The life of a minor league baseball player is filled with ups and downs.
Players compete day in and day out for the opportunity to make a big league roster. Some become lifelong minor leaguers, while others are called up and sent down multiple times in a season.
That is the case with Gwinnett Braves infielder Tyler Pastornicky.
Pastornicky was called up by Atlanta on April 23 before being sent back to the G-Braves on May 6.
“It’s tough, especially being a young player,” Pastornicky said. “It’s a part of the game, and it’s the situation I’m in now. I just have to deal with it.”
Pastornicky said he put too much pressure on himself to perform immediately. He pressed and wasn’t able to play as consistently as he had hoped. But G-Braves manager Randy Ready attributed Pastornicky’s struggles to a lack of rhythm, not confidence.
“He only played one game in two weeks, so his timing was off,” Ready said. “It’s difficult for a young player when you don’t play. Being in a limited role is difficult for any player, especially for one that doesn’t have much experience.”
Pastornicky was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the fifth round of the 2008 MLB draft before being acquired by the Braves via trade.
He was called up for the first time Sept. 28, 2011, but an ankle injury slowed his progression. Pastornicky persevered and made his major league debut April 5, 2012 against the New York Mets, hitting a triple (1-for-2). Five days later, he smacked his first home run at Houston, a solo shot off Kyle Weiland. But his time with Atlanta was short-lived.
“It’s not an easy road, but it’s the hand you’re dealt,” Pastornicky said. “You have to go through it sometimes. You can’t let the emotions get the best of you.”
Pastornicky views his time with the G-Braves as an audition for all major league teams, not just Atlanta.
“There are 29 other teams out there, so you’re out there playing for them as well,” Pastornicky said. “You just have to continue to play hard. No matter what happens, all you can control is how you play.”
Pastornicky said he would be open to a trade if one was on the table.
“Anytime a team acquires you or wants to trade for you, they want you. That’s always a good feeling,” Pastornicky said. “It’s part of the business, part of the game. I’ve been traded once already, so it’s one of those things that comes with it.”
Since being sent back to the G-Braves, Pastornicky is working on becoming a more versatile player. He was drafted as a shortstop, but has seen time at second and third base and is working in the outfield. For the Braves, there is Andrelton Simmons at shortstop and Dan Uggla at second base, along with other experienced players ahead of Pastornicky.
Ready said the G-Braves are focused on developing Pastornicky’s defensive skills while not overloading him and hurting his offensive prowess.
Pastornicky is a .300 hitter for the G-Braves and has nine RBIs.
“He’s obviously a good player. We have him at the top of the lineup for a reason because he’s kind of a spark for us,” G-Braves outfielder Todd Cunningham said. “He gets a lot of hits, a lot of at-bats. He puts the ball in play and gives himself a chance. From an offensive standpoint, he’s a good guy to have in your lineup. Who wouldn’t want a guy that’s hitting .300?”
Pastornicky relies on the experiences of others to help him through the tough times. His father, Cliff Pastornicky, went through a similar situation during his time in the majors. Tyler said the two talk often.
“He was kind of in the same situation as I’m in a lot, always getting called up and sent back down,” Pastornicky said. “He just tells me to stay focused and stay ready. You just hope that next call up is the last time you have to deal with it.”
Still, Pastornicky remains optimistic about his chances of landing in the major leagues for good.
“My goal is to get to the big leagues and stick,” Pastornicky said. “That’s everybody’s goal here. That’s what I’m striving for, and I’m going to do everything in my power to make that happen.”