By Julia Camargo
Canadian Baseball Network
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Second baseman Cullen Large has found ways to become even more disciplined at the plate with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The switch-hitting 2017 fifth-round pick jumped rope and measured his heart rate as part of a mental performance drill in minor league camp Thursday morning.
Large has been known for working high pitch counts and drawing walks since his college days, when he used to be an umpire in the summer as a way to keep himself connected to the plate. The team’s performance drills seem to be helping him develop this attribute even further.
“Playing baseball, there’s a lot of high-energy stuff and then there’s times when you’re not doing anything,” he said. “It kind of helps, because a lot of the times you’re just running back and forth all the time, so you take the time to just breathe and relax.”
Large spent his first professional season with the Vancouver Canadians after last June’s draft. He walked 18 times with 28 strikeouts over 34 games, and finished the year with a .246 batting average.
Although his numbers are down from a collegiate average that never dropped below .300, the infielder has managed to keep his mental awareness at the plate.
“I’m looking for stuff over the middle of the plate,” he said. “The more pitches I see the better I get a feel for pitchers, so it works out.”
Despite being a patient and disciplined player, Large admits being phased by not hitting any homers in his first season.
“If you ask some of my teammates, I had some bad luck last year,” he said, laughing. “I hit a bunch of balls off the wall, people made fun of me all the time, but Vancouver is not an easy place to hit a home run either, so moving forward, wherever I end up, it’ll happen.”
The infielder’s mentality carries outside the field as well. A William and Mary alum, he moved from Virginia to Vancouver after the 2017 draft, and found the Canadian atmosphere to be a beneficial change.
“Culture wise, I guess that was kind of a big difference,” Large said. “As Americans we like our alone time and especially in Vancouver they were very like ‘let’s do everything together’
“It took a little bit of adjusting from that aspect, but once I got used to it, it was awesome.”
Large believes the Canadian culture of proximity and the Blue Jays stance on sportsmanship create a sound environment on and off the field.
“They are always in front of us talking about being a good teammate,” Large said. “It helps you learn how to get along with a bunch of different people, which is obviously important in baseball, as it is for any sport.”