MWL notes: Cubs' Singleton shows fortitude

South Bend center fielder finding strength following family tragedy

Chris Singleton was selected by the Cubs out of Charleston Southern in the 19th round of last year's Draft. (Rikk Carlson)

By Curt Rallo / Special to MiLB.com | April 26, 2018 11:30 AM ET

On a day when temperatures in South Bend peaked at 41 degrees after a low of 14 degrees, Cubs center fielder Chris Singleton struggled to focus on something other than his freezing hands as he dug in at the plate.

"I caught myself one at-bat trying to figure out if I should keep warming up my hands so I could feel [them]," he said, "or if I should try and time up the pitcher real quick."

Singleton managed to get a hit and a walk on that frigid April 9, but he also struck out twice.

The 21-year-old native of South Carolina caught a case of climate shock in his first stretch with South Bend.

"It's tough, but we have heaters in the dugout," Singleton said. "Before you're hitting, you're trying to warm up your hands. It's definitely different, but I'm not going to let that be an excuse. Everybody has the same temperature to deal with. It's a physical and a mental issue to deal with. I think I'm starting to find out how to deal with it without letting it affect my play."

Singleton, who is hitting .161 (9-of-56), isn't going to let the cold start spoil his outlook on baseball or life.

In raising his six-month-old son with his fiancée and serving as the guardian/breadwinner for his younger siblings after the death of his mother in the 2015 Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, Singleton has forged an inner strength that is a powerful weapon in confronting adversity.


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Singleton delivered an emotional "Love is always stronger than hate" message in the aftermath of his mother's funeral. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton was a high school track coach and speech therapist, as well as a minister at Emanuel AME Church, when she and eight others were slain in the mass shooting.

"Bad things have happened to me and my family, but I'm not going to allow that to make me any less of a man," her son said. "If anything, it made me stronger.

"The stuff that has happened to me in my life, there have been times when I thought, 'This is terrible. What am I going to do next?' But I always wake up the next day with a smile on my face, because I know I'm blessed in so many ways. It's the same in baseball, whether I'm hitting amazing or I'm having a slump, I know that I'm going to be OK the next day with a smile on my face."

Singleton, who played at Charleston Southern, is embracing the competition of the Midwest League.

"It's definitely professional baseball," he said. "Everybody is good. Every day you go out there, you have to give it your best. As soon as you start thinking about this thing too much or that thing too much, you're already beat. It's kind of going up there and competing. That's what I'm starting to learn.

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"This is my first full season, so I'm on-the-fly learning, but it's really getting in there and competing every single at-bat, every single day, coming to the field with the mindset that I'm going to compete. Here you have to get your mind right every single day."

Singleton, drafted in the 19th round in 2017, said the Cubs staff has helped immensely to adjust from college to pro ball.

"We have some great coaches who are helping us transition," he said. "A lot of us are in our first full season. We're coming into it with bright eyes, and we're energetic. I have to slow myself down and just play baseball. I want to learn, so I ask guys a lot of questions. The coaches know how to get us through the ups and downs and keep us even-keel."

He's determined to stay positive as he pursues his path to the Major Leagues.

"I think everybody has that one thing that drives them," Singleton said. "Obviously I have my family and also my mom. On my bats, I always have 'Can't Let Moms Down.' She's really my inspiration to keep pushing forward.

"I like to think that I'm blessed, because at a young age, my mom introduced me to the Lord. He's always been my strength, and I didn't really know it. Bad things happened to me, and I had a rock to lean on. I try to use my strength to inspire others, whether I'm doing an inspiration talk or they see me on the baseball field and look into my story, and see what I've gone through, and see me still trucking forward with a smile on my face knowing that I can get through whatever life throws at me."

In brief

Opposing sides: Former Major Leaguer Torii Hunter had an opportunity to see his son, Torii Hunter Jr., suit up for the Burlington Bees recently -- but it was from the opposing dugout. The elder Hunter, a baseball operations special assistant for the Minnesota Twins, was with Cedar Rapids when the Bees bullied the Kernels. Hunter Jr. homered and singled, driving in four runs in a 13-5 victory.

Booming Bees: Burlington blasted Quad Cities for eight runs in the first inning on Friday, April 20, and stormed to a 28-7 victory. Burlington banged out 24 hits, including grand slams by Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh.

Teen power: Fort Wayne's roster features the four youngest players in the Midwest League: Justin Lopez (17), Tirso Ornelas (18), Gabriel Arias (18) and Jeisson Rosario (18). The TinCaps have a total of 10 teenagers on their roster, and the average age of the team is 20.6 years, compared to the Midwest League average of 22. Three Padres affiliates field the youngest teams in their leagues: Fort Wayne, Lake Elsinore (California League) and San Antonio (Texas League).

Curt Rallo is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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