NASHVILLE - Max Muncy, the Oakland A's 24-year-old 2012 fifth-round pick out of Baylor, got his call to the majors early on the morning of April 25.
“It was around 1:30 or 2:00 [in the morning],” he said. “I was just finishing packing for the road trip because we were just leaving the next morning for New Orleans. I was just kind of packing everything up because the place I was staying at wasn't permanent and we had to move everything out in the next day, so we were packing everything up at the time.”
The call from Sounds Manager Steve Scarsone changed everything.
“I had to repack everything so I could take clothes to Oakland and keep the rest of the stuff here and store it,” Muncy said. “I had to unpack everything I had just packed and then repack it all in a different order.”
Every young baseball player dreams of playing in the big leagues, and Muncy was no different, but he said it was such a hurried affair that he was not able to let the moment sink in and enjoy it until after his first game in the majors.
“I had to be at the airport around 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning,” he said. “So, I wasn't able to get any sleep [that night]. It didn't really sink in because on the plane I was trying to be asleep the whole time because [Oakland] had a day game and they told me I was going to be in the lineup that day, so I was trying to get as much sleep as I could on the plane on the way in."
All of that travel left Muncy without much time to ponder his new opportunity until after he played in his first game.
“It didn't really sink in until the whole thing was over,” he said. “I played the game, and I wasn't really nervous at all – I was just running on adrenaline. The next day, when I showed up to the park, it was like a completely different feeling. I was like, 'Wow, I'm here.' But that first day, I was just kind of surviving it, really.
“I was way more nervous for my second start, which came about a week-and-a-half or two weeks later in Minnesota. I was way more nervous because I had time to think about it all. That first start, though, was just kind of show up, get ready to play, and go out there...but it was fun.”
Muncy said he eventually felt comfortable after the jump from Triple-A to the majors.
“The biggest thing I realized is that it's not that different,” he said. “Once you get over the glamour of it all, it's just baseball. It's still 90 feet between the bases and 60 feet to home plate. There's more people in the stands because there are bigger stadiums, but for the most part, the fields are all the same. There was nothing too different, it's just everyone is better at what they do.”
After appearing in 34 games with the A's, Muncy was sent back to Nashville on June 30.
“I kind of knew it was coming,” he said. “I'd seen that day that Sonny [Gray] wasn't going to be able to make his start, so they were going to have to call someone up, and you kind of play the math in your head and go through the options, and I was kind of the logical choice – I was the only guy they could really make a move with, so I kind of expected it.
“I showed up to the field and I was doing my workouts when Bob [Melvin] walked in and grabbed me. I said, 'I know what you're going to say to me,' and he told me, so I finished my workout and packed my bags and flew out the next day.”
The big league experience taught Muncy many lessons that should make him a better player in the future.
“I learned a lot,” he said. “I think one of the biggest things I learned was how to take care of myself. I had to get myself into a good routine, because when I was up there, I wasn't playing every day. When I got my chances, I had to go out there and perform, so I wasn't exactly sure how to take care of myself because I've never done that before, so I had to work hard to figure out a routine so I could show up every day and be ready to go.
“It's a little different in the minors where you just show up every day and make sure you're ready to go – the games are pretty much your workout. But when I was up there, because I wasn't playing, I was just kind of sitting there, so that's where I had to learn to make sure I was getting the same amount of work every day.”
Now back in Nashville, the career first baseman is learning to play third base. Muncy had played third base sparingly before this season, but he saw a lot of time at the hot corner during spring training and was thrown into the fire at the position at the major-league level.
“I probably played about 15 or 20 games [at third] last year, and that was the first season I've ever played there,” he said. “And when I played there last year, it wasn't like I spent all spring training learning it. It was like the last week of spring training they said, 'Hey, you've got a third base glove – we're going to put you at third today.' I thought, 'Well, that seems odd,' but throughout the season I would get a random start at third and that's about all I had.
“This year when I showed up at spring training, I worked almost primarily at third. Then I came here [to Nashville] and played first every game and then got called up to play third. But I love it. It's a lot different, but I enjoy it.”
The Texas native said his time with Oakland has helped with the transition to the new position.
“While I was up there, I worked every day with Wash [A’s infield coach Ron Washington] on defense,” Muncy said. “He helped me a lot. I didn't exactly see everything he was teaching me at first, but now that I'm out there at third [base] every single day, I'm seeing the things he was trying to teach me and it's really starting to click for me.
“I feel like my defense at third has been outstanding lately. Now I just have to figure out how to get back to how I was hitting – I kind of put off hitting for a little bit because I was so focused on defense. I have to figure out how to work on both of those at the same time.”
Muncy said he was neither given much feedback on his time with the big club nor told about any particular thing on which to improve.
“They don't really tell you anything,” he said. “You kind of have to evaluate yourself and think about what you did. There's a lot of things I need to work on. There's a lot of things I need to learn, and I'm trying to learn them down here and get back in the groove of playing, and hopefully I can make it back up there.”