By STEVE KRAH
Spring brings with it a chance for a fresh start.
The sense of newness rings especially true for Elkhart native Ryan Strausborger as he heads into his eighth season of professional baseball.
Strausborger, a 2006 Elkhart Memorial High School graduate who hitting a program-record .500 as a senior first-team all-state shortstop honoree by the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association, recently signed with the Minnesota Twins organization. He will spend his first spring training in Florida’s Grapefruit League after knowing nothing but Arizona’s Cactus League.
“I’m excited about it,” Strausborger said. “It’s a big relief knowing I have a chance with a team. That’s all I can ask for.
“I’ll hopefully start in Triple-A (at Rochester, N.Y.).”
The right-handed-hitting outfielder who turns 29 March 4 plans to take the option of getting to Twins camp in Fort Myers early on Feb. 20. That’s well ahead of the March 7 official reporting date for position players (pitchers and catchers get there first).
“I’m anxious to get into the swing of things,” Strausborger said.
The versatile speedster was selected in the 16th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Texas Rangers organization after a stellar collegiate career at Indiana State University (he was a three-time all-Missouri Valley Conference performer as a second baseman in 2008, utility player in 2009 and outfielder in 2010).
Strausborger worked his way up the Rangers ladder and made his MLB debut with Texas Aug. 5, 2015 and socked his lone big league home run Aug. 16 of that year.
He spent all of 2016 in the minor leagues and was traded to the Seattle Mariners organization near the end of 2016 and hit .153 with two homers, 11 RBI and six stolen bases in 40 games at Triple-A Tacoma.
Strausborger chooses to see the positives.
“I’m thankful to the Mariners for the opportunity,” Strausborger said. “I met a lot of awesome people and took away a lot of good things.
“I just didn’t show what I bring to the table. I have nobody to blame but myself.”
Having moved from the Rangers to the Mariners, he had already experienced one transition and now he’s getting ready for another after the Twins reached out to Bob Garber, Strausborger’s agent, and showed interest.
The Twins are bringing Strausborger in as an outfielder, but he plans to let the right people know about his utility abilities and hopes to get in some infield reps.
When Strausborger was with the Rangers, former minor league manager and big league coach Steve Buechele took note of his talents.
“He has that one tool that’s unique to the game and it’s valuable,” Buechele said. “It’s speed and he uses that to play good, solid defense and it helps him offensively. It’s a big part of his game.”
Casey Candaele, who was then minor league field coordinator, also praised Strausborger.
“He plays the game right,” Candaele said. “He’s a hard-nosed guy. He has tools that play.”
While he won’t know too many faces, a couple of Strausborger’s former teammates in the Rangers organization — catcher Chris Gimenez and relief pitcher Nick Tepesch and — are now with the Twins.
Since the end of the 2016 season, Strausborger has gotten to play rounds of golf with his dad, Mike, and to practice the acoustic guitar (picking up pointers on YouTube), while splitting his time between Indiana and Texas.
Off-season training has been devoted to strength and conditioning.
“You want to get as strong as you can and go into the season strong and injury free,” Strausborger said.
Winter months have also been consumed with plenty of batting practice. He even got a chance to share his hitting knowledge in a camp put on by the South Bend Cubs Performance Center. His career has had him traveling too much to give lessons on a regular basis, but he can see himself giving back to the game more in that way after he retires.
During his rise through the baseball ranks, he’s noticed the difference in levels comes down to three things — speed of the game, experience and talent.
“Everybody’s good at this level,” Strausborger said. “Everybody’s here for a reason.”
Right now, he’s enjoying the pro baseball experience.
“I’m happy and I’m blessed,” Strausborger said. “Looking back on it, there’s nothing I would change. I love what I get to do for a living and a job and you can’t ask for more than that.”
Once in awhile, Strausborger might find himself glancing back to his high school days or even to the summers on Elkhart’s Cleveland Little League diamonds.
“It helps you clear your head a little bit,” Strausborger said. “You remember that this game has to be fun.”
Ryan Strausborger, seen running the bases for the Texas Rangers, is now in the Minnesota Twins organization. (Getty Images)
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