Bird Laying His Foundation

Charleston first baseman Greg Bird had arguably one of the best minor league seasons of any Yankee prospect in recent memory, hitting .288 with 36 doubles and 20 home runs for the RiverDogs in 2013. While the tangible success was very much welcomed, he says he learned so much in his first full season, the biggest lesson of which was how the minor leagues are a process.

More than the actual numbers, Bird says he was more excited about staying healthy for a full year after dealing with some nagging injuries the two seasons prior. He was also pleased with his ability to adapt to the professional game and learn from first-hand experiences.

"Just how to go about my business everyday, whether you feel good or don't feel as good, dealing with not even physical stuff but just dealing with minor league stuff like traveling late in the night, trying to run all over to get food, doing stuff like that," he said of the biggest things he learned in 2013. "You learn a lot about yourself and what you have to do to get ready for the game."

For most onlookers they think the game is just about showing up and competing in the games. For those inside the game, and especially those learning how to be professional ball players early in their careers, they learn pretty quickly it's more mental than just physically showing up.

Letting bad at-bats go or not getting too down when the desired results are not there when you are going good are important steps in one's mental development, and Bird said he learned those lessons through trial and error.

Case in point, he played half of his games in a notorious pitching friendly home ball park, exemplified by him hitting 80 points higher on the road and three times as many home runs.

"You've seen it -- the dimensions aren't crazy but it's right on that river and sometimes it's just not friendly as far as the wind goes," he said. "To be completely honest, in the first half, the first month even, it frustrates you when you know you're hitting balls good and they're not going anywhere, and you're not getting rewarded.

"In the second half I tried to completely forget about that and hit the ball hard, and whatever happens after that you can not control. I don't know the numbers but in the second half I think I definitely did better there.

"I don't want it to seem like that was an excuse. It's just one of those things that you have to deal with in baseball. You can't control it, it's out of your hands, and that's the learning process. You have to learn through adversity."

One of the biggest steps in any young baseball prospect's development is learning how to let go of the inevitable minutia that surrounds the game; park effects, pressing too hard, slumps, the opinions of critics, etc, etc.

He learned to keep all of that extra stuff out of his head and focus simply on his game in a very professional manner.

"I think it was just a combination of everything, but the key for me in the second half was simplifying it," he said. "Obviously you want to do well [out of the gate] so I was putting in the effort and the work but I think I was letting it frustrate me more when I wasn't getting the results I wanted instead of just sticking with the plan and letting that take care of itself.

"In the second half I really just tried to simplify everything as far as my approach and just let it take its course, and I saw different results from that. It wasn't like I had a bad first half, but it was just getting rid of all of the elements and just focusing on a simple task. I saw a huge difference in that."

Naturally calm at the plate anyway, he stuck to his plan of seeing as many pitches as possible. It led to a league-high 107 walks, but it also helped him pile up a team-high 132 strikeouts. Again, Bird realizes that it's all part of the process.

"The way I see it, the more pitches I see the more educated I am," he said. "If I go up there and get down 0-2 but I saw his fastball and his changeup well now I have something to go off of whereas if I just go up there and wail away at the first pitch I see and maybe get a hit or ground out, what do I have to go on in the next at-bat?

"It all changes throughout the game but if I'm facing a starting pitcher in my first at-bat I want to get an idea of what I'm dealing with because chances are I'm going to see him another two to three times at least. So I might be a little more patient in that first at-bat and see what I get, and then kind of go from there.

"It's not something that I was worried about [the strikeouts]. You learn. I think next year we'll see where it goes. [The Yankees] weren't too worried about it."

Not afraid to hit with two strikes in the count, Bird admits he did get a little more aggressive earlier in counts in the second half. He used the first half to see everyone's pitches and their tendencies, and then he was better equipped to get his desired pitch earlier in counts in the second half. He had laid a foundation of knowledge.

He never entered the 2013 season with any specific goals. He wasn't shooting for any particular statistics nor was he bogged down with how quickly he could get promoted, but he simply wanted to learn over the course of the year and it paid off with a very, very productive year.

"I think it's right around where I wanted it to be. I didn't have any goals set. I just wanted to go out and take it day by day, and learn throughout the year.

"That's the key I think in the minor leagues, one, learn how to play baseball everyday and two, do it consistently, and then do it well consistently. It's a mental and physical process, and that's what the minor leagues are for.

"I think the quicker that somebody can figure that out the better off they'll be. I just tried to learn as much as I could each day about myself and the game, and take it from there. I think from that standpoint I'm way ahead from where I was at the beginning of the year -- way ahead," he concluded.

