This past weekend at Houston Astros’ FanFest, I got a chance to sit down with a few members of the club and get their take on the upcoming season. In that mix was outfielder, Justin Maxwell.
Maxwell will likely always be best known for his first at bat for Houston. Justin had been claimed off waivers from the Yankees on April 8, 2012, came up to bat on Tuesday, April 10th for the first time in an Astros uniform and blasted a pinch hit, two-run homer in the eighth inning in what would become an 8-3 win for the Astros over the Atlanta Braves. I was at that game and I remember thinking, “I’m gonna like this guy.”
Maxwell started to come into his own last season as he hit 18 home runs, the club leader for 2012. He’s a guy that you notice right away thanks to his 6’5″, 235 presence, but he’s not as scary as his size implies. A mild and well-mannered guy, the biggest takeaway after speaking with him was how poised and well-spoken he is. This is a trait that may bode well for him and this young club in the future.
At age 29, he’s one of the older guys in the clubhouse now. I asked him about the youth in the clubhouse and who the players could look up to this year. He’s met Carlos Pena and is looking forward to learning as much as he can from the seasoned veteran this year, but sees himself as someone who can become a leader for the Astros. “As one of the older players this year, I’m usually not as vocal as I should be, so hopefully I can take more of leadership role.”
And Maxwell has some wisdom to spread. His career trajectory was one of slow and steady wins the race. He paid his dues and worked hard at every level of baseball. He admits to frustration and mistakes along the way, ”2010 was really frustrating, I was up and down a lot – 5 times and I kind of let that affect my play a little bit. But it’s always in your favor to play well. No one cares about what you’re going through off the field, they want to see you perform on the field.”
But that experience made him realize exactly where his real attention should be. What advice would he give to a frustrated player? “Just focus on baseball, the rest will take care of itself.” If that’s the sort of advice that Maxwell imparts to this young club, I’d say he’s the absolute right guy for the job.
Maxwell takes his role of power hitter seriously and knows he’s capable of the big hits when the team needs them, but wants to work on improving his average. “I’d like to hit for average this year and be more consistent that way. Just try to hit the ball every at bat, don’t try to do too much. Just let the game come to me.”
With the move to the American League every fan wants to know what changes in the mind of the players and Justin Maxwell seems ready for some of the changes at least. “We’ll have some dialogue in Spring Training, but for me, it’s nice not to have to watch the pitchers hit anymore or bunt because to me that was kind of boring.” As you can imagine that was followed by a lot of laughter.
As fans brace themselves for a new era of baseball in Houston, I feel confident that with Justin Maxwell, the Houston Astros get much, much more than a guy who can hit a baseball. With a young roster and a rebuild in progress, Justin Maxwell is poised to make an impact on this club well beyond batting average.
Terri Schlather (AGirlintheSouth) is the tortured Senior Houston Astros Writer for Aerys Sports. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her ridiculous ramblings on sports, vodka and the weeone on twitter @agirlinthesouth.