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How veterans make rookies comfortable

@baseballexis
June 29, 2019

TORONTO -- It’s no secret that veteran leadership in a clubhouse is an important piece of the puzzle for a team looking to be successful by any definition of the word. Despite rolling out a roster laden with rookies, the Blue Jays’ veteran presence is pronounced and especially valuable to

TORONTO -- It’s no secret that veteran leadership in a clubhouse is an important piece of the puzzle for a team looking to be successful by any definition of the word.

Despite rolling out a roster laden with rookies, the Blue Jays’ veteran presence is pronounced and especially valuable to the group of up-and-comers trying to make their way in Toronto. The players who have been around the longest haven’t forgotten what the beginning of their big league careers was like, and they want to set the stage for those who follow.

“When I was a rookie I was really quiet, always at my locker,” eight-year Major Leaguer Freddy Galvis said. “I didn’t talk too much because I played with a lot of veteran guys who were really good guys on the field and in the clubhouse. So during my rookie days, I was a shy guy who didn’t talk too much, and I respected everybody.”

Added five-year big league catcher Luke Maile: “I was very careful. I tried to go about it the right way, out of respect. I was very fortunate to come up in the Minor Leagues with some really good coaches, some really good managers and some players who were older than me, and I anticipated how to have that reverence when I came up.”

Though things were different when Justin Smoak made his Major League debut in 2010, he believes an adjustment has been made this year in Toronto due to the sheer number of players in their freshman or sophomore seasons.

“I definitely didn’t do what a lot of other rookies do,” Smoak said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys here. When I came up, I was with a lot of veteran guys, so it was basically keep your mouth shut and show up and do whatever you’ve got to do. But when you’ve got a young team like we have, you don’t want to hound them and crush them. You want them to feel comfortable, so you try to make them feel as comfortable as possible.”

While Smoak believes that winning is the easiest way to bring veterans and rookies together, rookie Cavan Biggio has felt that communication has been the key in aiding his transition through the first 29 games of his young career.

“From a veteran standpoint, being welcoming to a guy who’s new is the biggest thing,” Biggio said. “From a rookie standpoint, just having an open mind and not just being able to listen to guys, but hearing what they have to say and processing it. Overall, it’s communication -- that’s how all relationships start.”

As those relationships continue to build, there have been some things that Toronto’s rookies have noticed that veteran players might be able to get away with that they cannot.

“Being late, dressing less formal, there’s a lot,” one rookie said. “They can do a lot of things rookies can’t. Normal things like punctuality and dress code are probably the two that stick out most to me. Little things that we might get yelled at for, they wouldn’t.”

Added another: “Dress code. If they wear something that’s not that nice, no one’s going to say anything to them. But if we do it, we’re definitely going to hear about it.”

Other notable discrepancies included being late for stretch, wearing hats, not wearing collared shirts, and playing whatever music the more experienced players choose.

“I’ll give them music, but I don’t think there’s much really,” Maile said. “I don’t think there should really be anything, in theory. Whether you’re a veteran guy or a first-year guy, you should always try to be on time. Maybe they get away with it a little more. But it’s probably just they’re allowed to have a little bit more of an outgoing personality and it won’t be noticed as much.”

What do the veterans believe they can get away with that their younger counterparts can’t?

“Anything we want,” 11-year big leaguer Clayton Richard said. “Just joking. I feel like if you look at it like that, you’re going about being a veteran the wrong way. You’re trying to get away with things. At the end of the day, it means more to lead by example than it does by talk. And if you do things the right way, you’re not getting away with anything.”

Added Galvis: “Almost nothing. You try to do everything the team does and you try to do everything the right way so the young guys can see it. … Just because you’re a veteran guy, you cannot get away with stuff. We have to respect the manager and the coaches, so we try to do everything the right way.”

“We’ve got a lot of rookies,” Smoak added. “So it’s a lot of fun. We try to keep them in line as much as possible, as much as we can, but it’s all fun here.”

Alexis Brudnicki is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @baseballexis.