Prior to the 2004 season, many viewed Paul McAnulty as a man without a position. Hard work and a driving force to succeed enabled the svelte McAnulty to lose some weight and it opened up opportunities that were closed to him otherwise.
Instead of being known as just a guy who could play first base, McAnulty was able to spread his horizons and move to the outfield. He spent time playing both left and right field with the Storm.
The former first base only player saw extensive action in left field, playing there more often than any other position, 61 games. He also moved across the outfield grass to play seven games in right field.
It was a different experience for McAnulty. He had never been out of the infield before.
"I was starting to feel real comfortable out in left field," he acknowledged. "This was the first year I have been out there and I am starting to learn all the jumps and how to attack the ball. I have to learn to be more in control, especially on balls down the line. That all comes with time and experience.
McAnulty actually began his outfield tenure playing left field for two games before being thrown to the wolves on the right side. He lasted five sporadic games and eventually settled in over on the left field side with two more right field starts sprinkled in.
"It felt kind of weird at first," McAnulty said of playing right field after a layoff. "It is different angles but almost the same. I really don't care as long as you are in that lineup.
All the gains again point back to the offseason. Back in California, McAnulty dedicated himself to a workout routine. One that included a lot of weight training. The result was a rejuvenated McAnulty who could endure the long minor league season.
"I had a lot more energy," McAnulty said. "I was able to get in the weight room in the beginning of the year and keep it going towards the end of the year. A lot of people tend to get lazy and not go to the gym. They tend to lose that strength which is very important, especially in that last month of the season.
"Those are the dog days. The last game is just as important as the first game."
And McAnulty made them all count. He was consistent from beginning to end and finished the season hitting .297. He also tied for the California League lead in walks with 88. His success continued with Mobile, proving he could not only do it over the long haul but also do it when challenged.
Now with the season done, McAnulty has been asked to continue. He was invited to play in the Arizona Fall League, a league that brings in the top talent from around the minors to participate.
There was no question as to whether he would play in the league. As soon as word filtered out from above that an A-ball player could go, McAnulty signed on.
"It is invite only and you can accept it or deny it whether you want to play. I am the type of guy – if I want to play, I am going to play.
"You don't have to ask me if I want to play. I want to play. I was talking to Tye (Waller) and he said, ‘if we can get you in the fall league, would you go?' and I said, ‘yea!'
"I am actually going to work out in Instructional League for a week before I got out to the Fall League to work on my outfield skills."
The difference between players who take that next step is commitment. Waller explained that McAnulty was not asked to come to the Instructional Leagues. He has had a heavy workload this year.
The difference is the left-handed hitting McAnulty wanted to come out to the league. He saw an opportunity to work on his defense in a learning environment.
"That is all on me," he began. "I didn't get invited to the Instructional League. That is all on my own.
"My main thing is to get my defensive work out there. It is the main – really the only reason I am going out there. I will hit in the cages but I really wanted to get more one-on-one with Doug Dascenzo our outfield instructor. Concentrate on that for a week before I head out to the Fall League."
Just like it began a year ago, McAnulty is taking his offseason serious. The gains he proved were possible last year have wet his appetite for more.
Another offseason of working out, staying in shape and dedicated to the sport he loves. The American dream can't be too far behind.
Denis Savage can be reached at email@example.com
Padres Prospect Interview: Paul McAnulty
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