SPECIAL TO SPORTSNET.CA
By Trevor Lowden (@trevlowden)
DUNEDIN, Fla. – Even in the modern era of baseball, some players like Mitch Nay still hold on to the game’s storied history and tradition.
After all, the 20-year-old’s grandfather played through it.
Nay, the Toronto Blue Jays’ 2012 first-round pick, is the grandson of Lou Klimchock who was a third baseman in the major leagues from 1958 to 1970 and played against guys like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, and alongside Hank Aaron.
“[The history] was always ingrained in me because he always talked about it and those names always came up,” said Nay, at the Bobby Mattick Training Center on Monday. “I think it’s really important to know where baseball originated.”
The younger Nay believes it is important for young players to acknowledge the history of the game, even before his Grandpa, whom he refers to as “an old-school guy,” had played.
“This game is unlike any other kind of game in America,” said Nay. “I think it’s really important because they’ve been playing Major League Baseball professionally for [over 150 years] and they are going to keep playing it for over a hundred years.”
Nay drew from his roots and decided to play the same position that his Grandpa did in the 1950s and 60s.
Unfortunately, the Chandler, Arizona native was sidelined in his inaugural season due to a broken foot and couldn’t make his pro debut until 2013.
Nay was strong in his first year, where he played with the Bluefield Blue Jays and hit .300/.364/.426 with six home runs, 11 doubles and 42 RBI over 64 games in the rookie Appalachian League, earning him a promotion to the short-season Vancouver Canadians during their playoff run.
The corner infielder and designated hitter was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2013 Northwest League Playoffs as selected by MiLB.com.
“Last year I was very happy,” he said. “I just feel like I improved greatly in all aspects of the game and that’s really all you can ask for.”
In the off-season, Nay worked out and chose to spend a little time away from baseball, traveling to California and spending time with friends and family.
“I just relaxed,” he said, “We do this all the time. For your off time you’ve just got to disconnect. That’s big because it gives you a good balance.
“You can’t be thinking about baseball all the time.”
Among those that he hung out with from time to time, was the one whom he considers his biggest inspiration: Grandpa.
“Obviously we talk about baseball but I really like talking to him about other things – just kind of like hanging out with the guys, just different stuff about baseball,” said Nay. “He doesn’t get too critical of me, he gives me good advice and keeps me calm.”