A Game Against Yourself: Infielder B.J. Guinn
Baseball is a game where failure is, for all intents and purposes, a sign of success. In a game where the number of points that one round object (a baseball) can hit another round object (the baseball bat) are infinitely numbered, making successful contact 30% of the time (in the form of a .300 batting average, for example) is considered an excellent feat.
Mind you, 30% – being 30 out of 100 – is, by-and-large, considered to be a failing grade in any respectable education system. Nonetheless, struggle is an expected condition in the sport of baseball, and it takes a particular type of character to persevere beyond the inevitable trials that are ever-present on the field.
“I think the proudest moment (for any ballplayer), I would say moments, are when you go through some adversity and you come out and make it through…” says a calm and relaxed B.J. as he gazes out onto the field.
“You realize that ‘I can get through something’ because… baseball is a game of failure, and you are constantly failing all the time… so when you do have some success, it feels that much better because you fail so much. Failure… creates success.”
B.J. was drafted by the Chicago White Sox out of high school back in 2007, but opted instead to attend college near his hometown of Berkeley. Guinn was ultimately an 11th round draft pick by the San Diego Padres back in the 2010 MLB amateur player draft out of the University of California, Berkeley. Surely, a Cal Berkeley Golden Bear knows a thing or two about success and hard work.
When asked about what he would like fans to recognize or understand about him, B.J. responded by saying “I would like people to know that I work hard and that I enjoy what I do… I’m very passionate about what I do and I’m going to give 100% each day.” B.J. recognizes himself as a student of the game as well: “I’m going to see how I can develop and get better… it just takes work.”
As an Architectural Landscape and Design major at UC Berkeley, Guinn played NCAA Division I baseball in between attending class and lab, all the while honing his baseball skills and studying the technical and mathematical aspects of architecture. “I got into the School of Environmental Design; I’m not really a reader or writer, I’m more of a math and logic person… and studying logic and design in architecture really captured my interests.”
Guinn left Berkeley after his junior year when he was drafted by the Padres in order to pursue his dream of becoming a professional ballplayer. “Practice times for baseball were in between lab and class, so it became more difficult to practice baseball and also earn my degree at the same time … I feel like (pursuing baseball over continuing architecture) was the right decision, right now, because you’re only young once. Your body can handle the pounding right now, so you should go out and do some things that your body can put up with.”
When asked about making that choice between baseball and school, Guinn gave some solid advice for any young aspiring athletes out there: “you can always go back to school, you can always sit in a classroom, and you can always do things like that. But, baseball’s not going to last forever. You have a short window, so you have to enjoy it while you can.”
B.J. is currently in his fifth year of playing professional baseball, and his third year with Lake Elsinore. It’s not uncommon for players to spend that much time developing their skills, and there’s a particular element that is vital to individual success that evades players when they find themselves striving to make it to the majors. “It’s important to relax. You know, when things start going bad, I think everybody starts to think too much, but when things are going good, and you ask somebody ‘what were you thinking right there?’, they’ll sit there and say ‘…nothing. I don’t know.’ So, I feel like everybody falls into that riff (of thinking too much) because of that failure I mentioned earlier.”
Guinn also noted that it’s important for players to try out multiple positions to get their skill level up. “A lot of players will also diversify their tools… I will never play catcher, and I pitched a little when I was younger, but when it comes to the minor league field I’ll play some first, second, third… anywhere on the infield to get exposure and practice. Outfield positions would be fine too… but catcher is one I will never try.”
Outside of the mechanics and workings of the game, Guinn looks at the pleasure of minor league baseball as well. More importantly, the importance of family and enjoying the situations you find yourself in throughout the course of a professional baseball career. “I like traveling up north since I get to see my family up there: mom, dad, brother, and sister… it’s fun having them come watch me and it’s fun playing in front of them. When you’re in professional baseball, you never know where you’re going to end up day-in and day-out, so getting a chance to play in front of family is… warming, I would say.”
Guinn smiled to himself and said “You know, baseball is a game against yourself… there’s no particular team I dislike playing or anything of that nature, you can’t think too much. When you’re in the batter’s box, you’re the only one in the batter’s box.”
“You’re facing the pitcher, but as soon as he releases the ball it’s just on you… the same thing happens on the field, you field your position and it’s on you.” So whenever the Storm play the Modesto Nuts or San Jose Giants? “It’s always you against the ball. Bottom line.”
Guinn certainly understands his position as a professional ball player being one of influence and respectability. It takes a lot of time and effort to play 140 games each year in a sport that is at times both stagnant and ever changing.
I asked Guinn if he had any advice for young athletes who aspire to be in the same position as him one day, to which he said “When you’re young… just play. Don’t worry about all the other stuff. Enjoy playing the game, enjoy making some new friends; play all of the sports and see what you like.”
“When you’re young, sometimes you press too hard and you get burnt out because maybe they get pushed a little too hard, or they’re playing a bit too much all year round… and then they lose how much fun it was playing.” Fun over practice and trial? Absolutely. “I remember when I was young… I was just playing and having Capri-Suns after the game… and that’s what we looked forward to, and that’s what made it fun.”
Young fans that hope to be a ballplayer one day should just have a good time. One day you may find yourself standing in the box with you against the ball, but for now it’s prudent to just have fun. If you find yourself pressing? Just take it from B.J.: “…those fond memories that I had back then? That’s what makes it even better now.”
B.J. mostly plays second base for the Single-A Advanced affiliate Lake Elsinore Storm in the California League, but can oftentimes be found playing shortstop or third base as well. He wears #10 and is an extremely easy-going guy who is out there working hard for one thing and one thing only: The love of the game.
Fans can cheer for B.J. and his Storm teammates up at the Diamond in Lake Elsinore or even follow him on Twitter through his handle @BjG20.