While the Los Angeles Dodgers have fielded a roster with several stars over the past handful of seasons, the front office has additionally excelled in finding diamonds in the rough. Max Muncy, once on the verge of being out of baseball altogether, is among their success stories.
Muncy was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the fifth round of the 2012 Draft, and went on to make his MLB debut with the team in 2015. He appeared in just 45 games that season, and 51 the following year.
Muncy was designated for assignment when the A’s signed Rajai Davis in January 2017, but cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A Nashville. He joined Oakland for Spring Training, only to receive limited opportunities and be cut on the final day of camp.
During an appearance on “The Big Swing Podcast,” Muncy recalled returning home to Texas at that point and shortly after contacting Baylor University about finishing school to earn his degree and finding inspiration to continue playing baseball — but with a lighter focus and approach:
“Two weeks go by, Opening Day has happened and I’m watching on TV, everyone is taking the field and I was like, ‘Man, I don’t think I’m quite ready to give it up.’ It kind of hit me. I still missed being out there. I still want to be out there with the boys, I still want to be throwing bubblegum at people, flicking seeds, still want to be swinging the bat.
“So my dad was like, ‘Well, let’s get to work then.’ I didn’t swing for like a week and a half, two weeks, and we started going to the cage at Keller High School, kind of just like old times. My dad was liek, ‘I don’t really know much about your swing anymore. I only know what I’ve taught you in the past, so I’m just going to throw to you. Let’s hit and just pretend you’re a kid again.’
“I started doing that and realized, man, this is fun. I need to quit taking baseball so seriously. I just need to go out there and have fun. Things started getting to a point where I was itching to get a job. When that happened it was like, let’s start making some changes in the swing. Let’s change the stance a little bit, let’s get down in my legs, change how I want to attack the ball. And the biggest change I made was just the mental change. No matter what happens, I wanted to go out there and have fun. I don’t care if I suck. I don’t care if I’m the best hitter in the world. I just want to have fun, I want to smile, I want to enjoy being out in the grass and dirt, and not being in an office somewhere.
“When I made that change, suddenly something happened. I make that change and two days later I get a call from the Dodgers, ‘Hey, you want to come play for us?’ I was like, ‘Sure.’ … The biggest change was always the mental change. Not trying to be depressed about baseball. Just enjoy it, no matter what happens.”
The Dodgers sent Muncy to extended Spring Training after signing him to a Minor League contract, and soon after he joined Triple-A Oklahoma City when Cody Bellinger received a promotion for his MLB debut.
Muncy spent all of 2017 with OKC, batting .309/.414/.491 with 20 doubles, 12 home runs and 44 RBI over 110 games. His opportunity with the Dodgers came early in 2018, and Muncy has remained at the big league level ever since.
He slugged 35 home runs, matched that total in 2019, and also set a career high with 22 doubles last season. Muncy additionally became a first-time All-Star, which was all the more memorable by virtue of it being at Progressive Field, because his father and grandfather attended countless Cleveland Indians games.
Despite the success, career turnaround and lucrative contract extension, Muncy has maintained the same mindset of still needing to prove himself as an everyday player.
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