On the final day of the Grapefruit League season, the hottest and most highly contested battle in Marlins camp has come to an end. Ladies and gentlemen, your winner and starting second baseman, Jazz Chisholm Jr. Kim Ng broke the news on Marlins Radio during Miami’s 10-2 win over the Mets on Sunday.
According to Jazz, he received the news from Ng and Don Mattingly just before game time.
“Donnie and I have this sort of playful relationship every time he gives me some news so it was more of a “Hey, see you down in Miami!””, Chisholm Jr. said. “The emotions ran wild. It was like getting another call up but this time it’s an Opening Day job.”
Before an at bat was taken or a ground ball was fielded by either Chisholm Jr. or Isan Diaz, the two showed up to camp exhibiting polar opposite attitudes.
The 24-year-old Diaz who opted out due to COVID last season only to come back late in the season to fall victim to injury spoke as if winning the job was his main focus. All things considered, it’s easy to assume he was feeling pressured.
“I’m here to prove I’m the second baseman for the Miami Marlins,” Diaz could be heard saying shortly after reporting to camp.
Meanwhile, despite all of the talk surrounding it, Jazz was able to put the fact he was involved in a head-to-head battle completely aside and focus, more so than anything else, on improving.
“I wasn’t really thinking about the job, eventually,” Chisholm Jr. said Sunday. “I’m going out there and I’m a competitor. I’m going to go out there and try to help my team win, but at the same time I was thinking about how I can get better and try to help my team when they need me.”
By being able to block out the noise surrounding the contest at second base and stay levelheaded, Jazz was able to learn some very important mental lessons this spring, lessons that have allowed him to gain more confidence and lessons that he will take with him into the regular season.
“Trust yourself and trust the guy behind you. If your teammates trust in you, that helps even more.” Chisholm Jr. said when asked to name the biggest thing he extracted from this spring training. “The family atmosphere, the winning atmosphere, the “if I don’t do it, you can do it” atmosphere. Even in spring training, if I go out there and say [Brian Anderson] is hitting before me and he flies out, he will look at me and be like “Alright, you got it.” That’s what I took away and I hope everybody trusts me to do it every time.”
In terms of improving mechanically, Chisholm Jr. said he was sponging up valuable information from his veteran teammates such as Corey Dickerson, Jesus Aguilar and Starling Marte, coaches and even executives as often as possible.
“I talked to the veterans every day. Every day I would go to then and ask them another question,” Chisholm Jr. said. “We have a lot of guys on this team who has proven themselves in the big leagues… and you have a Hall of Famer as your owner. I picked everybody’s brain in every way I could and I tried to add it to my game.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be Jazz if he wasn’t having a ball every second he’s on the diamond, his “happy place” and the place where he “clears his head”.
“He’s going to have fun on the field no matter what,” Chisholm Jr. said when asked to describe himself to Marlins fans. “He could be having a bad game, he could be having the best game of his life and he’s still going to be out there smiling and having fun. That’s never going to change.”
When Jazz, who went 10-39 (including 9 for his last 24) this spring, steps on the field at Marlins Park on April 1st, he can take comfort in the fact that he earned the right to be on that stage. A young man that is a great mixture of purity, skill and soundness of mind, Jazz is not only primed to endear himself to fans in terms of on-field production but also to impart his infectious joy upon them, something that will is very much needed in the current global landscape.
Bring your smiles to Marlins Park this year, Fish faithful. When Jazz is on the field, you’ll be using them often.