Today, I’m excited to sit down with Mets’ infielder Justin Turner. Justin has played in the big leagues in each of the last four years, including over 200 games played with the Mets over the last two seasons. He’s known as a gamer that always shows up ready to go 100%. I ran down Justin before one of his Dominican Winter League games the other day. He’s currently playing with Escogido, as you can see in the brief video at the end.
Justin’s college career took him to Cal State Fullerton where he was eventually drafted (for the second time) in the 7th round by the Cincinnati Reds in 2006. About three years later, he had his big league debut with the Orioles. After a 2010 trade to the Mets, Justin worked his way into a prominent role in the Mets’ infield. Although he primarily plays second and third base, Justin has also logged big league time at shortstop and first base, making him a valuable utility infielder.
Many thanks to Justin for taking a few minutes after batting practice to talk about the importance of being a good teammate, his personal hitting routine, how he deals with failure, how he quiets his mind in the batter’s box, how he regroups after a bad umpire call (Umpires, please don’t read the last answer!), and more.
What’s one lesson you learned early on that’s led to your success over the years and eventually making it to the big leagues?
One of the most important things that’s really underrated with younger players these days is the importance of being a good teammate. That goes a long way in this game. As good as you want to be and as much success as you want to have personally, if you don’t have respect from your teammates, you aren’t going to make it very far in this game.
How would you define a “good teammate”?
Unselfish. You’re going to have a lot more bad days than you’re going to have good days. That’s just the way it is. When you have those bad days, it’s ok to be mad and frustrated, but at the same time there are 24 other guys trying to pull in the right direction. You gotta stay on that rope and be a good teammate.
How do you deal with failure on the baseball field?
The biggest thing and the most important thing is having a specific routine to get into every day. That routine gets you ready and that way you go into every game with the best chance to be successful. In this game, you’re going to have a lot of those 0-4 nights, so at the end of the night before you go to sleep, you have to evaluate your day and put yourself at ease because you prepared the right way. The results just weren’t there that night. That helps me get some sleep at night and come out that next day ready to perform and get after it all over again and compete.
What’s your mindset after making an error or having a bad at bat?
It’s always about living for the next play, the next pitch. Whatever happens in the past, you can’t do anything about. The sooner you get over it and refocus, the better chance you’ll have in your next at bat or that next ground ball hit your way.
What is your personal game day routine in the Big Leagues before a Mets game?
I show up early to do my early work. I go to the cage and hit. It’s not always the same drills; it just depends on how I’m feeling that day. Sometimes I need to work on staying inside the baseball. Sometimes it’s using more of my legs. I just pick ONE thing I want to work on and only concentrate on that. Then I get a little rest before going out for team stretch and batting practice.
We have a BP routine that our coaches put in place. Eventually we get to our “free swing” BP rounds. A lot of guys just like to swing without a plan. Well, I’m not a very good hitter when I “just hit”, so I like to hit with different situations in my mind. It keeps my mind sharp and helps me execute better in the game. When you get in those game situations, you’re a lot more comfortable because you’ve already been in those situations in BP thousands of times. Then you can walk to the plate knowing that the pitcher is really in trouble!
What is your routine on the on-deck circle?
I have a little routine where I take two swings with the donut on, then I do a few things to loosen up, to get me in the same spot.
What’s your routine in the batters box?
I do the exact same thing from the time I leave the on deck circle. When I get to the box, the first thing I do is clean it up with my cleats. Then I take a look at my bat and take a big breath. Then I get in the box and go. I think if you put a clock on me, I’d take just about the same amount of time from the on deck circle, to ready to hit in the box, every time. I know what I’m doing every time I come to the plate and I feel that gives me the best chance to succeed. The more consistent you can be the more confidence you’ll have in yourself.
Like I mentioned before, you’re going to struggle in this game. Just cause you had a bad at bat or a bad game doesn’t mean you need to jump ship and change your routine. You gotta stick with it over time. It’s harder for high school and college ballplayers because they aren’t playing every day, but if you stick with a routine for a lengthy period of time you’re going to have more consistent results.
How do you quite your mind in the batters box?
How to you regroup after an umpire makes a bad call?
Anytime you get a bad call from the umpires. And it happens a lot. For you guys listening to this (or reading this), trust me, the umpires don’t get all that better at the Major League level. Hopefully there aren’t a lot of umpires on Next Level Ballplayer listening to this! But, umpires at every level are going to miss calls and going to make bad calls. Hopefully, if you’re lucky, they miss strike one or strike two and not strike three.
The way I think about it is, it wasn’t a pitch I was going to hit anyways, so it doesn’t matter. If it’s strike one called on me, yeah it’s a little frustrating, but it’s only one strike and I’m still waiting for a good pitch to hit. After that bad call, I’ll take a deep breath and relax and get my mind back focused on my approach for that specific at bat.
And I recorded the final question for Justin for you guys in the video below. We are sitting in the Escogido dugout during batting practice before one of their recent Dominican Winter League games: