NASHVILLE -- Nashville Sounds outfielder Jason Pridie has had a strong year so far, but he has absolutely been on fire in July. Through Tuesday, the 31-year-old was hitting .318 this month, and his eight home runs in July are tied with Sacramento's Adam Duvall for the PCL lead. For the season, Pridie is batting .299/.357/.507 with 16 homers and 15 stolen bases.
Thus far, Pridie's strong season has yet to lead to an opportunity with the Oakland A's, but Pridie continues to grind it out with Nashville in hopes that he might get the call.
Pridie said his run in July has not been due to any adjustment at the plate.
“It's just a hot streak,” he said. “In baseball, you've got the up's and down's all year, and in this last little bit, I've been getting the pitch to hit and I haven't been missing it. During the course of a game or an at-bat, you get pitches to hit, but hitting is a tough thing in its own right, even if it is off a tee or in the cage.
“Right now, I've just been seeing the ball well and putting good swings on the ball, and it's been going my way. There's times when you hit the ball hard and they get caught, and there's times you hit it soft and it drops and vice versa. This last little bit, I've been having the balls drop for me and the luck has been going my way, along with getting good swings and executing the way I want to execute.”
When some hitters get in a hot streak, they say the ball seems as big as a beach ball coming from the pitcher.
“In a sense, I guess it is,” Pridie said, “because I feel like I'm having a lot of time to see the ball. You're just seeing the ball better. I'm able to see the ball right out of the pitcher's hand and decipher whether it's a curveball or a fastball – it's just everything is being picked up really early, which is allowing me to decide whether to put a good swing on the ball.
“It's definitely got that metaphor [of a beach ball] because you can just see it better – everything's just kind of grooving. When you pick it up early, you're able to decide what you want to do – pull it, go the other way, or what have you.”
It is often said baseball is primarily a mental game, and Pridie agrees.
“You have to let your body take over and do what you do naturally,” he said. “At this level, we've been hitting for so long we know what to do – it's just a matter letting ourselves do it. A lot of times, [slumps are] just a matter of your mind takes over and you start thinking instead of just doing what you naturally can do.”
Pridie has not seen much of a slump this year, but the second-round pick by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2002 has been around long enough to see them.
“It's tough,” he said. “You can be doing the same thing physically and be doing the same thing with your routine, and all of a sudden that fastball is just getting on you quick. The fastball is just jumping and that curveball you're just not seeing it out of the hand.
“If people knew why, somebody would be making a lot more money in this game or there would be a lot more people hitting .300 or .400. Even .500. But hitting is tough, and at that time, it's just not clicking for you. The ball is getting on you quickly, and you're not picking it up early. It's a battle. For me, I'm just trying to hit the ball and try to make contact and get that feel back.”
Pridie said he does not consider himself to be a streaky hitter.
“I have streaks, yes, but I don't know if you can say I'm streaky in the sense where I'm not feeling good for a long period of time and I feel great for a long time,” he said. “Early in my career I was a little more streaky, but as I've gotten older and learned how to play my game and learned what I need to do, I have more of a consistent feel. Now, the results might be streaky, but the feel I have at the plate and the feel I have when I'm playing the game to me isn't streaky.
“I don't feel like I get into those funks where I have no idea what is going on. I'm able to get out of it quicker mentally. I feel that's what messes you up for the most part is your mind. It's your mind that starts playing tricks on you. You start wondering why aren't you doing 'this' or why aren't you doing 'that' instead of just doing it. So there is streakiness to results sometimes, but personally, I feel like my approach and feel is pretty consistent. It's as consistent as it has ever been in my career.”
"Some days it's harder than others to wake up and still be in Triple-A and be playing well and feel like you're stuck, but I'm still playing and I'm still putting up numbers, and as long as I'm doing that, at the end of the day it's a pretty good job and I'm having fun, so that's helped me a lot." - Jason Pridie
In addition to his hitting, Pridie has made a return to his running game, something he prides himself upon.
“My whole career, I've always wanted to get to 20 [each year],” he said. “I'm back to where I want to steal a base every time or take an extra base. There were some years where I had a couple of injuries. I tore my hamstring three separate times one year. I believe in the 2013, I might have only stole eight. Our manager wasn't a real big steal guy [that year]. I also just didn't feel as good stealing bases.
“But, last year, when I was with the Colorado Springs, Glenallen Hill – he kind of got me back into the mode of 'Go whenever you want to. I've seen what you can do.' That kind of got me back in the stealing bases mode.”
The 6'1'', 205 pound Arizona native said the running game is a real source of enjoyment for him.
“There's nothing like it,” he said before adding with a grin, “when I was younger, I was a little skinnier and looked a little faster, but now I'm a little bigger and I'm hitting in the four hole, the power spot, [and] people aren't thinking about it and it's fun to see people's reactions when all of a sudden the big boy gets rolling a little bit.
