This has been the motto of Rockies utility player Eric Young Jr.’s Twitter feed throughout this offseason. I started following E.Y. Jr. when I joined Rox Pile, so I do not know how long he has employed this slogan.
The first time I saw this motto I rolled my eyes; it seemed forced and manufactured to me. It seemed like attempted inspiration that did not make sense considering its source. E.Y. Jr. has been an interesting but ultimately mediocre presence in the organization the past few seasons. He is known for almost being traded to the Texas Rangers last offseason as much as he is for any on-field contributions. He continues to be the subject of trade rumors as the team prepares to start Spring Training and is a fringe candidate for a spot on the big league bench.
I assumed that the #refuse2beignored tag would have a short shelf life, but it stuck. Fans are inspired by it, and E.Y. Jr. now tags every one of his tweets to his 14,777 followers with it. Forced into a position to take the motto more seriously, I decided to consider some tangible ways that a borderline position player can make sure he is not ignored.
Don’t strike out. Of course this is true of any baseball player, but I especially mean the situational at-bats which pinch hitters often face. You know, the spots where you say, “If nothing else, don’t strike out…and definitely don’t strike out looking.” If this seems like I am stating the obvious then you have not suffered through the last few seasons of Rockies baseball. An inability to put the ball in play in key moments will definitely get you ignored.
Play good defense. Also…have a position on defense. That helps too. Utility is one thing; positionless is another.
Be disruptive on the bases. This is the presumed value of E.Y. Jr. across the league because of his incredible speed. He even describes himself as a “Colorado Rockies Base Burner!” This includes the continued importance of not getting himself picked off.
Get a better website. Sorry, but refuse2beignored.com is not cutting it. It appears to be a recently won pile of chips from a poker game with two Aces showing. It lists a single piece of advice: “Embrace your talents.” Is poker, a game that is ultimately decided by blind luck, the best pictorial interpretation of this slogan? For a baseball player? This site looks more like a high school student completed it for an assignment. And he didn’t even get an A. Maybe he pulled a B- because of the way he used shadows.
I met Eric Young Jr. at a Sky Sox luncheon a couple years ago. He was pleasant, polite, and professional. At the time he was the object of many peoples’ fascination because of his name. In a room of young players who were still working hard to learn how to handle their potential status as professional players, he struck me more than anybody else as the guy who “got it.”
Oh that elusive phrase. He “gets it.” To provide a clearer understanding of what I mean in that setting, here is an example of a guy who did not get it. Carlos Gonzalez (heard of him?) showed up 30 minutes late, stood by the door the whole time (he was supposed to be seated with fans like everybody else) and left the moment the lunch ended. The whole idea of the lunch was to connect with some fans before the season started. Since then it has been a pleasant surprise to find CarGo so likable.
E.Y. Jr. gave the impression that day that he understood how much that stuff matters. When it comes to his #refuse2beignored campaign, he has another opportunity to show fans and (more importantly) the team that he gets it. He has already shown a genuine appreciation for the possibilities of social media and continuing to connect with fans. He uses his feed to let people tell the stories of their own hard work and to show them that he notices their feedback. His connections with fans illustrate the great possibilities of social media for athletes.
The final step is to provide tangible baseball specific evidence that he refuses to be ignored. Anybody can admire it if he has improved his strength, speed, and athleticism, but we ultimately need to see a big change on the field. If this hard work means that E.Y. Jr.’s defense is more polished, that he is a more savvy baserunner, and that he has a better approach at the plate, then the organization will have no choice but to pay attention. But if these words of motivation ultimately ring hollow, then it will show that he got close to “getting it” but came up just short.
Hey! What if they trade him?
…good question. Maybe I can forward this post to that team’s blog if that happens.