PEORIA, Ariz. – Hunter Renfroe, the San Diego Padres’ first round pick in 2013, posted a .935 OPS for Lake Elsinore in the first half of the year, but after a promotion to Double-A, he struggled. The Mississippi native, trying to make some adjustments to reduce his swing-and-miss tendencies, managed just a .232./.307/.353 line and still struck out 53 times for the Missions.
When Renfroe went out to the Arizona Fall League, he reverted to his old approach at the plate, and it paid big dividends as he shared in the league lead for homers. As he looked ahead to 2015 during spring training, he told us about his efforts to build on that success – and shed a bit of light on the bigger-than-life stories that have emerged about him.
After you had the chance to be in big league camp for an extended look this spring, what did AJ and everyone have to say when they sent you back over to the minor league side?
Hunter Renfroe: They just told me to work on some things, really focusing on my at-bats and getting my timing down and seeing pitches. I’m trying to do that and get ready for the real games to start.
You were with a talented group of outfielders on the big league side this spring. What did you work on with them and what did you take away from it?
Hunter Renfroe: We really worked on our breaks and getting our timing down and our turns and tucking our head and running. That’s really the hardest thing in the outfield to do; you’ve got to turn your back and run to the fence and then find the ball again. And really hearing it from the veteran guys helped me figured out how to do that easier.
Last year, you struggled after some adjustments at the plate, but really got back on track when you reverted to the old approach out in the AFL. What has the club worked with you in terms of mechanics out here?
Hunter Renfroe: They really haven’t tried to change a thing so far [this spring.] I did really well in the [Arizona] Fall League with stuff I’ve done for years, and so they’re just kind of building off that. Trying to focus in on just trying to get my timing down and make sure I’m not too late and that I’m not too early and flying off the back side.
What is the key thing you’re trying to do in terms of approach at the plate?
Hunter Renfroe: Right now, even though I’m trying to work on a lot of counts and seeing a lot more pitches, it really comes down to they’ve got to throw it across that white plate. I’m just really trying to focus in on that white plate and that strike zone and make them throw it in there.
Last year started with the early hitter’s camp in February for you and ran all the way through the AFL. How did that impact your activity this offseason?
Hunter Renfroe: I took me a little break and didn’t do anything but run a little bit. I just went hunting and relaxed and got my mind right. Then, in January I hit it real hard and got after it so I was ready to get to live hitting and come in ready to go.
Everyone around the organization seems to have their favorite Hunter Renfroe story – most of them about you with wildlife of one sort or another. Of all the stories you’ve heard about yourself, what is your favorite one – whether or not it’s true?
Hunter Renfroe: I’ve heard all kinds of good things. A lot of them are true, but kind of get grown on as camp goes on and years go by. It’s gone to ‘I’ve killed things with my bare hands” when really, I had a knife. It’s stuff like that, that just gets built on.
But it’s mostly all true I guess.