Young players often feel they have things figured out. As a result, it would be easy to assume that a group that won a Minor League-best 88 regular season games and a South Atlantic League title would balk at the idea that there were things to work on during instructional league play in the fall.
Anyone thinking that doesn't know a thing about the Asheville Tourists. Fifteen players who contributed to Asheville's tremendous run in 2012 are in Arizona, toiling away for another three and a half weeks, trying to build on that championship.
"As a whole group, we never took anything for granted," said shortstop Trevor Story, ranked No. 2 on the Rockies' Top 20 prospect list. "We came to the park every day thinking we could get better at something every day. That's a big part of why we had success. I don't think anyone has this game figured out.
"We definitely re-live it every chance we get. That team was very, very close. The majority of our team came here to instructs. We talk about it every day. We're very proud of it. We'll never forget it."
Top prospects at instructs
2011 (1st rd supp)
2012 (1st round)
2010 (2nd round)
2009 (1st round)
2010 (15th round)
2010 (1st rd supp)
2012 (1st rd supp)
Click here to view the complete list of Rockies' Top 20 Prospects.
Story figures next Spring Training will be the time to look ahead. For now, the Tourists at instructs are enjoying the reminiscing while getting their work in. Story, for one, is trying to refine his approach at the plate to cut down on strikeouts (121 in 2012) and improve his base-stealing acumen (15).
Taylor Featherston, who shared the middle infield with Story in Asheville for much of the year, is using the time to broaden his horizons.
"They've been giving me some time at third base," said Featherston, who hit .333 and drove in nine runs during the Tourists' playoff run. "I played shortstop my whole life and second this year. The more positions you can play, the better you help yourself out. You can always improve in this game."
Beyond specific skills, this Asheville group knows that simply pushing themselves for another month is important. As exciting as the success was in the South Atlantic League, none of them want the 2012 season to be their crowning achievement as a pro.
Rockies senior director of player development Jeff Bridich framed the experience of instructs in such a way to drive that point home.
"We got a week off after the season ended to do our celebrating," said first baseman Jordan Ribera, who hit .419 in the postseason. "Jeff Bridich said it best, 'You're tired now and the playoffs haven't even started yet at the big league level. If you're going to play 162 games, this is the time when you have to push through it.'
"No one will ever be able to take that away from us, what we did. To come here and push it for three and a half more weeks, it's a grind, but it's worth it. In this game, you can always get better. It' a good time to push ourselves and see what we can do when we're tired, physically and mentally tired. We're having a good time and we're pushing each other. It's been a test, but it's part of the game."
Clearly, this isn't a group ready to rest on its laurels. The Rockies staff wouldn't let that happen anyway, using instructs as a time to build, rather than let it stall this group.
"For that Asheville group, it's how do we deal with success?" Bridich said. "Success breeds expectations. How do we learn from that, where does that take us? We need to learn from that as much as we learn from failure. As good as those guys were, there's always ways to get better and improve. It's a group that's going to move up a level. Cream starts to rise. How do we get better in specific areas so we're ready for the next challenge?
"Complacency is an individual type of thing. Group complacency, I can tell you there's nothing that way. We stress and exemplify hard work as a development group. This game is a humbling game. The saying is you're either humbled or about to be humbled. Instructs is a great time to push players, especially when they're tired and fatigued, to do well and execute. In some ways it's a laboratory like that."