Malec, A True Gamer

He wasn't a first round draft pick and he wasn't considered a top prospect as an amateur. But Christopher Malec was the University of Santa Barbara's starting second baseman for four years and showed consistency at the plate and in the field, which is why the Yankees drafted him in the sixteenth round of last year's draft and made him their starting third baseman for the Riverdogs this season.

Christopher Malec, drafted as a second baseman, sees his path to the majors as a utility player.

"Honestly it makes no difference to me," Malec admitted. "I feel comfortable at each position. I could see myself playing either one, whatever fits the team. I'll play left field. Whatever gets me there, gets me there. Eventually I see myself making it as an infielder, but anywhere they want to put me, I'll go."

It's that kind of selfless attitude that has Charleston manager Bill Mosiello raving about his third baseman.

"He's just a special kid and he works his tail off," Mosiello said of Malec. "Everything he has gotten so far he's deserved. He hit .384 last year, so he's shown he can hit already. He's professional, he's intelligent, he's just a neat kid."

Malec has some diversity when it comes to positions. "I've done everything except for catch and pitch," Malec revealed. "I think I have enough knowledge of the game to go to each position and understand where you are supposed to be during certain situations."

Malec has been one of the few offensive standouts for the Riverdogs in the early going, hitting .323/.328/.400 with 10 runs and 8 RBIs, while whiffing only five times in 65 at-bats. This success comes as no surprise after he hit .384 with the GCL Yankees last summer.

"Honestly it was just going out and playing," Malec said of his 2005 professional debut. "Mentally saying to myself basically ‘just hit the ball', having the attitude to go out there and have a good at-bat. That's what is going to get me up through the system as opposed to just trying to get hits. They're going to look for good at-bats, so let's focus on that."

Described as simply a baseball player by most of the people around him, Malec sees that description as fitting.

"I think I'm a good situational hitter, I think I'll go up there and give you a good at-bat each and every time," said the switch-hitter. "I feel like I have a sense of good pitch selection. I'll go up there and square the ball up most of the times I go to the plate."

Squaring the ball is what he has been consistently doing, even if they have been resulting in outs. Coach Mosiello is very satisfied with his play so far.

"There's really not much for him to work on," an impressed Mosiello told us. "He just needs to keep on doing what he does. He's playing at a high level even though he is not gifted with incredible power, or speed, or arm strength."

While others may feel there aren't many weaknesses to his game, Malec still sees things he needs to work on.

"Definitely my feet and agility, because I think if I can improve a step or two, that can open up another position down the line and give me a few more options," Malec listed as areas where he would like to improve.

Playing a few different positions would certainly make him more valuable as a prospect. But while learning new defensive positions is a priority for him, he also sees things at the plate that he can work on.

"I'm really working on my load, I want to slow myself down," said Malec. "For me it's a kind of slow the game down type of thing because I get so aggressive up there that I want to just attack the ball. Basically slow my load down and have a soft front step, from both sides of the plate. I also need to limit my head movement so I can better my pitch selection, and see the ball even better."

Though he has played the hot corner before it is vastly different from second base and he is still mastering the nuances of playing third base at the professional level.

"I'm working on continuing to learn how to play third base, and learn the angles of the hops," the third baseman told us. "A big thing right now is learning how to read the ball back and taking a deep angle on those hard hit balls, while also continuing my improvement of coming forward and through the ball."

At age 23, he is a bit old for the South Atlantic League, but he feels even older on a team with such youth.

"I feel like I'm the old one out there," Malec said with a smile. "Sometimes [First baseman Kyle] Larsen and I are the only ones out there over the age of twenty. I don't feel like verbally I am the leader, but hopefully guys will pick up on how I approach the game since I've played a few more years. I feel it's my responsibility to lead by my actions."

Mosiello agrees that Malec is the type of guy who should be imitated by the younger players.

"He's just a baseball player, and those are the kind of guys that have success in this game," said Mosiello. "We're just real excited to have him."

Malec agreed with that assessment. "I'm kind of an old school type of baseball player, I'd say just a grinder. I'll go out there and do whatever it takes and just get it done."

Shortstop C.J. Henry summed Malec up in one comment: "He's a California boy." That isn't to say he is a diehard surfer or tends to use a spacey vernacular, but having never encountered someone from California, Henry would see Chris as being "different."

"He's always eating healthy and drinking shakes, which is probably the reason he is always working so hard. While everybody might be chillin', he's working," Henry told PinstripesPlus.com.

Malec's consistent work ethic could be due to what happened to him off the field last year.

"I was diagnosed with cancer a year and a week ago, and full remission as of July first of last year," Malec pointed out. "I still go in every couple months for a checkup, a cat scan, and some blood tests, and it's been very good thus far."

"But I think that's one of the things that has helped me become a better baseball player in realizing ‘hey, the little things in the field don't matter that much,' I can put the little things behind me. I have a better perspective on life, and it's helped me become a better person. [It is] probably the worst and best thing I've ever been through."

Malec's comeback story borders on the "Hallmark made for TV movie" line, the type of script that many in Hollywood wouldn't be able to believe.

"Last year after I had surgery for my cancer on April 14th. They didn't want me to do anything for four weeks and after three weeks and a round of chemotherapy, I played my first game back in college. I just wanted to go out and play, and in that first game back, in my first start, in my first at-bat, I hit a grand slam."

