NILES - Josh McAdams couldn't have asked for a much better way to improve on a rough first season with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
McAdams, a seventh-round draft pick by the Cleveland Indians in 2012, spent his offseason working out at his agent's law firm in Atlanta. That may sound odd, but the facility is well-known and state-of-the-art, McAdams said, and one of the people who walked through the back door of it could be a key figure in turning his career in the right direction.
"(Former Major League All-Star Brian Jordan) just came in the back one day and he was talking to us because I play outfield and he played outfield as well," McAdams said. "We just got to know each other right away - we hit it off right off the bat."
Jordan, who was not only a career .282 hitter during 15 season in the majors but also played in the NFL, enjoyed some of his best seasons with the Atlanta Braves and now lives in the city. McAdams, a native of Calhoun, Ga., actually became so close with Jordan that he stayed at his home during a portion of the offseason. While McAdams said one of his goals was to bulk up to add more power to his swing, that wasn't the main talking point with Jordan.
"He focused on my mental approach," McAdams said. "We talked so much about the mental part of the game - about how you're supposed to take every day in and not let it overwhelm you. When I stayed at his house, we watched TV and we'd talk about, 'What would you do in this situation? Why would you do that?' Just ran through my mental game to make sure I understood the game of baseball - not only just playing it physically but understood it. He made me a student of the game."
That's something Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak will certainly appreciate. Kubiak, a former major leaguer who took in his 42nd opening day in Jamestown, N.Y., Friday, said the lack of baseball knowledge of today's players drives him crazy. He said he still bypasses explaining situations, such as when to bunt, when to steal and when to take a pitch, because he expects players to know them.
"These kids don't understand anything about it," Kubiak said. "That's the way they've grown up. It's not their fault. My bone of contention is that kids hadn't played enough to really even have some kind of history in the game and know what to do out there."
Understanding the game doesn't seem to be a problem for McAdams. The issues for the 20-year-old drafted out of high school are at the plate. He hit .200 and struck out 76 times in 71 games last year for Mahoning Valley. His main goal was to decrease his strikeout total, but that didn't happen during a recent stint with Lake County, where he whiffed 43 times in 28 games.
McAdams is still learning though. He didn't have a chance to hone his skills in college like many others, so he's doing fine-tuning as a minor-leaguer.
"In my role, I want to be one of those guys that puts runners across the plate," he said. "So, I want to be a guy that can be considered a power hitter, but then again, a guy who can get on base as well. You can't do that when you're striking out. I started out at Lake County this year and was there for about a month and a half. I struggled there with the strikeout total. I went back to Arizona, refocused my approach and I've cut 'em down quite a bit in recent weeks, so I'm really looking forward to these next few weeks to see how it transitions."
He admits it's tough to stay upbeat when a slump can last through large parts of the season and continue even after months of training in the offseason. That's why his time with Jordan was vital. Jordan, who also played in the NFL and was a Pro Bowl alternate for Atlanta in 1991, understands the ups and downs of sports, McAdams said. Jordan endured bad seasons and injuries throughout his career, and he reminded McAdams to keep even keel through the good and bad.
"I can't never thank him more for that," McAdams said. "He checks up on me all the time. He's like a best friend. His son is about my age. He's actually a linebacker at Western Carolina, so I worked out with him quite a bit. (Brian) tells me every day, 'You're gonna make it. You're gonna make it.' So, even though it's a far chance, to have him tell me that gives me that much more confidence."