First baseman Spanberger brings big bat to GJ Rockies
Chad Spanberger isn’t in Arkansas anymore.
The first baseman got a little bit of culture shock during his first day with the Grand Junction Rockies. Just as much Spanish was spoken in the clubhouse as English. American-born players have accents from all parts of the country.
But that’s an exciting part of baseball, Spanberger said, and he’s jumped right in.
The power-hitting, broad-shouldered infielder has appeared in two games with the Rookie-level club, launching one home run with a .444 average.
Spanberger was among the late-arriving draft picks, having been taken in sixth round of this year’s draft out of the University of Arkansas, and said that he’s just thrilled to be in professional baseball.
“It’s a life dream,” Spanberger said. “Ever since I started playing, this is what I’ve played for. You don’t play to be done after high school. It’s what’s I’ve worked for and why I spent all the hours in the weight room, cages and all that.”
Having played in the Southeastern Conference, Spanberger’s had his share of big-game situations. He said he’s comfortable with his work ethic and the day-to-day grind of professional baseball, making the culture shift the biggest change from college.
“Arkansas helped me a lot coming out,” he said. “You play every day, practice every day and all that stuff. It’s definitely helped prepare me.
“This is just a little different. I don’t know much Spanish yet, but I’m trying to catch on. Walked in the locker room on the first day and there’s a lot of Latino music going on. It was definitely different at first, but I love it. My teammates are great. They’re funny, everybody works hard and they’re great to play with.”
During his junior year with the Razorbacks, Spanberger clubbed 20 home runs in 58 starts. The mark led Arkansas, was second in the SEC and ninth in NCAA Division I baseball. He led the Razorbacks to the SEC tournament final with incredible power hitting. He had multiple hits in all three of the Razorbacks’ games, each of the eight knocks going for extra bases. He set a pair of single-game tournament records against Auburn with three home runs and seven RBI. All of that, plus a .305 batting average for the season, propelled Spanberger up draft boards.
Spanberger said he keeps his approach to hitting simple, something that’s allowed him to connect with hitting coach Lee Stevens. The slugger said he’s mined the coach for help and information and formed an early link with the former Major League first baseman.
“I just try to get a pitch to drive, try to stay up the middle with it,” Spanberger said. “If they throw it in, pull it. If it’s out, go the other way with it. But Lee brought up a really good point (during batting practice) saying to move your body towards center field and your hands can go left, right or center.”
Spanberger drew an impressive comparison from his manager, Frank Gonzales, who is just happy to finally have a full-time first baseman.
“Spanberger’s just a big, for lack of a better word, a Rizzo-type (Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs) first baseman,” Gonzales said. “Really good-looking body kid, strong. We’ll just see how he plays around the bag.”