That is the type of person Chris Malec is and the type of person that the Yankees organization wants - a true gamer.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nChristopher Malec, drafted as a second baseman, sees his path to the majors as a utility player.
\r\n
\r\n\"Honestly it makes no difference to me,\" Malec admitted. \"I feel comfortable at each position. I could see myself playing either one, whatever fits the team. I'll play left field. Whatever gets me there, gets me there. Eventually I see myself making it as an infielder, but anywhere they want to put me, I'll go.\"
\r\n
\r\nIt's that kind of selfless attitude that has Charleston manager Bill Mosiello raving about his third baseman.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's just a special kid and he works his tail off,\" Mosiello said of Malec. \"Everything he has gotten so far he's deserved. He hit .384 last year, so he's shown he can hit already. He's professional, he's intelligent, he's just a neat kid.\"
\r\n
\r\nMalec has some diversity when it comes to positions. \"I've done everything except for catch and pitch,\" Malec revealed. \"I think I have enough knowledge of the game to go to each position and understand where you are supposed to be during certain situations.\"
\r\n
\r\nMalec has been one of the few offensive standouts for the Riverdogs in the early going, hitting .323/.328/.400 with 10 runs and 8 RBIs, while whiffing only five times in 65 at-bats. This success comes as no surprise after he hit .384 with the GCL Yankees last summer.
\r\n
\r\n\"Honestly it was just going out and playing,\" Malec said of his 2005 professional debut. \"Mentally saying to myself basically ‘just hit the ball', having the attitude to go out there and have a good at-bat. That's what is going to get me up through the system as opposed to just trying to get hits. They're going to look for good at-bats, so let's focus on that.\"
\r\n
\r\nDescribed as simply a baseball player by most of the people around him, Malec sees that description as fitting.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think I'm a good situational hitter, I think I'll go up there and give you a good at-bat each and every time,\" said the switch-hitter. \"I feel like I have a sense of good pitch selection. I'll go up there and square the ball up most of the times I go to the plate.\"
\r\n
\r\nSquaring the ball is what he has been consistently doing, even if they have been resulting in outs. Coach Mosiello is very satisfied with his play so far.
\r\n
\r\n\"There's really not much for him to work on,\" an impressed Mosiello told us. \"He just needs to keep on doing what he does. He's playing at a high level even though he is not gifted with incredible power, or speed, or arm strength.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhile others may feel there aren't many weaknesses to his game, Malec still sees things he needs to work on.
\r\n
\r\n\"Definitely my feet and agility, because I think if I can improve a step or two, that can open up another position down the line and give me a few more options,\" Malec listed as areas where he would like to improve.
\r\n
\r\nPlaying a few different positions would certainly make him more valuable as a prospect. But while learning new defensive positions is a priority for him, he also sees things at the plate that he can work on.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm really working on my load, I want to slow myself down,\" said Malec. \"For me it's a kind of slow the game down type of thing because I get so aggressive up there that I want to just attack the ball. Basically slow my load down and have a soft front step, from both sides of the plate. I also need to limit my head movement so I can better my pitch selection, and see the ball even better.\"
\r\n
\r\nThough he has played the hot corner before it is vastly different from second base and he is still mastering the nuances of playing third base at the professional level.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm working on continuing to learn how to play third base, and learn the angles of the hops,\" the third baseman told us. \"A big thing right now is learning how to read the ball back and taking a deep angle on those hard hit balls, while also continuing my improvement of coming forward and through the ball.\"
\r\n
\r\nAt age 23, he is a bit old for the South Atlantic League, but he feels even older on a team with such youth.
\r\n
\r\n\"I feel like I'm the old one out there,\" Malec said with a smile. \"Sometimes [First baseman Kyle] Larsen and I are the only ones out there over the age of twenty. I don't feel like verbally I am the leader, but hopefully guys will pick up on how I approach the game since I've played a few more years. I feel it's my responsibility to lead by my actions.\"
\r\n
\r\nMosiello agrees that Malec is the type of guy who should be imitated by the younger players.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's just a baseball player, and those are the kind of guys that have success in this game,\" said Mosiello. \"We're just real excited to have him.\"
\r\n
\r\nMalec agreed with that assessment. \"I'm kind of an old school type of baseball player, I'd say just a grinder. I'll go out there and do whatever it takes and just get it done.\"
\r\n
\r\nShortstop C.J. Henry summed Malec up in one comment: \"He's a California boy.\" That isn't to say he is a diehard surfer or tends to use a spacey vernacular, but having never encountered someone from California, Henry would see Chris as being \"different.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"He's always eating healthy and drinking shakes, which is probably the reason he is always working so hard. While everybody might be chillin', he's working,\" Henry told PinstripesPlus.com.
\r\n
\r\nMalec's consistent work ethic could be due to what happened to him off the field last year.
\r\n
\r\n\"I was diagnosed with cancer a year and a week ago, and full remission as of July first of last year,\" Malec pointed out. \"I still go in every couple months for a checkup, a cat scan, and some blood tests, and it's been very good thus far.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"But I think that's one of the things that has helped me become a better baseball player in realizing ‘hey, the little things in the field don't matter that much,' I can put the little things behind me. I have a better perspective on life, and it's helped me become a better person. [It is] probably the worst and best thing I've ever been through.\"
\r\n
\r\nMalec's comeback story borders on the \"Hallmark made for TV movie\" line, the type of script that many in Hollywood wouldn't be able to believe.
\r\n
\r\n\"Last year after I had surgery for my cancer on April 14th. They didn't want me to do anything for four weeks and after three weeks and a round of chemotherapy, I played my first game back in college. I just wanted to go out and play, and in that first game back, in my first start, in my first at-bat, I hit a grand slam.\"
\r\n
\r\nThat is the type of person Chris Malec is and the type of person that the Yankees organization wants - a true gamer.
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