SURPRISE – Evan Carter arrived in Arizona filled with nerves ahead of his spring training debut as a major league roster invitee for the Texas Rangers. He wasn’t alone – Kumar Rocker and Marc Church joined him as first-time campers.
But as quickly as his anxiety grew leading into the first spring practice, it disappeared in an instant.
“Brad Miller, when I first got here, screamed at me, ‘Come on in man,’ and it made me feel really welcomed,” Carter said. “There are a lot of great leaders in this clubhouse, and they have been helping us out and showing us the way to do things.”
The experience of integrating into a major league clubhouse and establishing a routine is essential to the success of a player – and spring training is the perfect opportunity to practice. Carter, Rocker and Church have worked to adjust to the demands of spring training while taking notes from proven teammates.
Bruce Bochy, the Rangers’ new manager and a three-time World Series champion, emphasized the importance of younger players learning how to evolve into major league players.
“This experience is so valuable for these guys,” Bochy said. “It’s not just about getting out there and pitching or hitting but being around a group of guys who have experience. Coming in here and having success to gain that sense of belonging that I can play at this level is important for them.”
Carter is the youngest player in camp at 20 years old and has already shown an established presence in the box as the No. 41 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com. The Rangers’ 2022 Minor League Player of the Year drew early praise from his manager, who described him as “a gifted athlete who can play center and swing the bat.”
“For his age and where he is at, it’s impressive,” Bochy said.
On the opposing side of the plate, Rocker and Church are two of the farm system’s top right-handed arms. They impressed in the opening weeks of camp and have since settled into the everyday process of being a major leaguer.
“I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly. I’m learning a lot,” said Rocker, who pitched last November in the Arizona Fall League. “I’m just learning to trust myself a little bit and get comfortable in this environment. I feel like I’m doing that day by day.”
Rocker, the third overall selection in the 2022 draft, was originally drafted in 2021 by the Mets. He failed to reach an agreement with the club due to injury concerns after he decided not to provide his medical information to major league teams.
After a season in the Frontier League, the former Vanderbilt star was awarded a $5.2 million signing bonus with Texas and teamed up with his college teammate and top Rangers pitching prospect, Jack Leiter. The two once again share a locker next to each other and “being able to see him again, pick his mind and play golf together” has eased the pressure of being in a major league clubhouse.
Church, the Ranger’s No. 28 prospect, has been a surprise in camp and caught the eye of Bochy, who called his performance “really impressive.” Taking a “boring approach” to life outside of baseball, the hard-throwing righty has used spring training to study the habits of the older guys while “taking parts of whatever Jack or Kumar do to become a better all-around player.”
He noted that the key to a good opening spring training is discovering a routine to stick to every day.
“I have taken a lot from the veterans here: learning from their routines and how they go about the game every day. Post- or pregame, whether I am doing good or bad, I’m just keeping at it at the same intensity every single day,” Church said.
The Rangers’ marquee free-agent acquisition, Jacob deGrom, is also in his first spring training with the team. Degrom, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, reminisced on his first time reporting to camp and offered his help to any of the young guys seeking advice.
“One piece of advice that I got from Daniel Murphy when I was called up was stick with what got you here,” deGrom said. “You made it for a reason. You’re still trying to learn from the people you’re around, but you have to stick to your strengths and know what that is. Then you build game plans off of that.”
It seems only right that the trio take the advice of the former All-Stars – and they aren’t the only ones. As spring training comes to a close, young prospects across the league are taking advantage of learning from the best before Opening Day.