“My stats show I can steal, but maybe they just see where I hit [in the lineup] or what some of my power numbers are this year. It's fun. I love stealing bases.”
Pridie said Sounds' Manager Steve Scarsone has given him the green light to run.
“I've earned the trust that he knows I know what I'm doing,” he said. “If I want to go, I can go. There have been a couple of times when he's shut me down a little bit, but I know the game. He knows I know the game.
“There's times where I won't steal because, let's say [Max] Muncy is hitting behind me, and I'll want to leave that hole [between first and second] open because maybe he'll roll one over. [Saturday] night, the stolen base I had, the pitcher was throwing real well. I got on first, I needed to get into scoring position, so even though Muncy was up, I needed to get into scoring position and try to get things rolling because we weren't getting many hits.”
Pridie's all-around game has earned him several cups of coffee in the big leagues.
He has played with the Twins, Mets, Orioles, Phillies, and Rockies, but they have been short stints and he has yet to stick.
“I've been in pretty unfortunate situations my whole career as far as spots in the big leagues,” Pridie said. “It's not like I have bad numbers throughout my career in Triple-A. I have pretty good numbers, and I have seven or eight years in Triple-A – to last that long, you've got to be doing something right.
“There's just so many things that go on up at the top that you don't know why sometimes, but I think that's [actually] helped me. If I start worrying about what is going on other places, my game suffers and then I'm going to end up suffering because no one is going to want you if you're not producing on the field, so the mental toughness has got to be there.”
That is when Pridie admitted he is not just playing for the Sounds. He, like every player in Triple-A, is playing for that opportunity in the big leagues, wherever it may come. Stealing bases, he said, is an example.
“That not only helps the team, but it helps my numbers for teams other places that are looking at me,” Pridie said. “You're not just playing for this team when you're at this level, you're playing for every other team, too. I've been through so many times I feel like I should be called up or I should be up there and have been playing better than someone up top. That made me kind of not worry about that as much and just play my game.”
"It's difficult being away from the family (and) being away from the kid. Especially with minor league travel. I'm up at 4 am sometimes to catch a flight and make connections. But when you step back on that field and you get to play a game and do what I've loved to do my whole life, it's definitely worth it." - Jason Pridie
Pridie's struggles to get an extended look in the big leagues are not unique to him, but the grind can be wearing nonetheless.
“Some days it's harder than others to wake up and still be in Triple-A and be playing well and feel like you're stuck,” he said, “but I'm still playing and I'm still putting up numbers, and as long as I'm doing that, at the end of the day it's a pretty good job and I'm having fun, so that's helped me a lot.
“I keep getting jobs and teams keep wanting me. Every time I become a free agent, I get calls from several teams. It's not that I can't do it, and I don't think teams believe that I can't. I'm not the only case of it. There's people in this locker room, there's people in that locker room [he said of the opponents] and all over baseball. A lot of this game is timing. It's luck. It's who gets hurt or who gets traded or do they want to make a change.”
Pridie cited last year with the Colorado Rockies' organization as an example.
“I was their guy who was expendable to be sent down at the time after a long extra innings game,” he said. “I was only up there for a few days because they needed a pitcher and I was the guy who was able to go and two days later they put Cargo [Carlos Gonzales] on the 60-day DL. If that happens two days earlier, I have a pretty good feeling that I'm up there for the last two months of the year.”
Pridie said he still has hope he can get another opportunity to stick in the big leagues.
“The fact is that I have been up there pretty much every year except for 2010 when I got hurt,” he said. “Every year since 2008, I've had big league time at some point. They've been short stints, but the fact that it keeps on happening obviously means I can be up there and I can play there. Until I can't do this anymore, or until I'm not healthy...I know I can play in the big leagues.
“It's just a matter of hopefully sooner rather than later of being able to get that opportunity to go back up and prove it again and stay there for a duration.”
With a wife, Bianca, and two children, Pridie does feel the tug of family concerns.
“There's times where sometimes it's tough, but I'm still making a pretty good living take care of my wife and kids doing this,” he said. “I've been playing for a long time. If I wasn't able to support my family, I think [retirement] might be something you look at, but my wife has been really supportive. She was a softball player in college and actually played professionally for a year, so she knows the ups and downs of it.
“My wife said, 'You've got to play until you can't any more because once you're done, you're done.' It's not like you can go back and just start playing again. This is a very short-lived career. Even if you play 20 years, 20 years goes by quick, so there's times where it's frustrating.”
Pridie then expanded on that train of thought.
“It's difficult,” he said. “It's a hard life, but it's such a small window. Probably 90 percent of the people I've ever played with are out of the game. They're either in the big leagues or they're out of the game. There are very, very few that have lasted as long as I have at this level. I've been very fortunate.
“It's difficult being away from the family (and) being away from the kids. Especially with minor league travel. I'm up at 4 am sometimes to catch a flight and make connections. But when you step back on that field and you get to play a game and do what I've loved to do my whole life, it's definitely worth it.”