As workouts concluded on the back fields around noon on Sunday, just about every player headed to the clubhouse to shower and leave for the day. Some had tee times to catch; others had lunch plans.
But not Jurickson Profar. He headed to Field 3 of the Surprise Recreation Campus and took ground ball after ground ball under the watchful eye of manager Ron Washington. By the end of the session, a pile of balls sat next to Profar.
“That was actually a short session, maybe 30 grounders,” said Profar, who continues his daily work even though he remains shut down from throwing with shoulder tendinitis. “We usually do more, but if you do things right, Wash won’t keep you there. If you mess up, you might have to stay there and field 200 grounders.”
Asked how many 200-grounder sessions he’s had, Profar smiled and said: “None.”
That might be because Profar has fielded anything that has been hit his way so far in his young life, from rocks to McDonald’s Happy Meal toys. Growing up in Willemstad, Curacao, a soccer-crazed city, Profar and his younger brother, Juremi, had to create makeshift balls and diamonds when the other neighborhood boys went to the soccer fields.
Profar remembers playing at a garden by their home and using the rocks on the ground as balls.
Any rocks take a wicked bounce and catch them in the face?
“No, we were lucky, none to the face,” Profar said. “But we were hit in the legs a lot.”
If, for some reason, no rocks were available, Profar laughed about the other option.
“You know the toys you get in the Happy Meal? We played with them, too,” said Profar, who turned 21 on Thursday.
Those long days in the garden are also where Profar learned to switch-hit. He is three years older than Juremi, an infielder in the Rangers’ minor league system, and would move to the left side of the plate so the rocks or toys wouldn’t come off his bat as hard.
Eventually, though, Profar had just as much pop and power from the left side as his natural right side. In fact, Profar has put up better numbers from the left side than the right side in his brief big-league career.
He is working to improve that, too.
Profar is taking more batting practice sessions from the right side than the left side this spring. If a right-hander is throwing BP, for instance, he’ll take two turns from the right side and two turns from the left side. If it’s a left-hander, he’ll take every turn from the right side.
“I was terrible from the right side last year,” said Profar, who batted .188 against left-handers. “I wasn’t feeling good because I didn’t work on that side a lot. So I’m working a lot on my right-handed swing. This year is going to be different.”
The Rangers believe it will be a substantially different season for Profar from every aspect. He had a difficult job for any player, especially a rookie, by being the utility infielder last season.
He handled it as well as anyone could have hoped. Equally important, Profar has a year under his belt and is coming into the season as the everyday second baseman rather than the top prospect in baseball.
As third baseman Adrian Beltre and assistant general manager Thad Levine said, shedding the “top prospect” label can only help Profar.
“He’s just going to be the second baseman for the Rangers,” Beltre said. “If he simplifies that and concentrates on his job to help our ballclub win, he’s going to be OK. And now he has a better idea of what to expect in the big leagues after his rookie year.”
Said Levine: “I expect we’re going to see him really settle into a position and start showing the fans of the Texas Rangers how big of a winning piece he is.”