Good Stepping Stone For Dean

It wasn't exactly the kind of debut season third baseman Matt Dean had been hoping for last year, hitting just .222 with 60 strikeouts in 49 games for the Bluefield Blue Jays in 2012. However, he says he learned a lot about the mental side of the game and he believes his struggles a year ago are a good stepping stone for improving in 2013 and beyond.

"I don't think it was as good as I wanted it to be," Dean said of his season. "I think the numbers and all of that stuff show that. I just take it as a learning process. I'll work off of last year and just build off of that, and get ready for the next season."

He went through all of the things a first-year professional player normally goes through, especially coming out of high school like he did as a 13th round pick in 2011; things like experimenting with his swing, learning how to position himself better in the field, etc.

"I changed it a little bit [last] year -- different stances -- being narrow, being wide," he admitted. "I think some of the failure I had last year had to do with changing a lot but I found something that I like now and I'm just going to stick with that, and hopefully come back stronger this year."

No, the failures he endured last season were more on the mental side of the game. Playing everyday for the first time in one's career comes with its own set of physical adjustments but more than anything it requires newfound mental discipline, a lesson Dean says he learned pretty quickly.

"Honestly I think you just have to have a short memory," he admitted. "Playing every night you have to overcome the adversity from the night before and get after it the next night.

"I think that's one of the good things about last year too, you couldn't sit and think too much about the night before. You had to clear your head and get ready for the next night, that's what is good about baseball."

Everyone wants to play well and have great numbers, but the ones who can knock through that proverbial wall and get to the other side of consistent play are the ones who learn to keep their confidence going in spite of inconsistent results.

"Honestly I think it was the mental part," he said of the area he improved the most. "Obviously I think we all get better daily in the physical part of the game but in the mental part I think I really gained a lot of knowledge. I think that really helped me stay level-headed through the ups and downs."

He readily admits to changing his swing more than a couple of times over his debut season, but that kind of swing experimentation is not uncommon for first-year players. While it would be easy to blame the rather low offensive numbers and high strikeout totals on that, Dean thinks it was more mental than anything.

"I honestly think the strikeouts came from not staying locked in and swinging at pitches out of the zone," he said flatly. "They say that sometimes the pitcher will get you out but most times it's yourself getting yourself out.

"I think that's what happened last year, I got myself out. I don't think it had anything to do with changing swings or a particular pitch, I just think it was me not staying locked in."

The good news is he found a swing that works for him by season's end and into Instructs, a swing he plans on sticking with going forward. He says, however, that going through all the mental trials and tribulations last year were a necessary component of what he believes is building a good stepping stone for his future.

"No doubt, I'm taking last year as a learning process. It was my first year. I didn't play as well as I wanted to but I'm going to learn from that and build off of that," he concluded.

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