Thirteen games into his big league call-up in September 2015, D-backs second baseman Brandon Drury cracked his first career home run -- a three-run shot -- on the road vs. the National League West-rival Dodgers. While the baseball gods once again smiled down upon the then-23-year-old, as a fan lobbed
Thirteen games into his big league call-up in September 2015, D-backs second baseman Brandon Drury cracked his first career home run -- a three-run shot -- on the road vs. the National League West-rival Dodgers. While the baseball gods once again smiled down upon the then-23-year-old, as a fan lobbed the would-be souvenir back out onto the field, those same good fortunes -- as they often do in this game -- quickly did a 180-degree turn, as the memento was nonchalantly deposited into a ball girl's crowded collection bucket.
While Drury will never know if the ball he was given was the one he hit, consider that it is one of the few low-level baseball priorities for the self-professed diamond diehard.
Coming off his third season with the D-backs, during which he hit 13 home runs and recorded a career-high 63 RBIs, Drury's daily routine -- much like his statistics through the first half of the season -- remained consistent. Batting nearly .300 for the first three months of 2017, he could usually be found in one of three places before every game: the batting cage, the D-backs' video room or the infield, working on his defense.
"It's all about working each day to get better," said Drury, whose career-best 37 doubles tied for seventh in the NL this past season. "You never want to work on experimenting on something during the game. From the batting cage to batting practice to the game, I'm just trying to let my natural ability take over.
"I watch a lot of video. I like analyzing my own swing. I also like to study the pitcher to see what he has and what he throws. It's all about patterns. Get an edge and use it."
D-backs hitting coach Dave Magadan added, "He just doesn't want to be good -- he wants to be great. That's a nice quality to have. He's usually one of the first ones here, asking for extra work. He's very aware of his swing, where he is at and where he wants to be. That really is a godsend for a hitting coach, and it makes my job very easy. He's a very hard worker."
While Drury has no explanation for his batting success at Chase Field to start this past season, he hit an NL-best .389 at home through the end of May. The D-backs infielder has a lifetime .305 average at his home park.
"Brandon's connecting the dots, and his work is paying off," said D-backs manager Torey Lovullo. "He is productive, engaged, and his swing is connected. On defense, he improves daily. He's made those backhand jumping throws look routine, dives to his left, turns two. ... His movements are precise and accurate. He likes to take ground balls on the left side to stretch out and build arm strength. All that hard work and his personal comfort level are coming together."
With most of Drury's personal baseball mementos relegated to the top of his family's refrigerator back in Grants Pass, Ore., his parents encouraged their middle child's love of the game from an early age. In addition to road trips to California for Disneyland and Angels ballgames, father Shane's drywall shop continues to double as an impromptu workout facility with an indoor batting cage on the premises.
"My dad will still throw to me," said Drury, who grew up an Jose Pujols fan. "His elbow hurts more these days, but he keeps throwing. He'll let me know if he sees anything with my swing. He's seen me at my best and my worst."
Drury's "worst" came the season after winning Appalachian League co-Player of the Year honors in 2011, when he hit .347 with 23 doubles, eight home runs and 54 RBIs in 63 games for Rookie-level Danville. He then struggled at Class A Rome in his final year in the Braves' system before coming to Arizona with pitcher Randall Delgado and fellow infielder Nick Ahmed in the '13 Justin Upton trade.
"Danville was a great season, for sure," said Drury. "Going into it, I had figured out something with my swing, so it clicked a little bit. I was young, and the pitching was better than me the following season, but the trade here threw me off. Signing with the Braves right out of high school, that was the only organization I knew, but the trade has been great for me. I'm very thankful. Being a young kid, struggling a bit and then getting traded the year after … you look at it like, 'Was it something I did or something I didn't do?' Still, it was motivation for me to get better."
That motivation isn't lost on Drury's current hitting coach. Magadan saw similar traits playing alongside Ken Griffey Jr., Gary Carter, Craig Biggio and Ryne Sandberg during his own 16-year MLB career.
"I've played with Hall of Famers and potential Hall of Famers that were a lot like Brandon," said Magadan. "They were very hard on themselves and would dwell on the negative, but they would use that to motivate themselves to be great.
"Brandon has to understand there is failure in this game, but it's how you deal with the failure. That's what can define the great players. He's learning to turn the page quicker and not dwell on the negatives. You can go 0-for-4 yet still play great defense or make a great baserunning decision. Once he starts embracing that, which he is, then he will hit the next level as far as his potential in the game."
Calling Blue Jays slugger Troy Tulowitzki his personal mentor, the two met through Drury's former high school coach who also worked with the All-Star shortstop years earlier. Now the two are regular workout partners during the offseason.
"I've always been impressed by how hard Tulo works, and his focus," said Drury. "He's sold on being the best he can be, and everything he does is at 110 percent. That's something I've learned from him, in terms of how I go about my business. He takes everything very seriously, and he helps me out a lot. During the offseason, we talk every day. During the season, he checks in with me all the time."
As it's been throughout his big league career, Drury isn't much for collecting game balls or jerseys, opting instead to focus more on helping his club collect wins -- regardless if it's with his bat or his glove.
"This is a game I've always and will always love," Drury said. "Being here with my teammates and playing baseball is what I love to do. That's why I look forward to coming to the ballpark each day and trying to be a better player. I enjoy the process of studying pitchers, seeing what they've got and looking for that edge to beat the other team.
"We're like brothers here. When a guy feels like a brother, you pull for them harder. I think we have something special here. Any time you can win a ballgame, it's just not about you, and we have a bunch of great guys here."
Josh Greene is the D-backs' director of publications.