By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
BUFFALO, New York – You have two eyes, two ears, and one mouth so shut up and listen.
It was the first note a 10-year-old Rowdy Tellez took when his travel ball coach – later his signing scout with the Toronto Blue Jays – Darold Brown asked his team of young baseball players to start writing down 10 remarks a day, about what they had learned in practice, or during tournament play, or when he invited special guests to speak to his squad.
“I always had something to say,” Tellez said. “I had to have the last word, so I used to get yelled at all the time. That’s what they would say to me, so I wrote that down. My dad still has it.”
Plenty of Brown’s players quickly opted out of their observation-making, but the Sacramento, California-born infielder continued, mostly because he was held to a higher standard than many of his teammates – his potential identified very early on – but also because it didn’t take long for Tellez to realize that it was beneficial to his game.
“At a young age, I learned it was helpful to me, because I got to know that certain things happen and as you get older, and you get into professional baseball, you keep facing the same guys over and over,” the 22-year-old Buffalo Bisons slugger said. “So if I can keep having more and more knowledge each time – and these guys are going to progress like I do – but I can learn from how they’re progressing and how I’m progressing to what makes them better in what they do, and their tendencies to get guys out.”
Since Tellez was selected in the 30th round of the 2013 draft out of Elk Grove High School, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound first baseman has brought his notetaking game to another level. Currently on his ninth and 10th full notebooks in his fifth professional season, Tellez uses one each year for on-field baseball information, and another throughout the season for more personal notes about the game.
“One notebook is for pitchers and catchers, and situations that I’ve been put in, and all my game stuff,” he said. “How they pitch me, where, locations, runners on, situations, who the catcher is, what they like to call. So I have a whole little scouting report on every pitcher and catcher, what I can see, past history, and then I have one for what I learned from that day, and things I can improve on.”
Tellez takes notes throughout games as each situation occurs, a piece of his routine that has helped him in more ways than one.
“In-game ones, after every at-bat, I write it down,” the left-handed hitter said. “If I end the inning on base, or make the last out, I go back and try to remember as much as I can. That also helps me take away any frustration or anger. If I have a bad at-bat or a situation I don’t capitalize on, I go back and make sure I write in my book, and by the end of that, it’s over with.”
Tellez’s second notebook is mostly kept in his backpack, pulled out sometimes at the field or occasionally at home, when he has time for it. It houses tidbits he’s picked up from conversations with other players. Sean Casey, Derek Lee, Troy Tulowitzki and Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar and Tim Raines are just a few whose words have made their way into the young player’s pages. Fred McGriff and Carlos Delgado occupy the most space, because of their similarities to Tellez.
“That’s more personal stuff,” he said. “We’ll talk about the personal, and then we’ll also do baseball, but that’s more of the understanding of who they are. I mean, Sean Casey spent a lot of time in the big leagues, so there’s a lot to talk about.
“Obviously everyone blew the Tulo one out of proportion [with stories of the six pages of notes Tellez took during a meal together widespread during spring training]. I didn’t ask him to go to dinner. I mean, I asked him if we could talk, and then he took me to dinner and all that.
“I took notes on my phone for those, and then wrote them back in my book, because more likely than not I’m going to lose my phone soon. I’m not very good with it. But I always have my books. So it’s nice, and I rewrite those things back in my books, in my own words, where I know I’m not short-handing stuff so I can understand when I go back weeks or months or years later.”
Tellez keeps his personal observations in composition notebooks, and for baseball information, he uses little binders, where he can separate by organization and add or take specific pages out when he needs them.
“I have them all at home,” Tellez said. “So, we play the Tigers at every level from Low A up, but they’re never in our division and we only play them twice, except in Low A and High A. Double-A is where they start getting the guys who are more solid, so I keep those off to the side because I know I’m not going to face them, but when we go to Toledo I’ll take the pages with me.
“I’m not going to have a huge notebook with me. I just take the little things and always carry my main two with me wherever we go…In my book, I keep every team we face. For example, the Yankees we face in High A, Double-A, and Triple-A, so I have guys from High A that I’ve played against that I keep through. Or the Phillies we play at every level, so I have stuff from when I was in rookie ball against them, all these guys that I’ve faced.”
From his first pro season with the Bluefield Blue Jays to this, his fifth, with the Bisons, Tellez has a .281/.359/.458 career slash line with 49 home runs, 75 doubles, 187 runs scored and 238 RBI over 366 games. Each year, he has consistently gotten better as the summer months go on, aided by his notes, his books, and the personal education he gains from them.
“It’s helped a lot, especially in a full season,” Tellez said. “When I was in short-season in Bluefield I did it, but not as much, because you’re only facing each team once or twice, or three times at the most. But once I got into a full season I really started doing it a lot, and after every series I would go through and figure out what pitchers I was going to see the most.
“The big one for me are the lefties out of the bullpen. I’m a left-handed hitter, so I’m going to see those guys more often than not, at least once or twice a series, and I’ll probably see every lefty in the bullpen at one point. So if I can have that to my advantage, to understand what they’re doing in certain situations, it’s worked. Also, I have to be convicted and stay to it, understand that this is what works for me and not get lazy on it.”
There are, of course, times when Tellez focuses a little bit too much on his own remarks, finding himself paying slightly too much attention to what he’s written down, instead of what is happening right in front of him. But those are times he gets away from what has been working, and his notes help him find his way back again.
“Sometimes it happens where I overthink it and I get myself out, but that’s when my notebook also comes in handy, when I know I overthink and I see this guy does the same thing over and over again,” Tellez said. “There should be no reason to overthink it, you should know exactly what’s coming. If he varies from it, that’s when I write back in my notebook and look at those at-bats.
“If I face a guy 10 times and every time he goes 1-1 changeup, odds are he’s probably going to go 1-1 changeup. I’m willing to take that risk. It’s stuff like that, little things to help me get better. If a teacher says you can use a cheat sheet, you’re not going to not use it.”
And use it, he does.
“I look at them every day,” Tellez said. “I have something every single day.”