Friday, August 14, 2009
"Mother's advice kept Venable on track" (MLB.com)
Ivy@50 -- Will Venable
By Chris Jenkins, San Diego Union Tribune
Anthropology can wait. That's what it does best, isn't it? Been waiting on people for centuries.
Anthropology is the field of study in which Will Venable earned his degree from no less than Princeton, but it will have to hold off while he pursues a vocation in a field of an entirely different sort. He's played left, center and right fields for the Padres this season, and at his current pace, the real world's wait on Venable could be years and years.
"I'm glad I've got it," Venable said of his B.A., "and I'm glad I don't have to use it yet."
In a way, baseball had to wait on Venable, who was almost totally devoted to basketball in his Marin County youth and went to Princeton to play hoops. By the time the first-team All-Ivy basketball player had redirected his focus to baseball -- the game his father, Max, played for four major league teams over 12 years -- many thought it already was too late.
Wrong. Really, really wrong.
"That excuse," Venable said. "That's long gone now."
By his own admission, Venable spent the last few years of college and first three-plus years in the minors playing catch-up, but he's really caught on fast with the Padres.
Impressive enough in his first call-up to San Diego, a little less than a year ago, he was re-summoned June 3 and shown the versatility and clutch-hitting skills to become virtually an everyday player on a Padres club that's constantly mixing up its lineup.
"Last year was zero pressure," Venable said. "It was September, the team was out of it, guys were hurt. It was just a different dynamic. I know the record's not good this year, but things are totally different."
The left-handed Venable got Sunday off against Johan Santana, but in the 10 games before that, he batted .395 with five home runs and 14 RBI. He has saved Padres pitchers with his glove and arm, stolen three bases without getting caught and just generally carried himself like he was born to be a major leaguer.
"I'm letting the game come to me, knowing I don't have to force things too much," Venable said. "You can want so badly to do well that you try too hard almost. I can let things happen because I have confidence in my ability. Confidence comes from feeling you belong."
Perhaps that was the greatest lesson from four rigorous years as an Ivy Leaguer. Whatever he studied in the classroom and labs, Venable's applying what he learned about himself to his career.
To read the rest of this story, as seen in the San Diego Union Tribune, please click here.