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Muncy 'going to work harder than ever'

@kengurnick
February 17, 2020

GLENDALE, Ariz. – He’s an All-Star. He’s MLB Network’s top-ranked first baseman not named Freddie Freeman. He’s set for life after signing a multi-year contract beyond his wildest imagination. But if you think any of that has changed Max Muncy, know that he hasn’t forgotten being out of work after

GLENDALE, Ariz. – He’s an All-Star. He’s MLB Network’s top-ranked first baseman not named Freddie Freeman. He’s set for life after signing a multi-year contract beyond his wildest imagination.

But if you think any of that has changed Max Muncy, know that he hasn’t forgotten being out of work after Oakland released him in 2017. That Max Muncy climbed his way back to the big leagues as a non-roster player to stick and came to camp last year saying he needed to prove that 2018 breakout season wasn’t a fluke, then did just that.

And his mission this spring?

“Same thing,” Muncy said Monday. “Act like you haven’t done anything yet. Pretend no one knows who you are and work as hard as you can in Spring Training and act like you’re still trying to win a spot. For me, that’s the same mindset as last year. I don’t plan on ever changing that because I don’t want to be complacent. I’m going to work harder than ever. Just act like I’ve never done it before.”

All he did last year was slug 35 homers for the second consecutive season, drive in 98 runs, score 101 and play three positions and 141 games. He figures to be the primary first baseman this year, but said he’ll be ready for second base, third base, wherever.

Management recognized his value, but you might have missed the news of Muncy’s signing for three years plus an option and $26 million. It happened two weeks ago, when baseball headlines were dominated by Mookie Betts and the Astros. Muncy’s signing flew under the radar.

“Which is just the way I like it,” he said. “Considering where I was at not that long ago, it feels really good. It’s really rewarding for my family. We still don’t really believe it. It says that, but is it actually us? It relieves a little pressure, but that just allows me to focus on playing. It’s a reward for all the hard work. But the biggest reward is getting to be here for three or four more years and be with these guys. It’s special in here.”

Muncy is the first arbitration-eligible player given a multi-year contract by the Dodgers since Andrew Friedman became club president in 2015, which Muncy feels is further reward for working as hard as usual in the offseason.

Muncy said his lifestyle hasn’t changed with the success. He and wife Kellie mostly stay home, watch movies and “play with the pup.” Okay, the Dodgers sent him to Dubai for a sponsorship clinic and he’s aware of the offseason notoriety, what with the position rankings and such, but he sometimes feels like it’s somebody else they’re ranking.

“Someone asked me about being a household name, and we don’t feel that way,” he said. “We’re still just the same person, nothing’s changed. It’s really cool. We don’t believe it’s us. It’d be cool to be on those lists, but we don’t feel like it’s really us.”

Muncy said he was never comfortable with the attention he received for pushing back at Madison Bumgarner last summer after launching a splash shot into McCovey Cove and being berated by Bumgarner for watching the homer sail before his home run trot. Muncy became a viral sensation and a rivalry legend.

“The Bumgarner thing last year -- I had never been in that situation, getting national attention, and I didn’t really like it,” he said. “That’s not my personality. I’m the guy you notice on the field, but don’t hear on the field.”

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.