Shortly after the Braves claimed Jordan Schafer off waivers from the sad-sack Astros on Nov. 1, he did something that gave Atlanta officials reason to believe he understood the position he was in and that he was willing to do something to improve it.
It was a gesture that showed Schafer fully realized that he was no longer a top prospect, or really even a prospect at all, but rather a 26-year-old with a .221 career average and .606 OPS in parts of three major league seasons, a guy that last-place Houston had just lot go and that most other teams passed on when they had a chance to claim him before the Braves said what the hell, it’ll cost almost nothing, let’s bring him back.
Schafer, in less than five years had been lauded, suspended, injured, injured again, traded, arrested, injured and waived. What he had not done in that time, for any significant period, was excel as a major league baseball player. At least not anywhere near how he’d performed as a minor leaguer back during the 2007-2008 seasons.
So what did Schafer do soon after the Braves claimed him off the scrap heap in November? He called hitting coach Greg Walker, a man he didn’t know, who’d been hired by the Braves several months after Schafer was traded to Houston in 2011.
“I told him I wanted to get together and work with him,” Schafer said.
He wanted to get to know Walker and assistant hitting coach Scott Fletcher, and let them know he needed help. Hitting help. Specifically, he needed to re-learn how to hit the ball to the opposite field.
“I went to Atlanta this winter, after he sent word that he wanted to meet me,” Walker said. “He flew into Atlanta for two days. He’d made a few changes to his swing. I hadn’t seen him previously; I was just judging him on what I saw. But he said he’d lost left field, that he didn’t feel like he could get a hit to left field anymore, and that when he was young he could.”
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Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Mar 20