Getting hit in the face with a fastball in his 12th professional game sure hasn't. And neither did a collegiate home run record held by a two-time major league all-star at the University of Cincinnati. It seems the only thing the 6-foot, 220-pounder knows is how to persevere.
"Growing up I had some people tell me I wouldn't make it," said Michael Spina, who was selected in the 11th round of this year's June amateur draft.
"But I'll speak for myself out on the field. I'll hit, play, grind every day and work really hard to get where I want to be."
That's been the recipe for success throughout much of Spina's baseball career.
Just weeks after signing his first professional contract, Spina literally saw his baseball career flash before his eyes when a fastball hit him in the face on June 7th at Clinton.
"That was my step back, for sure," he said.
It didn't take long for Spina to get back in the batter's box. He missed just two weeks of action and has become a member of the Cougars' every-day lineup. After going 5-for-11 with a double and homer in three games at Cedar Rapids this week, Spina is one of the hottest hitters in Kane County's lineup.
"I'm the type of guy that if I swing it, I'm going to play somewhere," he said.
Spina did plenty with his bat throughout an impressive two-year run as a Cincinnati Bearcat, hitting 21 homers as a junior to break Boston Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis' single-season record. He upped the ante with 23 as a senior.
It's a record that Spina holds close to his heart.
"I look back at it and don't know how I did it, especially looking at a guy who is in the big leagues playing first base for the Boston Red Sox," Spina said.
"It's pretty amazing to look back on that. He's a great guy and I talk to him every once in a while, plus he's always come back to Cincinnati during the offseason. He'll still tell you that he's mad that I broke it, but he's proud of me."
The two former Bearcats have much more in common than just college heroics, however.
Both signed professionally as seniors and have shown the ability to work counts and get on-base frequently. Perhaps the most important trait passed down from Youkilis to Spina is the work ethic that it takes to succeed in baseball.
"He's a guy that grinds every day and works hard," Spina said.
"Growing up, everyone told him that he'd never make it. With his body and frame, they said he wouldn't make it. But he's playing in the big leagues right now."
Having signed just weeks after June's amateur draft, Spina is now on the fast-track to becoming the next Cincinnati player to get a call to the big leagues. He's been a mainstay at third base for the injury-riddled Cougars, who currently have three infielders on the disabled list.
It's been nice for Spina to finally settle in somewhere, since the past two months have been a blur for the 333rd overall selection.
"Since I was still in school taking finals at Cincinnati , we had a family get-together during the draft," he said.
"I knew I had a chance to get drafted after the year I put up. I was hoping somebody would give me the opportunity early and the A's did that.
"I had some time to think about it, talk to my family and my agent, and signed about a week after the draft. I was in Arizona for about a week and then they shipped me to Quad Cities to meet up with the team. I thought I'd be going to Vancouver, so I was very happy to hear that since Kane County is a closer to my friends and family in Cincinnati."
It's also a little bit closer to the big leagues… and another reunion with a Cincinnati alum.
Spina Following Path Of Fellow Bearcat
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