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\r\n \r\n\r\nMore than the actual numbers, Bird says he was more excited about staying healthy for a full year after dealing with some nagging injuries the two seasons prior. He was also pleased with his ability to adapt to the professional game and learn from first-hand experiences.
\r\n
\r\n\"Just how to go about my business everyday, whether you feel good or don't feel as good, dealing with not even physical stuff but just dealing with minor league stuff like traveling late in the night, trying to run all over to get food, doing stuff like that,\" he said of the biggest things he learned in 2013. \"You learn a lot about yourself and what you have to do to get ready for the game.\"
\r\n
\r\nFor most onlookers they think the game is just about showing up and competing in the games. For those inside the game, and especially those learning how to be professional ball players early in their careers, they learn pretty quickly it's more mental than just physically showing up.
\r\n
\r\nLetting bad at-bats go or not getting too down when the desired results are not there when you are going good are important steps in one's mental development, and Bird said he learned those lessons through trial and error.
\r\n
\r\nCase in point, he played half of his games in a notorious pitching friendly home ball park, exemplified by him hitting 80 points higher on the road and three times as many home runs.
\r\n
\r\n\"You've seen it -- the dimensions aren't crazy but it's right on that river and sometimes it's just not friendly as far as the wind goes,\" he said. \"To be completely honest, in the first half, the first month even, it frustrates you when you know you're hitting balls good and they're not going anywhere, and you're not getting rewarded.
\r\n
\r\n\"In the second half I tried to completely forget about that and hit the ball hard, and whatever happens after that you can not control. I don't know the numbers but in the second half I think I definitely did better there.
\r\n
\r\n\"I don't want it to seem like that was an excuse. It's just one of those things that you have to deal with in baseball. You can't control it, it's out of your hands, and that's the learning process. You have to learn through adversity.\"
\r\n
\r\nOne of the biggest steps in any young baseball prospect's development is learning how to let go of the inevitable minutia that surrounds the game; park effects, pressing too hard, slumps, the opinions of critics, etc, etc.
\r\n
\r\nHe learned to keep all of that extra stuff out of his head and focus simply on his game in a very professional manner.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think it was just a combination of everything, but the key for me in the second half was simplifying it,\" he said. \"Obviously you want to do well [out of the gate] so I was putting in the effort and the work but I think I was letting it frustrate me more when I wasn't getting the results I wanted instead of just sticking with the plan and letting that take care of itself.
\r\n
\r\n\"In the second half I really just tried to simplify everything as far as my approach and just let it take its course, and I saw different results from that. It wasn't like I had a bad first half, but it was just getting rid of all of the elements and just focusing on a simple task. I saw a huge difference in that.\"
\r\n
\r\nNaturally calm at the plate anyway, he stuck to his plan of seeing as many pitches as possible. It led to a league-high 107 walks, but it also helped him pile up a team-high 132 strikeouts. Again, Bird realizes that it's all part of the process.
\r\n
\r\n\"The way I see it, the more pitches I see the more educated I am,\" he said. \"If I go up there and get down 0-2 but I saw his fastball and his changeup well now I have something to go off of whereas if I just go up there and wail away at the first pitch I see and maybe get a hit or ground out, what do I have to go on in the next at-bat?
\r\n
\r\n\"It all changes throughout the game but if I'm facing a starting pitcher in my first at-bat I want to get an idea of what I'm dealing with because chances are I'm going to see him another two to three times at least. So I might be a little more patient in that first at-bat and see what I get, and then kind of go from there.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's not something that I was worried about [the strikeouts]. You learn. I think next year we'll see where it goes. [The Yankees] weren't too worried about it.\"
\r\n
\r\nNot afraid to hit with two strikes in the count, Bird admits he did get a little more aggressive earlier in counts in the second half. He used the first half to see everyone's pitches and their tendencies, and then he was better equipped to get his desired pitch earlier in counts in the second half. He had laid a foundation of knowledge.
\r\n
\r\nHe never entered the 2013 season with any specific goals. He wasn't shooting for any particular statistics nor was he bogged down with how quickly he could get promoted, but he simply wanted to learn over the course of the year and it paid off with a very, very productive year.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think it's right around where I wanted it to be. I didn't have any goals set. I just wanted to go out and take it day by day, and learn throughout the year.
\r\n
\r\n\"That's the key I think in the minor leagues, one, learn how to play baseball everyday and two, do it consistently, and then do it well consistently. It's a mental and physical process, and that's what the minor leagues are for.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think the quicker that somebody can figure that out the better off they'll be. I just tried to learn as much as I could each day about myself and the game, and take it from there. I think from that standpoint I'm way ahead from where I was at the beginning of the year -- way ahead,\" he concluded.
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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