Despite his defensive highlights playing on multiple national broadcasts, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk tweeted he recently went unnoticed due to hanging out with teammate Matt Adams.
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“Well, there were a couple of people that came up to him and they asked him for pictures and autographs right away, they didn’t know who I was off the bat” shared Grichuk. “But when they came up to him, to their defense, I kind of put my head down and was letting him do his thing. As the night went on, more people came and they came and asked me too.”
More people are taking notice, especially on social media which has created clever nicknames such as “How the Grich Stole Hitmas” and others to go with his web gems, but Grichuk has remained unaffected by the recent boon of attention.
“Nah, I didn’t hear that before,” said Grichuk, who’s six web gems are tops on the Cardinals. “I’ve got a lot of family and friends back home that are big supporters. They contact me via texting or calling or Twitter and stuff like that and show their support, which is good.”
The majority of drill work is done during Spring Training, so he now stays sharp by rotating through all three outfield spots during batting practice to shag balls and get his reads in.
“When I came out of high school and signed, I wasn’t the greatest outfielder,” Grichuk admits. “I worked real hard at it my first couple of seasons. I’m very aggressive in the outfield–I let my instincts take over whatever it may be, via a dive or play at the wall, or whatever the case may be. Anytime you can kind help a pitcher out, it’s good. You kind of earn their respect by that and I’m going to do the best I can out there for them.”
Besides the ground he has covered to haul down some fly balls, the ability to bounce back to his feet after a diving play has stood out–to fans and his manager.
“He’s got a great physique but he’s been very regimented in getting into the trainer’s room and working these little muscles with some crazy-looking stretches and things I’ve never seen before,” complimented Mike Matheny. “But they’re trying to target some of those weak spots and hopefully, that will increase his chances of staying out there.”
“I’m big into stretching–a lot of the guys give me heck for it,” smiled Grichuk. “I just feel like I want to be loose at all times and I feel like stretching will get you there. I like to stretch before I do anything–hit, throw, workout, run, whatever.”
Whether it’s the stretching or natural talent taking over, Grichuk rose to the occasion when Jon Jay went on the disabled list–putting together a 10 game stretch in the middle of May where he batted .382 (13-34) with a HR and 7 RBIs. With Grichuk’s play, Jason Heyward having more success at the plate, Peter Bourjos, and Jon Jay–the result is Matheny having the challenge of finding the playing time to keep everybody engaged.
“Randal Grichuk’s kind of forced our hand,” said Matheny recently. “That’s what a young player’s supposed to do when they get an opportunity–shine. Make it hard to not have them in there.”
Already motivated at the end of the 2014 season, Grichuk was candid during the Winter Warm-Up that the acquisition of Jason Heyward stirred even more determination.
“Yeah, I tried to do everything in my power in the off-season working out-wise, pushed myself in Spring Training to make them give me an extra look and say maybe we need to give him more extra at-bats,” said Grichuk. “I feel like I’ve gotten off to a good start since the injury, so hopefully, keep pressing it. Heyward’s a helluva player but obviously, I want to be out there. We’ll see what time will tell.”
So is this extended stretch of playing time showing a glimpse or the realization of what to expect from Randal Grichuk?
“Possibly,” he answered. “Let’s see what we can do over the next few months. I’m feeling good at the plate right now, hopefully it continues. We’ll see how it goes.”
photo credit: Charles LeClaire, Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports