Connor Spencer had a mandate from the New York Yankees when he started the year with the Charleston RiverDogs.
“I was trying to come out and add to the power numbers. That’s what the Yankees pretty much specifically told me they wanted to see. And so far, so good. I probably should have had number six last night, but the Charleston winds absolutely aided that. I hit it just as hard as the other five, but it ended up going to the warning track. Frustrating, but you know… As far as the power numbers go, it was a huge work in process this offseason and I’m pleased with the way things worked out that way so far,” Spencer said.
The work he put into improving his power numbers was noticed by the Yankees, and he became the seventh RiverDog to earn a promotion to Tampa this season. “2016 has definitely been a strange year. Things have been kind of funky for me. It really hasn’t gone the way I thought it would going into the offseason in any way, shape or form. It kind of has been a bit of a grind at times for me.”
In order to get through 140 games this season, Spencer prepared himself after a broken hand and knee injury shortened his 2015 campaign in Charleston. “I really made it a line of focus this offseason to get stronger. I was coming off surgery so I had a lot of time in the offseason. I hired a personal trainer. I got on a rigorous diet and I was in the gym six days a week, put on 22 pounds of muscle, so it was a huge, huge difference,” Spencer explained.
“Last season was a learning curve for me. Obviously, having broken my hand, injuring my knee. The hand injury obviously ending my season was kind of a wake up call. I really need to take of my body better. Even though that injury wasn’t really something I could take control of, it was just kind of a wake up call. ‘OK, this is a lot of baseball. A lot of, lot of baseball.’ Everyday I have to come in, it’s everything from going into the whirlpool, to rolling out, to taking the proper supplements, vitamins, nutrition. It all takes factor into how many games we have to play and if you slack in any one of the areas, you will feel it right away. So it’s an everyday process and an everyday job, on the field, off the field to stay healthy and you gotta keep track of it,” Spencer said.
In the batter’s box, Spencer has shown patience to go along with his improved power. At the time of his call-up, Spencer was hitting .253 with 10 doubles to with those five home runs, while driving in 19 runs. He’s drawn 19 bases on balls as well. “I just try to relax and not do too much. Kinda seems like whenever I try to do too much, things start to get hectic and things don’t work out as well as they should. So as far as an approach goes, all I try to do every single time is have fun and try to hit the ball as hard as I can and that’s all I really try to think about, period.”
Defensively, the Yankees philosophy on shifting has kept Spencer busy and more alert while in the field. “I’d love to improve upon knowing where my second baseman is. the Yankees do a lot of shifting, and especially as I move up the ranks here, there’s going to be more and more and more through the infield. As a first baseman, there’s a certain awareness, a certain knowability of your second baseman, what he can do, the range that he has, and with that I need to know how far can I venture to my right into the four hole. I think I need to have a little more knowledge of my second baseman, where he’s playing so that I don’t venture for balls into the four hole that I shouldn’t be going out on, and I dive and go and get balls that I could possibly have let go. So it’s a knowledge thing. It’s going to be something that’s going to come with more repetitions and studying the game.”
Spencer has had a wide variety of experiences to help set up him up for future success in his career, wherever it may take him. From starring in a musical in high school, to playing in the College World Series with UC-Irvine, to making All Star Teams in his first two seasons of professional baseball, Spencer has spent plenty of time on the big stage.
“I was way more terrified in doing a musical than playing baseball. Playing in front of a bunch of people, it’s a lot more comfortable on a baseball field than being on a stage and everyone staring at you at one time. It’s just the whole kind of thing, you just learn to breathe calm down and do your thing,” Spencer said.
Despite his success in Guys And Dolls, Spencer doesn’t foresee a future in music or musical theatre. “I have a deep love for baseball. If baseball doesn’t work out, I’m probably gonna still stick with the game of baseball and the business of baseball. Try and make my way through the business ranks,” Spencer said.
Spencer would also be open to coaching if things were not to work out as a player. “I would definitely be into coaching. I kind of have devoted my life to hitting so I could definitely see myself as a hitting coach one day if things weren’t able to work out. But music will always be kind more of a hobby rather than going into that business line,” Spencer said, then chuckled.