David Metzgar stands 5-foot-8 inches and has been overlooked both physically and literally on the baseball diamond. He was almost overlooked when it came time to go to college and he was overlooked in the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft despite earning All-Western Athletic Conference honors for his play at second base.
Metzgar has never let that bother him and he’s fought his way to Charleston to play for the RiverDogs in his second year in the New York Yankees minor league organization.
Metzgar was a high school baseball standout at Paraclete High School in Lancaster, California. Despite this, he didn’t draw much interest from college baseball teams on the scouting trail.
“I talked to a couple of schools but they weren’t really recruiting me. Basically, there were showcase camps and stuff. I would email them and never get anything back and so my senior year, it was late and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had a couple of buddies from my area who went to Cal-State Bakersfield because I’m only an hour away from there and then they liked those players so they started coming more to our town and they saw me, so right away it was a no-brainer and I was going to go there,” Metzgar said.
At Bakersfield, he batted .336 for his career with an on-base percentage of .393 while being a defensive standout at Cal State – Bakersfield. He earned All-Western Athletic Conference honors his senior season. All of this makes the fact that he wasn’t drafted a bit shocking.
“I was talking to a few teams and I thought I was going to get picked and then the Rays talked to me and they say, ‘Hey, are you willing to sign tomorrow?’ and I was like, ‘I’m ready.’ And I waited and waited and waited and then nothing. And then after that, I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Metzgar said.
Metzgar still had two classes to take at Bakersfield to earn his degree in Kinesiology and was contemplating going back to finish. Family and friends convinced him not to give up on his baseball dream.
“Everyone kept saying you have too much left in baseball to just stop so my parents and my coaches wanted me to go play independent ball, so I was going to go play independent ball for the Gateway Grizzlies.”
Fate would step in though as Metzgar after he received a very unexpected phone call.
“I was getting ready (to play for the Grizzlies) because I was still practicing and working out and stuff but then I got a call from the Yankees who I’d never talked to before and they say, ‘Hey what are you doing?’ and I was telling them like, ‘Yeah, I’m working out. They were like, ‘Well, could you fly out (to Tampa)?’ So they flew me out like literally the next morning, early in the morning. I flew out, I slept that night. I came and worked out and they signed me.”
The whole process was one surprise after another, but in the end, it worked out for Metzgar.
“I was shocked. I went from not knowing what I wanted to do, not knowing where I was going to play to now playing with the best organization in baseball. I was really shocked, everyone was happy.”
Metzgar’s journey continued in the Gulf Coast League playing for the Yankees West squad. In 20 games, Metzgar produced a .278/.316/.668 slash line while collecting 15 hits with two doubles and a triple. That solid start to his career earned him a promotion to the Charleston RiverDogs of the Low-A South Atlantic League to start the 2018 season.
Metzgar adjusted well to professional baseball but at times it wasn’t easy.
“From college, I kind of thought the GCL, a lot of the kids are younger in the GCL. They see I’m a smaller guy, so they’re going to pound me with fastball, fastball, fastball. I kind of picked up on a lot of the pitchers’ sequences.”
It was more off the field when being away from home affected him, but he was able to adjust with time.
“Being far from home, if I would have a bad game or struggling and I had my own room, it was kind of hard because I would just sit in my room and think about everything. I got used to it. I got comfortable meeting the new guys.”
Metzgar doesn’t step up to the plate looking to crush the ball. He works with the tools he has to be productive.
“I was working on getting my pitch to hit. Sometimes I get too big with my swing. Sometimes in my count, I try to put the ball over the fence, but that’s not my game. That’s definitely not my game. So I really focused on using the middle of the field, getting my pitch to hit and it paid off,” Metzgar said.
“I always try to use the middle of the field, middle away because they throw harder now so you can’t react to a pitch away. So if you’re looking inside and throw you a nice fastball away, you can’t react to that, but you can’t react to a pitch in if you’re looking middle, away. I try to stay middle, away and if they throw me a pitch in, I trust in my hands to get to that pitch in.”
Defensively, Metzgar is a good fielder at second base but the Yankees have been working him out at shortstop and third base as well.
“In spring training I started off at second base but as I kept hitting, they moved me to third. So I stayed there for a week or two. And then the last week, they had me playing some short. So I’ve been moving all over.” During his first two weeks with the RiverDogs, he’s bounced between second and third base.
Metzgar is looking forward to the challenge of his first full season in the minors and compared it to his time in college.
“I just try to keep my eyes, my body right. I try to eat right, get enough sleep. But now the games are later than in spring training and I wake up early. That should help a little bit. I try to eat right, get my mind right, visualize. Don’t do crazy things. I still have fun. Last year I had the college and then the summer league. I just got to keep doing the things I did then, now.”
As far as being overlooked and going undrafted, Metzgar not only uses that as motivation but is grateful for the chance to be playing baseball.
“I guess no one really wanted me. It motivates me all the time because now I just go out there and I still play the game that I love so I give everything I got all the time and I really enjoy it.”