When he chose a full-time baseball career over a college football scholarship coming out of Palo Alto (Calif.) High School, outfielder B.J. Boyd knew there would be some bumps along the road as he turned his focus to one sport.
Never short on tools, the 20-year-old would have to learn the intricacies of the game and be able to adjust when adversity strikes. There's no better place than the Midwest League in the month of April for a lesson in adversity.
"The weather was a big thing for me because I'd never been in this kind of weather," said Boyd, the A's fourth-round selection in the 2012 draft. "Besides that, I'm trying to get back into my groove. The first part of the season I kind of struggled a little bit. But that's part of baseball – failing and then working to overcome it. It's just concentration and only focusing on the game."
Although he opened the season with a nice run, Boyd's recent struggles have contributed to his slash line falling to .243/.311/.360. He has just seven hits in his last 44 at-bats and is getting on-base only 21 percent of the time.
The raw ability will always be there for Boyd, but the challenge for him remains in the constant adjustment.
"His strength is in his athleticism and tools, so now our job is to develop him as a ballplayer, to build him a fundamental base to work from, and develop a routine and work ethic that will serve him going forward," Beloit manager Rick Magnante said. "He needs to become instinctually a better baseball player and develop a better baseball IQ."
After hitting .301 with an 835 OPS for the AZL A's in 2012, Boyd was assigned to short-season Vermont in 2013. The Lake Monsters' lead-off hitter for much of the season, Boyd put together a solid campaign in a league not friendly to hitters. In 71 games, he hit .285/.375/.442.
Now entering his second full season of professional baseball, Boyd said the one-sport focus is starting to pay dividends. While he had a simple approach during his high school days, the left-fielder said he is becoming a smarter player with more time on the diamond.
"It's paying off well since I started concentrating on one sport," he said. "Back in high school I played two sports and didn't really know the game. It's taken a couple years to learn the game better, because before it was just ‘see ball and hit ball'. I was just going out and playing. Now I'm trying to develop and improve."
And that development comes in all areas of the game, including the fundamental things like base-running and learning how to play defense in the outfield.
Boyd spent a lot of time last year in the A's instructional league camp in Arizona with Oakland A's legend Rickey Henderson, learning the finer points of running the bases.
"It's pretty much just believing in yourself that you can steal any bag," Boyd said. "I had a great time there and stole a lot of bags – more in a month than I had in the (2013) season. I got the opportunity to work with Rickey Henderson, who was one of my favorite players growing up. I watched all his highlights. He taught me a lot about that aspect of the game."
Coming into the professional ranks as a center fielder, Boyd has been entrenched in left-field for the Snappers because that's where he is best suited.
"He profiled coming out of high school in center, but as we look at it now is better suited for the corner," Magnante said. "He's got speed and can defend. He throws enough to play enough in left, but I don't know that it translates to right. If he develops and grows instinctually, there's a chance he could play center field."
Still relatively young for the Midwest League, Boyd will likely spend all of the 2014 season in Beloit learning the nuances of the game under veteran coach Magnante.