These days, when you hear the name Justin Turner you immediately think of Dodgers All-Star third baseman. But he wasn’t always that guy. Flashback about 7-8 years and he was a utility infielder that was cut by the New York Mets (lolmets). Turner signed with the Dodgers during the 2013-2014 offseason and, after making the team out of spring training, went on to post the best season of his career up to that point.
Now, we’ve heard much over the years about JT’s swing changes from that offseason and working with swing guru Doug Latta among others that helped alter the trajectory of his batted balls and career. But it seems that Turner has another guy to thank.
Earlier this year in a chat with Jomboy Media’s Chris Rose, the veteran recalled a conversation he had with then-teammate Zack Greinke that not only helped him become a two-time National League All-Star, but also the all-time hit by pitch lead for the Dodgers’ franchise.
The Zack Greinke story. He helped me kind of become the hitter that I am today because I actually sat next to him on the bench one night and I asked him, I said, ‘Greinke, if you were pitching to me, how do you get me out?’ And in Greinke fashion, he’ll be like, well, he won’t answer you. He’ll say, ‘let me go look at something — I’ll go look it up and then I’ll get back to you.’
So the next day he gets back to me and I’m like, ‘well, what do you got?’ And he’s like, ‘I would throw you 100 straight fastballs away.’ And I said, ‘what are you talking about? Like, 70% of my hits are the other way.’ And he’s like, ‘yeah, but all your hits are closer to you. You take the ball that’s close to you and you shoot it the other way. You don’t do anything on the ball out over.’ And I asked if he thought I should get on top of the plate, and he said, ‘if I were you, I’d get as close to the plate as you possibly can.’ And from that day forward, I stood on top of the plate and now I’m the all-time hit by pitch leader for the Dodgers. Because of Greinke.
Greinke and Turner were teammates in 2014 and 2015. Over that time, JT transformed himself from high-quality utility man to starting third baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
What makes this great is this one little story paints a picture of that life on the bench for pro athletes and teammates. How young players should never be afraid to ask questions, even if they’re asking someone like Zack Greinke. It’s also something that resembles a baseball story and, in the midst of a lockout, that’s nice to see.