7/12 Byrd is the word
Marlon Byrd is representing the Cubs in the All-Star Game on Tuesday, and he’s come a long way. This is a player who has been designated for assignment twice — yet never gave up. He won over Cubs fans quickly, hitting a three-run homer in his first at-bat April 5 against Atlanta’s Derrek Lowe on Opening Day.
Compare that to Opening Day 2007 when Byrd was at home after being DFA on March 31 that year by the Rangers. Texas opted to keep infielder Matt Kata as the 25th man. Byrd eventually was outrighted to Triple-A Oklahoma, where he hit .358 with six homers and 32 RBIs in 44 games.
“Once they called him up and he started getting going, I was really impressed with him and his work ethic and his energy,” said Rudy Jaramillo, who was the Rangers hitting coach at that time.
The Rangers promoted Byrd on May 26, 2007, and he didn’t look back, hitting .307 with 10 homers and 70 RBIs the rest of the season.
“He never gave up,” Jaramillo said. “He said he was always working wrong. It’s been a joy to see him progress. It just shows a lot about him and his makeup as a man.”
Byrd’s positive attitude has carried over into the Cubs clubhouse.
“Marlon is a smart player, he’s a good teacher,” rookie outfielder Tyler Colvin said. “It’s like the little things — he’s always working. You see him get real mad if he doesn’t take a good swing, even if the outcome is good. He’s always wanting to go up there and hit the ball hard and have a good approach and have everything perfect.
“It’s good to see that because it kind of rubs off — you want to try to be like that,” Colvin said. “You want a strict routine like he has and take everything seriously like he does.”
Don’t mess with Byrd’s routine. The center fielder follows a strict pregame program, that includes a session with Jaramillo, who was his mentor in three seasons in Texas and now is with the Cubs.
“I think that really is key here,” Colvin said of Byrd’s program. “You play so many games and everyone says it’s a game of failure, but you better have a good routine so at least you feel good before the game even if you might be struggling at the plate. As long as you know you’re working on things, you can hopefuly keep those slumps to a minimum.”
Besides his bat, Byrd also has brought an energy to the Cubs.
“He gives me more energy and more motivation to come to the ballpark and play hard because I see him play and I like how he plays,” Alfonso Soriano said.
What if the Cubs had 25 guys like Byrd?
“Not 25,” Soriano said, laughing. “Maybe 15. Twenty-five is too much. Maybe half of the team like that, we’d be in better shape.”
Soriano, a seven-time All-Star, said Byrd was a good pick.
“He deserves it because of the way he plays,” Soriano said. “I think he’s the best player on the team. He comes every day to play hard and I’m very happy for him.”
Colvin couldn’t ask for a better role model.
“There’s some other guys who I thought were deserving,” Colvin said. “He’s definitely a good representation of what we’d like to do here — always play hard and work hard and be ready to go.”
— Carrie Muskat