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Richmond's Jimmy VanOstrand lands unique job with Mariners
The title of most interesting job might belong to Jimmy VanOstrand.
VanOstrand, 32, a former minor league slugger from Richmond, was hired by the Seattle Mariners this off season as coordinator of character and leadership development for their farm system.
Excuse us if that sounds a tad daunting. And here's betting that VanOstrand is getting a call the next time we need advice on who to turn to for a reference letter.
To his credit he can chuckle when asked about the perceived enormity of the job description. He seems to have a feel for what's ahead for him.
"Identity is a huge piece. Perspective is a huge piece. Accountability and responsibility are huge pieces," saysVanOstrand, a first baseman/outfielder who made it to triple A in the Washington Nationals' system in 2013, the final season of his eight year pro career.
"It's so guys have an understanding of who they are, and don't see themselves just as baseball players and nothing else.
"Everybody is going to have different obstacles, different things that stand in their way. The guys that are the best are the ones who are going to be persistent and consistent through all those things. That's what gives them the chance to compete at a high level every day."
VanOstrand, who joins the M's after spending last season as director of baseball with the University of Arizona Wildcats, sees team building as a major component of his new gig.
The minors are a funny animal. For instance, the Vancouver Canucks have one farm club, plus prospects scattered elsewhere. The Mariners have seven teams under the umbrella of the big club. They want those seven groups to have success together, but the guy you're playing beside is also the guy you're fighting against for a promotion to the next level.
VanOstrand has seen it from various sides. The 6 foot 4, 210 pound right handed hitter was an eighth round draft pick of the Houston Astros in 2006 out of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and seemed to be trending in a positive direction when, as a 24 year old, he hit .283, with 16 homers and 71 runs batted in for Houston's double A Corpus Christi team in 2009.
He spent two more seasons at that level before Houston released him and by 2012 he was playing independent league ball for the Texas based Sugar Land Skeeters. He ended up signing on with the Nationals partway through that season and playing two more years.
"It's a very unique lifestyle. It's a very tough lifestyle," saysVanOstrand, a McMath high school graduate who was both a basketball and badminton standout before focusing on baseball. "Just being able to relate and speak their language is important. It might not be the same exact experience, but they'll know that I get it, I understand. When they say, 'I'm 2 for 40 and I'm away from my family and my girlfriend wants to break up with me,' it's not just a hypothetical.
"Coaching is that same high as playing, but in a different way. You don't get to be the dude on the program cover anymore and you don't get the sweet picture in the paper as the walk off hero, but it's every bit as fulfilling to help these guys with what they're going through.
"I want to help build more of a team dynamic with what can typically be a more selfish dynamic in minor league baseball. It's a delicate balance. I think it's something that I've been able to go through myself and I've known a number of people who have gone through it. I've seen what can work well and things that don't work well and where a lot of the stresses can come from. The whole idea is to speed up the learning process for a lot of these guys."
Considering that M's farm director Andy McKay was the mental skills coach for the Colorado Rockies before signing on with Seattle in October 2015, it's not surprising they're creating a position like VanOstrand's.
McKay, oddly enough, was VanOstrand's manager with the Anchorage Glacier Pilots when he played in the summer collegiate all star Alaskan Baseball League in 2005.
VanOstrand will visit Seattle's various affiliates throughout the summer. He guesses he'll spend up to 100 days on the road. The team's spring training complex is in Peoria, Ariz., and that will be home base for him.
He was a kinesiology major in school, but is about a month into working on his master's degree in psychology.
"I think kinesiology helped me a lot with my own playing career," saysVanOstrand. "It was van cleef bracelet replica something I was interested in. I van cleef & arpels alhambra bracelet replica was passionate about it. It helped me come back to school and want to finish.
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