One of the few first-round draft picks to sign by the end of July, Michael Choice gained some valuable playoff experience at Vancouver and Kane County. Oakland's 10th overall pick in this year's amateur draft, Choice put a wrap on his whirlwind summer with a 4-for-12 performance over three Midwest League semifinal round games.
The A's brass hopes that the 6-foot-1, 215-pound power-hitting outfielder has laid the foundation for his first full season of professional ball in 2011.
"It's been great and a lot fun," Choice, who played 27 games with short-season Vancouver where he put up an impressive line of .284/.388/.627, said of his first professional stint. "It's been a life-changing experience."
Choice recovered from a hitless three-game stint in Arizona and slow start with the Canadians to put himself in position for a September call-up to Kane County.
"Really it was just kind of getting back out there and seeing live pitching again," Choice said of his early struggles.
"I hadn't played in a couple months, so seeing live arms again is big with your timing. It's no different with some guys struggling through the first couple weeks of spring training. I also had to adjust to better pitching at the same time."
After Vancouver was eliminated from the Northwest League playoffs, Choice was shipped to the Cougars where he was thrust into the middle of another postseason run.
He homered and had two hits in each of his first two games Saturday and Sunday, but ended with the "golden sombrero" on Monday night by striking out in all four trips to the plate. Choice found the postseason experience and his short taste of full-season ball to be extremely valuable.
"That's been huge for me – they called me up here to help the team win," Choice said. "To have contributed in my first couple games was definitely a good feeling."
To this point, the A's haven't done much tinkering with Choice's swing or approach at the plate. Choice demonstrated the ability to hit for power and draw walks at the collegiate level, and management was content to turn him loose as a pro.
"This was my first experience in summer playing pro ball, so they've just let me hit and keep my same approach," Choice said.
"It's pretty much picking something over the plate and taking a good swing on it, while not chasing stuff out of the zone. I tried to keep that approach as I advanced."
Choice faced hurlers with a wide variety of off-speed pitches, so that's been a big change from his college years at Texas-Arlington.
"If they get you out with a certain pitch, they're going to keep attacking with that until you hit it," Choice said.
"If you do happen to get a hit, they're going to switch it up on you. It's not so much a mind game, but having a good approach and having an idea of what they're trying to do."
Choice, who opened in the Arizona Rookie League before advancing to Vancouver and Kane County, got the feel of what life will be like in the minor leagues.
Instead of balancing the workload of school and baseball, he's now focused on his career on the diamond.
"I played every day and worked my way into peak physical condition with lifting and conditioning every other day," Choice said.
"I'm getting acclimated with the lifestyle of being on the road all the time, late-night bus trips, and getting back and not getting much sleep before you've got to be at the ballpark again."
With Kane County's elimination from the playoffs Monday night, Choice will return home to Texas briefly before reporting for the A's Instructional League.
"I just want to improve and get more acclimated with the system that the A's have established," Choice said of Instructs. "I'm looking forward to learning from the coaches."