, as well as having the opportunity to DH. He makes plays on the field without being showy and is, essentially, one of the backbones and core members of the team. Fink is hitting .236 with the Captains this season, with 25 hits, five doubles, and one home run. He has 11 RBI on the season and has been walked 19 times.

“There’s nothing flashy there,” Manager Mark Budzinski said of Fink’s style of play. “He makes the routine play, and that’s all we ask for…We ask our players to come ready to play every day, and he does just that.”

Drafted in the 23rd round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Missouri Western State University, Fink is not a “highly touted” prospect. He was compared to Jerrud Sabourin, an Indians’ minor leaguer player who, despite being a later-round draft pick, has emerged in the system as a player to watch.

“He got drafted for a reason,” Budzinski said of Fink. “They obviously saw something in him and though that, by drafting him, he could play in the big leagues.”

Fink said getting drafted in the 23rd round was “amazing.”

“I was not expecting it,” Fink said. “I’d been contacted once or twice, but other than that, it came out of nowhere.”

Fink spent 2013 with the Arizona League Indians and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. He hit .263 in 46 games in Arizona and .444 in five games in Mahoning Valley.

Prior to his tenure with the Indians’ organization, Fink played third base at Missouri Western State after spending two years at Mount Hood Community College in Oregon. He had contemplated attending Moorhead State University in Hawaii but, after scholarships and other technical things fell through, he opted for Missouri Western – and he couldn’t have been happier with his decision to attend the small, Division II school outside of Kansas City.

“I had some things fall through with other schools, and one of my best friends from high school was going to pitch there,” Fink said. “I gave the coach (Buzz Verduzco) a call at the last second and told him I needed a place to play and he helped me out, getting everything organized, and it ended up being the perfect situation for me.”

“Everything about it was perfect for me,” Fink continued. “There were a ton of junior college recruits there who were in the same situation as me, who had things fall through with other schools. We ended up all coming in at the same time.”

Fink said that Missouri Western led the nation offensively in almost every category while he was there, and that they were ranked fourth in country.

Fink, who played third base in college and spent time at both third and shortstop in high school, said he knew baseball was going to be his sport of choice once he started playing in more selective leagues growing up.

“I played all sports growing up,” Fink said. “I figured baseball was going to be the sport when I started playing on select summer teams throughout junior high and high school; that’s when I developed a great passion for it.”

The passion Fink has for the sport is evident as he talks about his approach to playing for the Captains and the Indians’ organization as a whole.

“It’s a blessing,” Fink said. “Every day I show up to the yard and look around and take in my surroundings, because not everyone gets a chance to do this. I try to keep the most positive mindset I can through everything. I know that God’s given me this gift to come out here every day and play this sport for money. And I mean play. It’s not a job to me, it’s just going out and having fun.”

His attitude is evident and stands out to many on the Captains’ staff, and has allowed Fink to emerge as a leader for the team.

“He talks to all the guys and is on top of things,” Budzinski said of Fink’s clubhouse demeanor. “He says things if something needs to be said, and doesn’t say anything when nothing needs to be said. He has a really good feel.”

“During games, I like to be down to business, but I’m a loud guy,” Fink was quick to add. “I can talk and joke around and have fun. There’s different times that calls for each situation. Sometimes you have to be hard headed and down on things, and sometimes you have to loosen things up and be fun.”

Fink’s ability to shift seamlessly between the different attitudes needed is helpful for the struggling Captains, as he is able to focus when needed but still enjoy the opportunities he is handed; he understands that each win and loss cannot be taken with too much weight.

“This is baseball; it’s so up and down, we know how talented our team is and we know what we can bring to the table each day,” Fink said of the team. “It’s not easy, but I think our guys are starting to realize what we’re capable of and I feel like we’ll have a good strong rest of the first half and a strong finish to the season.”

As for Fink’s personal goals for the season, he keeps them simple and focused on his “here-and-now” with the Captains.

“I try not to think about it too much,” Fink said. “[Playing in the big leagues] is the ultimate goal, but I try not to get ahead of myself. I’m here now, and this is where my goals are now, so I try to take it one day at a time and let the rest take care of itself.”

Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer

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