'Good habits' led to this Royal's strong May

June 4th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Anne Rogers’ Royals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

KANSAS CITY -- spent most of April working through an offensive slump, making tweaks to his approach and swing in attempts to start feeling good at the plate again. By the end of the month, he was starting to see some results.

When the calendar flipped to May, the Royals' second baseman seemed to flip, too.

“I remember, on May 1, being like, ‘OK, new month,’” Massey said. “It was just talked about a lot as far as a fresh start for the team, individuals. And coming to the ballpark the day after that May 1 off-day, it was like, ‘OK, this is a great day to start fresh. What can I do?’”

Massey slashed just .176/.182/.189 with 29 strikeouts and one walk in April. In May, he slashed .319/.412/.528 with 21 strikeouts and nine walks. Now in the beginning of June, he’s hoping to continue the momentum he built from last month.

The biggest difference between the first and second months of the season? Massey got back to his routines and what he calls his “good habits.” After making his first Opening Day roster, the 25-year-old felt like his job sped up on him in April, both the game and everything else that comes with being a big leaguer.

On top of that, he was searching for answers at the plate, and the pressure to perform got to him. He found himself hanging onto the results from the previous day rather than letting go and focusing on the next game.

“If you hang on, it exploits you,” Massey said. “If you can’t let it go, you’re going to hang onto it much longer in the big leagues because it’s harder to get out of it. I couldn’t let it go in April, and that’s where I spiraled. I couldn’t get rid of it. But it was good for me to go through it and develop that skill set of how to go through it.”

It led to some tough conversations in the batting cages between Massey, his teammates and hitting coach Alec Zumwalt. The message: Trust in the preparation.

“We had to really dive into what was really happening vs. what he felt was happening,” Zumwalt said. “It was just the relentless pursuit of, ‘Every day, I’m going to show up no matter what happened yesterday, positive or negative, and just sell out to the process.’ Good hitters aren’t afraid of failure. They trust the process and their preparation. There’s already enough pressure. 

“Truthfully, I think that’s what got in the way of Massey, was his self-imposed pressure. And where he’s gotten better -- he’s back to being himself -- is he’s been able to take that pressure and allow it to actually help.”

Massey had to learn, and is still learning, how to shift his focus from the results to his preparation again. He got back to doing yoga on the field before his pregame work most afternoons, part of a routine he learned from Double-A coach Christian Colónin 2021. Massey got back to his regular prep work in the cage, too.

And he stopped chasing results. So that’s when the results followed.

“I used to think that the failure and regret of the game was the thing to focus on: I didn’t hit this, or we lost this many games,” Massey said. “But the question you have to ask yourself is, ‘Could you have done more? Would you have done something different throughout the day?’ If the answer is no, you can sleep easy. Because what else can you do? 

“That’s what I’ve learned from watching Sal [Perez] and some of the older guys in here. Their ability to put in the work, do stuff the right way, but when something doesn’t go right, it might piss them off in the moment, but they don’t take it home. It doesn’t bother them because they’ve done all they can. It’s like a secret ingredient as far as being able to handle everything and be consistent.”