Spring training numbers don’t necessarily mean much in the bigger scheme of things but still, Minnesota Twins shortstop prospect Trevor Plouffe had to be stoked when he walked into the clubhouse on his first day of his first spring training on the 40-man roster and saw what was hanging in his locker:
A uniform top with the number 1.
Last spring, when he was over in camp as an invitee, he was No. 93. So yeah, this is a nice improvement.
“I’ve always been a fan of single digit numbers,” said Plouffe, 22, the Twins’ top pick in 2004 out of high school in southern California. “So it was pretty cool to see that I’ve moved up 92 numbers.”
It was also pretty cool for the laidback Plouffe to reunite with so many of the friends he’s made in his five seasons with the Twins organization.
“For a lot of the guys I’ve come up with, it was the first big league spring training for all of us, so we were all like ‘hey, we’re finally over here for good,'” he said. In the past, of course, he’d had the occasional at-bats with the big boys when they’d call over to the Minor League complex to bring over individuals for a given game, but this was different.
“When you come over for the day, you don’t really feel like you belong, you’re more like a guest,” said Plouffe.
Plouffe had been anticipating the trip to Fort Myers since he got the autumn phone call telling him he’d been added to the 40-man roster. And while, as a first-round pick, it wasn’t totally unexpected, that didn’t make it any less exciting, nor did it calm those “first day” butterflies.
“I guess you could kind of compare it to the first day of school,” said Plouffe, “but obviously I’ve been over here a few times during previous spring trainings. But we have such a foundation of guys who have come up together through the system that whenever I went over there in the past, I already knew a lot of guys in the clubhouse which made it easier.”
Ironically, his best friend in the clubhouse is not a longtime Twins prospect but rather a young star who came over via trade, former Tampa Bay Rays top pick Delmon Young. The two have been buddies for more than a decade since they played on elite travel teams together in California, and are rooming together this spring.
The Rays nabbed Young with the first overall pick in 2003, a year before Plouffe went to the Twins with the 20th pick. The right-handed hitter combined to bat .260 between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester last summer, adding six homers and 39 RBIs in 124 games while seeing time at his usual shortstop slot as well as second and third to add to his versatility.
He hit .274 with nine homers, 50 RBIs and 37 doubles at New Britain in 2007 after spending full seasons at Advanced A Fort Myers in 2006 and Class A Beloit in ’05.
The spring training stint has been a positive learning experience so far for Plouffe, and he’s soaking it all in before his likely return to those backfields to prepare for a 2009 start with the Rochester Red Wings.
“It’s realizing that though to the casual eye spring training seems relaxed and like everyone’s taking it easy,” he said, “the truth is everyone is working really hard, especially at our camp.”
And for future reference, though his last name has become a little more a part of the public lexicon thanks to President Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe (no relation as far as he knows), it is pronounced “ploof.”
“People get it wrong about 90 percent of the time so when they get it right I’m so surprised that I actually congratulate them,” he said. “But I have noticed they’ve gotten it right more often since Obama’s campaign.”
MLB: Of what accomplishment, on or off the field, in your life are you the proudest?
Trevor Plouffe: I’ll go with something off the field, because family is important to me. I was best man at my brother’s wedding and oversaw all the things a best man oversees. Beforehand we went camping up and down the California coast in my uncle’s RV. And I nailed the speech.
MLB: What do you think you’d be doing now if you weren’t playing baseball?
TP: Obviously I’d be in school somewhere, but as far as work I think I’d fit somewhere in the music industry. My friend’s dad owns a recording studio and I’ve always been intrigued with everything he does there, the whole music aspect of that. I love that whole business.
MLB: Everyone has a “hidden talent.” What’s yours?
TP: I’m probably the best hacky sacker in pro ball. That stems from going to an all-boys school. At lunchtime that’s what you do because there are no girls to look at.
MLB: Do you have other hobbies or creative outlets aside from baseball?
TP: I think you have to. I love the outdoors, fishing, camping. And I love playing music. I play guitar. Last year in our house in (New Britain) my roommate Dustin Martin played guitar and Toby Gardenhire was our singer. We called ourselves The Beach Bums. I have all the pictures saved up. Maybe I’ll use them on the blog (Plouffe will be blogging for MLB.com this summer at MLBlogs).
MLB: What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
TP: I used to work with my dad, who is a pool contractor. One day we had to cut through this old iron sand filter and shovel the sand out of it. It was about eight feet tall and six feet wide. And he decided to put the truck in drive without knowing I was back there shoveling and I fell out of the back of the truck so that was the worst day of work I’ve ever had.
MLB: If you could trade places with one person for a day who would it be and why?
TP: I would have loved to have been (Led Zeppelin’s) Jimmy Page in his heyday. I was trying to get tickets to go see them in London when they play the tribute concert, I put my name in the raffle but didn’t get picked.
MLB: Which aspect of life in the minors do you find to be the biggest challenge and why?
TP: I think the first challenge you encounter is being on your own and away from everything you’re familiar with. Once you get used to that, it’s just about sticking to a routine. When I first started, a lot of times I found myself sleeping and waking up because I didn’t have a set schedule, and when you do that you get tired more frequently so you have to learn to stick to a good routine.