'Soft focus' helps Blue Jays' McBroom stay sharp in pivotal year

Photo: Minnia Feng

Photo: Minnia Feng

By: Minnia Feng

Canadian Baseball Network

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Few things at the Bobby Mattick Complex were brighter than the smile on Ryan McBroom’s face on Monday. 

Signing autographs and chatting with every fan who stopped him as he headed towards the bleachers for a quick interview, the first base prospect displayed the good humour he’s been known for throughout his time at West Virginia University and now as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays organization. 

It’s an inner peace that’s proven essential in his transition to professional baseball. 

“In baseball, there’s a huge mental game, so I took some things I learned in college and I’m doing them now, whether I know it or not,” said McBroom, 24, who was drafted by the Jays in 2014. 

Entering a pivotal third year in his development, the infielder believes what he learned as a sport and exercise psychology major allows him to deal with the pressures of being a pro player. 

“Just the slow heartbeat, self-talk, the positive confidence, all that stuff I learned in college, I truthfully believe it has really helped me coming into baseball,” he said. “I kind of play at my own pace a little bit; I don’t get overanxious or too nervous. 

“The season’s long — it takes a lot of relaxation and not trying to do too much in certain situations.” 

That relaxed approach helped McBroom launch a new viral nickname on March 3, as “McBoom” hit a walk-off home run to lead the Jays to a 3-2 win over the Yankees. 

“I got to two strikes, so I kind of had a soft focus and was just looking for the ball, nothing in particular, not a certain pitch or location,” he said.

Starting the 2016 season in High-A Dunedin before getting called up for nine games with AA New Hampshire, McBroom hit .266/.318/.455 with an eye on continual improvement this year. 

And a soft focus is perhaps the best way to describe McBroom’s disposition – the goal of reaching the big leagues firmly in sight, work ethic and mind in the right place, but never forgetting to smile and enjoy the moment on his way there.