MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — Earlier this month Cardinals short stop Paul DeJong was demoted to Memphis.
“I think it’s been a humbling experience for me, and I’m making the most of it,” said DeJong.
The once NL Rookie of the Year candidate and Gold Glove nominee found himself in a rut to start the 6th season of his MLB career.
“Paul came down and we first just got together in Norfolk,” said Redbirds coach Ben Johnson. “We were in our clubhouse here. And when I saw him and I just said, hey, I just really want to talk about having fun. It’s a long summer and there’s a lot of adversity or a lot of failure in this game. And if you let it eat you up, it will. So, if you’re having fun and you’re enjoying the work, I think those guys when they do go down, you know, or have tough times, they get out of it a little quicker.”
DeJong said the move was difficult at first because of where he’s been the last five years, but with Johnson and the Redbirds he’s found a way to flip that into a positive.
“When things start piling up, we start kind of losing focus of where we are,” DeJong said. “So, for me it was about being here and being in the present and kind of enjoying the company of these guys. And using that as an opportunity to kind of figure myself out a little bit more, figure out what makes me good and just kind of gain my confidence back because I know I can help the big league team win.”
Johnson’s philosophy of just having fun has allowed DeJong to turn the clock back a bit to his childhood, playing the game at his purest form.
“I just want to play every day,” DeJong said. “I want to be out there competing I just want to have fun. And Ben was really great about promoting that energy and that focus, as opposed to all this mechanics and analytics stuff.”
And after two weeks, he’s starting to find himself with a big game, his best as Redbird Tuesday against the Iowa Cubs.
DeJong had a 3-hit, 4-RBI day and his first homer since April 9th, his second of the season.
“It felt good to finally drive on over the fence,” DeJong laughed. “I feel like it’s been a while, but also just to get three hits in a game, I think just shows that I’m able to go out there to an at bat and try to eliminate what I did before and try to do something now.”
DeJong’s goal in Memphis has been to just take the pressure off himself and go back to enjoying the game.
Although he’s learning a lot about himself suiting back up for the Redbirds, he’ll be blessed to get that call up back to the majors.