SARASOTA, Fla. - The seeds for a great start to spring camp for catcher Chance Sisco were planted not long after last season ended. He made some tweaks to his swing, but to hear him tell it, regaining lost confidence is the biggest reason he’s mashing the ball right now.
He came to Sarasota with a fresh and confident outlook that got a boost from new manager Brandon Hyde and the new coaching staff, who seem to daily be filling the young players with doses of confidence. They keep it positive and they are getting results.
After hitting .181 with the Orioles last year and .242 with Triple-A Norfolk, Sisco reported to Ed Smith Stadium to find a relaxed atmosphere in this camp and what started for him over the winter has continued as it relates to confidence and the mental game which is so important for young players.
This winter, Sisco was reminded by family and friends and other players of his strong resume - one that includes being the Orioles’ No. 1 ranked prospect after the 2016 season and he’s twice been a national top 100 prospect according to Baseball America.
So how did Sisco build that confidence back?
“Just learning from mistakes and learning from failure I guess,” he said Saturday morning. “Kind of keep telling yourself to restart and reset everything. Believing in yourself and knowing that the things you’ve done in the past were not really a fluke. So, you can compete and hit and catch and do all the things I’d done in the past. I can still do that again and just completely believe in that and in myself.
“I talked to a lot of family members, my agent and some players that are friends around the game. But for the most part it had to come from myself. All their words helped tremendously to start that process, but it all really comes down to yourself. You can give yourself a lot of confidence.”
Sisco was reminded a few times this winter that he would not be the first young player with a strong minor league resume to struggle initially in the majors. Far from it.
“Absolutely. There have been plenty of guys that were really good in the minors, then came up and struggled. They figured it out after that so just seeing guys that struggled and bounced back can give you confidence. You know it’s very possible,” he said.
Sisco hit a three-run homer on his first spring training game swing a week ago yesterday and through four games is 5-for-8 with four homers and nine RBIs. After hitting .429 last spring, he now has a slugging percentage of 2.125 and an OPS of 2.825.
Along the way this winter Sisco made some minor tweaks that helped his timing at bat. He said he is now getting into a better position to hit as his front foot lands after a short stride.
“Just landing in an athletic spot and if I do that, after that it’s all reaction. All hitters across the board, the landing spot is very similar among many good hitters,” he said.
But his hot start, which included a 3-for-3, two-homer game on Wednesday against Boston, is more the result of that mental reboot than anything to do with his swing.
“I would credit it more to the confidence and all that,” said the 24-year-old Sisco. “The tweaks have definitely put me in a better position to have success but a lot of it has to do with just going up to the plate confident. Knowing you can get good a pitch to hit and then putting a good swing on it.”
With that renewed confidence, Sisco reported to Sarasota and found that he and other younger players have meshed so well with Hyde and the new coaches.
“I think all players feed off both positivity and some positive criticism. And positive feedback. The confidence that everyone is throwing around in this camp, it’s pretty cool to see and obviously it gives myself confidence and my teammates confidence as well.
“Our staff is bringing an energy to the field every single morning. Instilling in us that they want us to play aggressive. They want us to not be afraid to make mistakes and play hard all the time,” said Sisco.
All the hitting is nice, but Sisco also realizes in a crowded catcher competition, defense will be job one.
“I feel good back there. It’s the same thing with hitting, it’s confidence. I feel good and feel confident working with our pitchers. Feel like I know them a lot better than I did last year. Just trying to keep this train rolling,” he said.