Pat Burrell and Cody Ross are two of the most unlikely players to be appearing in this year’s World Series, a pair of key cogs in the San Francisco Giants’ run deep into the baseball postseason.
Both players train at Athletes’ Performance during the off-season and both faced uncertain futures just a few months ago. Burrell, 34, struggled in the designated hitter role in parts of two seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays and was released in May.
The Florida Marlins basically stuck the Giants with Ross and his contract in August after San Francisco placed a waiver claim on the outfielder to prevent the rival San Diego Padres from grabbing him. At the time, neither Ross nor Burrell figured to play much of a role with the Giants, but both made themselves indispensable.
Burrell has rediscovered his hitting stroke, hitting 18 home runs in 289 at-bats with the Giants, and is batting cleanup in the World Series. Ross stroked six extra-base hits against the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series and was named MVP.
Burrell is one of the longest-tenured pros to train at Athletes’ Performance, having taken up winter residence in Phoenix early in his career with the Philadelphia Phillies. He hasn’t dwelled on his struggles in Tampa Bay, preferring to focus on the task at hand.
“I don't want to dwell too much on that,” he says. “But obviously getting a chance to come out here and play, I think, was a big thing for me. You know, obviously starting in a different team and having it turn out the way it did is not what you hoped for, obviously, but I got a chance, the Giants gave me an opportunity to come out here and play, and I just tried to make the most of it.”
Burrell is best known for his hitting, but the DH job description he assumed with the Rays did not seem to fit. Playing in the American League for the first time in 2008-09, he got out of the rhythm of the game by not playing defense.
“For me it has something to do with being in the flow of the game, playing in the field, being active in the game,” Burrell said. “I think that's a huge part of it for me. I'm not saying that that's right or wrong. I think just for me that was—it's an important part of it.”
In San Francisco, Burrell and Ross joined second baseman Freddie Sanchez, another Athletes’ Performance alum. Sanchez played a key role in the Giants victory over the Texas Rangers in Game One of the World Series with four hits, including three doubles.
Ross, 29, a more recent newcomer to off-season training at Athletes’ Performance, has bounced back from the indignity of essentially being traded for nothing. He’s used that as motivation.
“I don't want to dwell on it, but it's not a very good feeling,” Ross said. “When I found out the way it went down, I was pretty upset, actually, to be honest with you. My emotions were so high at that point. I started off feeling really sad that I was leaving my buddies there, then realizing where I was coming and the opportunity that I was going to have to get a chance to get to the postseason. And then hearing that they gave me away for nothing was—it didn't settle with me very well. But let bygones be bygones, I'm in a way better place.”
Key take-away: Teammates Pat Burrell and Cody Ross found similar motivation to fuel them straight to the World Series. Don't dwell on your past, but learn from it and use it as a driving force. Continue working hard and keep your eyes set on the opportunities in front of you.