Minor Leaguers come and go, but it will take a lot more than age for PawSox catcher Matt Spring to give up on the game he loves.
At 30 years old, he enters his his 12th pro season at the highest level to date—AAA.
Spring has just 17 career games in AAA to his credit at this point in his career, but he looks to be in the mix of PawSox catchers this year that includes big league veteran Humberto Quintero and top prospect Blake Swihart.
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As a result, he starts the year on the seven-day Disabled List and while he may not be concussed, it is a way for the PawSox to keep extra depth behind the plate.
It may be tough for him to find playing time at times given the depth the team has behind the backstop, but if anything happens at the big league level, he is sure to see more reps behind the plate in Pawtucket.
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“Whenever you can get your bat in the lineup, that’s what you want to do,” Spring told Yawkey Way Report at PawSox media day. “So whether it be first base, left field or whatever, I’ll take at-bats when they come.”
“That’s the biggest thing, taking advantage of those opportunities when you do get to play. Just lead by example for some of these younger guys who are obviously trying to do the same thing as me—trying to make it to the big leagues,” he added.
In addition to being a catcher with some pop (eight home runs in 43 games last year), Spring is a guy who the organization values as a mentor, someone who can help up-and-coming players.
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Headed into the year, Spring received an invite to big league Spring Training and capitalized on the opportunity by going six-for-14 with three doubles and a homer in 13 games.
“It’s a good opportunity to go to Major League camp and I just had to take advantage of it,” he said. “My mentality may have been a little bit different, making sure I came in ready to go and everything like that.”
Each and every year, Spring looks to get better and he took a little bit different of an approach this off season.
“I ate a lot healthier,” he said. “I tried to change my approach—instead of just getting strong I leaned out.”
Power has always been a huge part of his game, but he is not really concerned about hitting home runs, although they do come with being a strong catcher.
As a catcher, Spring plays one of the few positions where defense has more worth than offense and although this is not his first time around the rodeo, he still works to improve defensively.
“That’s the biggest thing—especially coming into Spring Training,” said Spring. “Showing the team what to do defensively—you know it’s a defensive first position so being ready to go on the defensive side is important.”
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Many guys in the high minors get a cup of coffee in the majors, not contributing much of anything at the top level before they are sent down to never make it back up again. Spring has yet to have the opportunity to play Major League Baseball yet, but surely even one game would mean a lot to him.
“Obviously you want to be doing whatever you can to make it to the big leagues and you know if playing left field or first base is what will get me there, then that’s great.”
Professionally, Spring has over 500 games catching and 33 games at first base—he occasionally takes reps at DH but would play anywhere if it came down it.
A player and mentor, perhaps there is the chance fans will see Coach Spring at some point, although he still has plenty of years ahead of him playing the game.
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“You never know, I mean obviously that’s something I have to talk about with my family,” he said. “It’s something I’ve thought about and something that’s definitely my reputation as a clubhouse guy and my success off the field would definitely help me get a job.”