The San Diego Padres’ rookie outfielder Franmil Reyes likes to have “swag” out on the field when he plays the game of baseball. The energy he brings is very useful to the Padres in a losing season. Here is what else the big man had to say recently in a conversation.
Being from an island paradise like the Dominican Republic, you naturally have a certain calmness about your demeanor. In participating in the game of baseball professionally you learn very quickly about “the grind” players go on. That term is used to describe the length of a baseball season and the fact that there are seldom any days off. Any.
The typical fan has no sense of this commitment and how it can completely ware down a professional athlete unmercifully. It makes things way easier for a team if they have a player or players that can keep everyone loose. Franmil Reyes certainly provides that calming influence, as he is a social butterfly and enjoys interacting with his whole team. He keeps his teammates loose while understanding how to be prepared at the same time. Though he is 23 and a rookie, Reyes is wise beyond his years.
On Friday, I had the opportunity to talk to La Mole before a scheduled hitters meeting that afternoon. In looking for a cool place to sit down and talk, the two of us took up residence on the pads directly behind home plate. We laughed a little about the night before and his amazing walk-off home run in the 13th inning. The two of us also spoke a little bit about family and such before getting down to business with the interview.
My first question to Franmil had to do with the fact these past 12 months or so have been a coming out party for him. He has obliterated the baseball at every level and has shown the proper adjustments for success. “It has been awesome. When I started putting my plan together, I recognized what kind of player I am. Every moment that has happened to me in baseball has always come with a big plan. I am thinking big every time. It amazes me that I can see the success I am having before it happens.” Visualizing success is an important part of the game. It is a useful tool in life, not just on the field. This was something that was self-taught for Franmil. He tells me that he has always prepared this way since he was a little kid in the Dominican Republic.
Franmil went on to tell me about his thought process and how he tries to accomplish things in the game of baseball. It amazes me how well he knows his statistics. The big man knows exactly what his numbers are. He communicated to me that he wants to improve and get his major league numbers to where they were in El Paso. He seems in particular obsessed with getting his batting average to where it should be. Franmil definitely does not envision himself as a .250 hitter. The outfielder knows exactly how many hits he needs to get there, so don’t put it past him to achieve his goal.
The man absolutely works his tail off. He has set lofty goals each and every place he has been. He told me that if his goal is to hit 25 homers in a year, then he shoots for 35-40 home runs. He does not want to limit his upside and has a tremendous work ethic to get better. ” I always shoot for the goal I want, plus more.” There is no settling for this big man, as La Mole desires to get better in the game of baseball.
Franmil speaks pretty flawless English. He has gotten tremendously better since the spring when we talked a few times. The commitment he makes is so blatantly obvious that it is really hard not to love everything about this guy. We spoke about the language barrier and how it is important for Latino players to embrace the American culture. “It is really important. Some players don’t understand how important this is. Some ignore the coaches requests to go to English class. It is not really hard to learn English if you put effort into it. You should never feel embarrassed to talk. Your teammates are NOT going to make fun of you. They know that is not your primary language. If you try to talk to them, they are going to see your effort and help you.” The big man has a great understanding of how to be a teammate and more importantly how to be a man. Despite being only 23, you can easily seem him mentoring the youth on the Padres roster.
We spoke more about language and the big Dominican even got a little philosophical on me. “Learning a different language will not just help you in baseball. It will help you in life. You can be anything you want. Thinking that people will make fun of you and that’s why you don’t try- is NOT right. It’s not just with English too. Anything you try in life, you should not think about what people are going to think about you. Just do it.” I was floored with this conversation as Franmil has a deep understanding about life. He has had roadblocks in his life, but has busted through every one as you cannot keep his drive for improvement down.
We next went into his demotion early in the year and how he took it. I asked if he learned anything from it and if it helped him become a better player. “When I was first sent down, I learned a lot of things from my teammates here. I remember a game against the Dodgers earlier this year. I went downstairs to the video room even though I wasn’t playing that day. I knew who would come into close the game for the Dodgers. I watched videos on Kenley Jansen. I had one of my best at bats in the big leagues late in that game. He ended up walking me. After that, I watch videos all the time.” That at bat was an awesome growing experience for the young outfielder. To see him embrace film studies at a young age is another positive for this slugger.
In the game on Thursday, Franmil was spotted on an iPad in the dugout before his at bat in the 10th. I asked him about that moment and what he was preparing for. “Last night, I was watching videos from Adam Otavino first. I did not get a chance to bat against him. Spangenberg did. But I was still getting prepared. I led off the next inning, so I watched some quick video on the pitcher and asked my hitting coach what he has.” Always preparing and never taking anything for granted. That is why I love this young man. He learned the pitchers tendencies from the coaching staff and applied them immediately into a game.
We spoke about a few of the guys in the locker room, as I asked Franmil if there was anybody whom he developed a special relationship with. “I have a handshake with everybody. I love all my teammates. I do not have a preference with any of them.” He doesn’t pull any punches when speaking about some of the guys on the team. Kirby Yates was one player who Franmil has been close to. He tells me that Yates is a great teammate and enjoys talking to everyone. The two sound very similar in their approach on life, it is no wonder that they get along very well.
Franmil does a little stutter step before he hits third base on his home run trot. I asked him about this move and whether it was a tribute to someone or something. “When I am playing, something that makes me real comfortable is having swag. I like to have swag on the field. I have my chains on and it makes me feel good. People can say whatever they want. Part of my game is my swag. It just really gives me confidence.” His move at third is just another way to display that he is having fun during the game. He explains to me that he never wants to disrespect anybody out on the field. He just enjoys playing the game and his enthusiasm for it comes out this way.
Luis Urias was just recalled by the team. He and Franmil are very close. I asked Franmil about Urias and if he was surprised how quickly he has been able to fit in. “It does not surprise me at all (how well he has played). He made the adjustments in El Paso. We knew he wasn’t a .260 hitter. I have always said he is one of the best hitters we have. Sometimes he helps me out. Sometimes he is my hitting coach and I just love him. He is a great person. We have known each other since 2015.” Urias actually helps Franmil from time to time with his swing. Players helping each other out and seeking the guidance of others. That is what makes a team get better. Chemistry and the unwillingness to settle. Both Urias and Franmil have that passion. It goes a long way for the whole team and their mindset.
Lastly, we talked about the A.J. Preller regime. I asked Franmil if he noticed a big difference since Preller, Chris Kemp and Sam Geaney have taken over the system. He smiled and simply told me- “It is like a family now.” He went on to tell me a story about Geaney who was then with the Oakland Athletics, and how the two spoke in 2014. Franmil was at a tryout with his younger brother (who is currently in the White Sox organization). Geaney and Reyes had a very nice conversation that day during the workout. Who would have thought the two would cross paths one day. The current international staff is full of communicators. The Padres have done well to make many of these Latin players feel comfortable and it will pay dividends in the long run for a franchise that had mostly neglected the market in the past.
Franmil Reyes’ value to a team goes way beyond what he does on the baseball diamond. He just gets it. No matter what he tries to accomplish in life, he will be successful. For the Padres, thankfully all his energy is currently focused on being the best ballplayer he can truly be.