By Chris Faria
DUNEDIN, Fla – Baseball is synonymous with routine.
You come to the same ballpark, swing the same bat, throw the same ball, and chew the same gum day in and day out.
For some players, such a monotonous regimen can suck the magic out of the game – but not for Toronto Blue Jays prospect Chad Spanberger.
“Act like you’re the kid watching the game,” says Spanberger, of his approach to baseball. “[Act] like you’re watching your favourite player when you’re 10 years old and you want to be them one day.”
The 23-year old slugger prides himself on his hitting as well as his consistent approach to the game.
“I just like to play for myself and never take a day for granted,” he said, at the Blue Jays minor-league complex. “You never know who’s watching and maybe you can create another fan that day.”
The heavy-hitting first baseman already has created his fair share of fans.
In May 2017, just weeks before being drafted in the sixth round by the Colorado Rockies, Spanberger was playing for the University of Arkansas against Auburn in the NCAA’s Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Spanberger hit three home runs, including a grand slam, to lead his team to a 12-0 victory in the elimination game. The Granite City, Ill., native became the first player in an SEC Tournament game to hit three home runs and collect seven RBIs, while simultaneously cementing himself as a legitimate prospect.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this is kind of fun.’ I should’ve hit for the home-run cycle,” he said. “I had the chance but I was just off that day.”
The first baseman joined the Blue Jays after being acquired with outfielder Forrest Wall from the Colorado Rockies for reliever Seung-hwan Oh last July, but not before making a name for himself – and his bat – once again.
While playing for Colorado’s A-level affiliate in Asheville, he participated in the South Atlantic League’s home run derby, winning it with 29. The experience marked a turning point in his 2018 season.
“Before that, I was kind of struggling at the plate, and after I kind of loosened up and got my own swing back,” he said. “I think in the long run it helped me in the back half of the season.”
In 2018 he played with Asheville and then Toronto’s Class-A Lansing and Dunedin teams. In 123 games he hit a combined .298 with 27 home runs and 90 runs batted in. It’s not yet clear if Spanberger will start the season with Dunedin or earn a promotion to the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.