Jung has vision for future as Rangers' third baseman

February 23rd, 2023

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- One day this offseason, sat down at his computer and created a vision board. 

He said his mental performance coach, Brian Cain, has told him for years to do it, but he never got around to it. This season, Jung wanted to put a bigger emphasis on his mental game and how he can really dive into the mental side of his performance on the field. 

The Rangers’ No. 1 prospect admits he didn’t perform like he wanted to after a stunning MLB debut in September. He homered in his very first big league at-bat, but finished with a .204 average over 26 games. After he did nothing but hit at every level of the Minors, it was a new kind of struggle for Jung.  

The vision board and his work on mental performance are meant to keep him grounded to the game around him and help him continue to succeed.

“I just want to make sure I'm really dialed in and I keep that part of me in check,” Jung said. “I felt like I kind of got away from it in the big leagues when I was struggling last year. So it's more of an emphasis and just having positive reminders around for myself because it's going to be hard. I'm facing the best pitchers in the world. You're going to struggle up here. I just want to have some stuff around my locker with me just to psych myself back up.”

Lots of things are on the vision board, Jung explained, but one part is his favorite. 

“I have, like, ‘Are you not entertained?’ [from the movie "Gladiator"] with a question mark on there,” Jung said. “I have an internal thought and question to myself to kind of put on a show. Not necessarily be cocky and all that, but for myself, like go out there and leave it all on the field.”

He also now uses the mantra, “Leave no doubt,” similar to his “Be water” approach in 2021. For Jung, it’s about just going out and playing the best baseball he can, without letting things that are out of his control take up space in his mind. 

For Jung, MLB’s No. 34 overall prospect, almost nothing has been in his control over the last few years. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down what would have been his first full Minor League season in 2020. A stress fracture in his left foot delayed what could have been his MLB debut in '21, and he was unable to compete for the Opening Day job in '22 due to left shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum early in camp that left him sidelined until early August.

But looking back at all of that, he recognizes that it’s OK to give himself grace for a slow start in the big leagues. 

“I wasn't fully healthy,” Jung said. “I was doing everything I could just to come back and play baseball. I got the opportunity to get my feet wet, but I've got to give myself some grace. But, man, it was a struggle. I was struggling, but looking back on it, it wasn't as bad as I thought. I’m ready to go now. The digesting part of it was more of a like, ‘Don't put so much weight on it, because that's not really who you were at that point.’”

After a long journey, he’s solidified a spot on the big league roster alongside seasoned veterans Corey Seager and Marcus Semien in the infield. He’s long been seen as the Rangers’ third baseman of the future and he has a chance to prove it. 

“Embracing is going to be the biggest thing for me,” Jung said. “It's going to be fun and there's really no pressure on me because I’ve got two guys making 500 million to my left. They should take all the pressure, I'll give it to them. But for me, it's just trying to fly under the radar and not make a headline to where I did something bad. Just do my thing, be consistent, hold it down, make some nice plays, hit the ball hard and I think everything will fall in place.”

One would hope that things falling into place leads to an American League Rookie of the Year Award. Jung noted with a chuckle that he’s OK with not being a front-runner for the Award. He actually might prefer it.

“I love it,” Jung said. “I truly love it. You use it to light some inner fire within yourself and go out and just prove them wrong.”