Player’s View: Who Has Been Your Most Influential Teammate?

© Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Who has been your most influential teammate? I asked that question to 10 major leaguers — two each from five different teams — and all of the answers came after a moment of thoughtful consideration. Most couldn’t name just one, and there was another common theme that emerged, as well. A combination of appreciation and admiration was genuinely expressed with each and every response.

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Harrison Bader, St. Louis Cardinals

Paul Goldschmidt. I like to watch just enough video to familiarize myself with the pitcher in terms of his tempo in the stretch, in the windup, his arm slots on different pitches, and maybe his tells on the base paths. Anything past that, I don’t like to watch. Paul has been the most influential, because I trust his assessment of the pitcher and his approach far more than anything I would create on my own. That’s because he keeps it really simple; he keeps it very straightforward. That approach helps him be very successful for his team. Because of that, I’ve learned to understand pitchers — when to open up a little more, when to stay focused on maybe driving the ball back up the middle. Little things like that allow you to be successful over nine innings.”

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Tucker Barnhart, Detroit Tigers

“Four come to mind, and it starts with Skip Schumaker. Skip and I played together in 2014 and 2015, and he was the guy I defaulted to if I had any questions. This was back when I was trying to figure out what the big leagues were like. So, Skip was one of my guys. We still talk.

Joey Votto is another. Just watching Joey work every day, the way he went about his business. Jay Bruce. Jay was another guy that I really leaned on in my first couple of years when I was trying to figure out what the big leagues were like. And then Sonny Gray. Sonny and I became really close. He’s arguably my best friend in baseball. He helped me kind of find the joy in playing again. There’s how he goes about his daily business, having fun and keeping things light. Those four really come to mind.”

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Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

“I would have to say Neil Walker and Justin Verlander. Neil Walker, probably the most. I learned a lot of different aspects of the game from him, and I also admired how he went about his business. With Verlander… it was pretty wild how we both ended up on the same team, and had comparable stuff. He was the first person that I played with who was comparable. We spoke the same language a lot of times, which was super helpful.”

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Eric Haase, Detroit Tigers

“Here, it would have to be Miggy [Miguel Cabrera]. I grew up watching him for a very long time, even before pro ball, so I feel like I kind of knew him a lot longer than actually playing with him. But to be playing on the same team with him and watching what he’s doing firsthand… it’s absolutely incredible. Just a ridiculous amount of knowledge in one person.

“In Cleveland, Yan Gomes was really influential for me. Being a rookie, just how he did what he did, day in and day out, helping lead those teams to multiple playoffs, and ultimately a World Series run. And just a great human being, both on and off the field. Those are my two guys.”

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Luke Maile, Cleveland Guardians

“I’d have to give you Evan Longoria and Logan Forsythe. They were there my first month, my first year in the big leagues, and they were old school. They kind of expected young guys to do things old school, to do them the right way. I learned a lot from them. It was about being prepared and learning how to be a professional.

“My first month in the big leagues was in September when you could have 40 guys on the team. The expectation was, if you were a right-handed hitter and were playing that day, you knew who all of the lefties were. You knew who was in their bullpen, because there was a chance you were going to hit off one of them. It was looking at the game from that perspective, always being ready and anticipating what might happen. That was huge for me.”

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James Paxton, Boston Red Sox

Chris Young when I was with Seattle. I would watch how he worked — he worked really hard — and he was also big on watching video, and the analytics. He would kind of tell me how he was doing it, and what he was looking for. That really helped me in my game preparation, how to go about looking at a lineup. He was always open to answering my questions and helping me out.

J.A. Happ, as well. [Young] and Jay were the guys who probably helped me the most. Jay is left-handed like I am, so I picked his brain a lot. We weren’t teammates for very long. We were in together in Seattle for maybe half a season, but then we played in New York together. He always treated me really well. He would talk to me about pitching. It was really helpful.”

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Anthony Rizzo, New York Yankees

Jon Lester. He was at a point in my career where he came in to help win a championship, and we were ready to win. The way he goes about his business, working every single day on the field and off the field… he just went to work every day with a no excuses mentality. That’s something I love. So, I’d have to go with Jon.”

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Matt Strahm, Boston Red Sox

Joakim Soria and Chris Young. I was with them early in my career while they were toward the end of theirs, so it was the perspective they gave me. They said to just keep enjoying the game — a remember-it’s-a-game kind of thing — and also the competitiveness, to not to lose the edge. Little things like that.

“Those are two guys who have been there for very long time, and obviously Rich Hill, who I’m with here. It’s not so much what he says, but rather what he does. Watching him go about his work is such… I mean, he’s been doing it for what, 20 years now? It’s unbelievable to look at that, and want that for myself.”

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Myles Straw, Cleveland Guardians

Michael Brantley would be one. José Ramírez is another. He’s taught me a lot here. Both of those guys have been great in my career. José slowed things down, and gives really good advice. Same with Brantley. He’s kind of like a family member to me. He’ll reach out, just checking up on me. If I ever need anything, I go to them, because they’ve got the answer for it. I try to keep it simple, and those two are really good at that. Those guys keep me right.”

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Nick Wittgren, St. Louis Cardinals

“Coming up, Dustin McGowan, Mike Dunn, Tom Koehler, David Phelps, AJ Ramos… all of those guys kind of took me under their wings when I got called up. They showed me how to be a pro. And then, obviously here we have Waino [Adam Wainwright], Yadi [Molina] and Albert [Pujols] with all of their experience. Between all of those, you can’t really go wrong. Really, it’s the whole pack of people that have come across my life and helped me out in this game.”





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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hopbittersmember
2 months ago

Great question. Thanks David.