Adam Lind: Dealing with High Expectations

The following appeared in the January/February issue of Junior Baseball.

by: David Driver

Adam Lind was considered a top prospect from nearly the moment he signed a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays to play minor league baseball. And throughout his career he has handled expectations to become a promising young hitter in the American League. He was named the R. Howard Webster Award winner in the rookie New York-Penn League when he played in Auburn, N.Y. And he won the award again when he played for New Hampshire in the Class AA Eastern League, as he became just the third player in Toronto history to win three or more Webster Awards, joining Carlos Delgado and Luis Lopez.

Lind again showed promise when he made his Major League debut on Sept. 2, 2006, against the Boston Red Sox, when he hit a double against Lenny Dinardo. He hit his first big league homer on Sept. 10 of that season against Jared Weaver in his 14th big league at bat.

Lind was called up to the big leagues from the minors several times before he stayed with Toronto. Lind said the fourth time he was called up it was when he took the place of slugger Frank Thomas, the future Hall of Famer who hit 521 career homers in the majors before he retired after the 2009 season.

“He was someone I looked up to when I was young,” Lind told Junior Baseball. “It was tough to think they would do that for me since Thomas was such a great player. The coaches told me to relax and that made it easier.”

Lind had a breakout season in 2009 when he hit a career high 35 homers with 114 RBIs and a batting average of .305 in 587 at bats. He was named the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award in 2009. The award was even more special for Lind, who grew up in Indiana watching Thomas when he was a DH for the Chicago White Sox. And the special season for Lind came after he hit just .282 with nine homers and 40 RBIs in 326 at bats the previous season in 2008.

He broke into the Major League with Toronto and hit .367 in just 60 at bats in 2006, after coming up through the minor leagues. Lind hit .238 with 11 homers and 46 RBIs in 290 at bats with the Blue Jays in 2007.

Tony LaCava, the assistant general manager of Toronto, said Lind worked hard to become a good hitter and made adjustments throughout his pro career. “He battled through tough times,” LaCava said. “He hit the ground running in the minors. He was optioned to the minors a couple of times and came back. His numbers speak for themselves.”

Lind took his lumps in 2010. His average plummeted to .237 despite hitting a respectable 23 home runs and driving in 72 runners. But LaCava says don’t count him out.

“He has what it takes,” he said. “He’ll continue to persevere through failures because this is a game of failure” for hitters who make an out about seven times out of 10. Another thing that has made the adjustment easier for Lind is that he came up through the minor league system of many of his current teammates in Toronto. “We all know each other. We all know the same clubbies and have the same things in common,” Lind said.

Lind and his teammates have an even bigger challenge since they play in the same division as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, who are annual contenders for post-season play. And each team, of course, has solid pitching. “I really enjoy it. If you can do it in this division you can do it in any division in the world basically,” he said. “It helps us out when we play in the American League Central. It makes it tough to make the playoffs but in the grand scheme of things it makes you a better player.”

What advice does Lind give for getting ready for the season?

“The first thing is to get comfortable and the second is to get knocks (hits) at the back end of spring training,” he said.

AL's Keys to Dealing with High Expectations

DON’T GET CAUGHT UP WITH WHAT IS SAID ABOUT YOU AS A BASEBALL PLAYER. “You have expectations but you don’t hear it or see it. You should be like any other player on your team,” he said.

DON’T LET IT AFFECT YOUR GAME IF SCOUTS START COMING TO YOUR HIGH SCHOOL GAMES. When it happened to Lind, it didn’t bother him or how he approached the game. “I thought it was fun. I thought it was cool, especially when my father was driving the team bus and when he pulled over 10 scouts pulled over since we were going to a game at some high school in the middle of nowhere. I thought it was fun in high school to get attention,” Lind said. “But I never let it affect my approach to the game.”

REMEMBER THAT DEALING WITH FAILURE IS PART OF THE GAME FOR EVERY PLAYER. How does Lind deal with a game hen he goes hitless in four at bats? “It depends on what kind of 0-for-4 it is. You can go 0-for-4 but still hit the ball hard three times. Fortunately in this game there is always tomorrow. A week of 0-for-4 is when it gets tough,” he said. “But you have to tough it out.”

DO NOT LOOK AT HIGH EXPECTATIONS AS A NEGATIVE. “Expectations are not a bad thing. If they have expectations for you, you have a future in this game. Do not look at it pressure but as a compliment you" he said.

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