Trammell emanates confidence, love for game

Former two-sport star combines passion, positivity and athleticism

Taylor Trammell finished last season with a .281/.368/.450 slash line and 41 stolen bases. (Nick Falzerano/Dayton Dragons)

By Chris Tripodi / MiLB.com | March 30, 2018 11:30 AM

When Taylor Trammell was growing up, he had two loves in the world of sports -- baseball and football. But as he grew older, that love underwent a significant shift, one that pushed him from the gridiron to the diamond.

"I could be 0-for-4, 4-for-4, whatever ... I feel at peace when I'm running out to the outfield," the Reds No. 3 prospect said. "I take myself back to the time when I was younger and I'm just like, 'This is amazing.' I close my eyes most of the time when I run out to the field and focus on my breathing, and the smell of grass doesn't get old. I just try to put myself in a happy place."

For Trammell, that happy place is -- and always has been -- on the baseball field, but he was arguably more accomplished as a football player in high school. He was Georgia's Class A Offensive Player of the Year in 2015, led the state with 2,500 rushing yards and 38 total touchdowns and broke the Cobb County rushing record, falling 650 yards shy of the state record set by Herschel Walker -- another notable two-sport star from the Peach State.

That kind of success on the football field led to increased attention on the recruiting trail, and that's when Trammell realized his heart wasn't as attached to the pigskin as it once had been.

"Playing football when I was younger was fun, not too many people tried to put pressure on me," he said. "In the latter part of my career -- my junior and senior seasons -- I went on some visits to colleges and saw guys who weren't having fun. They would go out there and complain.

"I was having fun at times, but it wasn't the same as when I was playing baseball. The love that I have for baseball is way different than football. I can sit there and watch football or baseball all day, but on the [baseball] field, I can be out there all day and not complain once."

Video: Dayton's Trammell plates two with a triple

It certainly helped that Trammell was a dynamic baseball player too. He hit .515 as a senior, stole 29 bases and ripped 20 extra-base hits -- nine home runs, four triples and seven doubles -- while flashing the tools and athleticism that enticed Cincinnati to draft him with the 35th pick in 2015, even though he had committed to play baseball at Georgia Tech. It enabled him to make one of the easiest decisions of his life.

"Playing professional baseball has always been my dream, and going into the Draft I was like, 'I have a chance to not go to college right away,'" Trammell said. "I probably knew a few hours after [I was drafted], because this was something I'd dreamed of.

"I passed up a scholarship to Georgia Tech, which is a phenomenal school, but at the same time I had confidence and felt I was mature enough to handle being out on the road at 18, being 2,000 miles away from my parents and knowing I can handle myself like a man in tough situations and take on the challenges of being a professional athlete."

Trammell was confident he could thrive on his own as a result of his upbringing. The 20-year-old's makeup and maturity have received positive reviews, and he knows exactly why.

"[My parents] really taught me how to be a man," he said. "I learned my work ethic from [my dad]. [He] never pressured me into doing anything. He wanted me to play football, but he never told me until after I got drafted. He always taught me, whatever you do in life, be the best at it. Take pride in what you do and don't settle for anything less.

"My mother sacrificed a lot for us. She sacrificed so much ... she really taught me to love others."

Trammell hit the ground running at Rookie-level Billings, batting .303/.374/.421 with 17 extra-base hits and 24 stolen bases in 61 games with the Mustangs. Knowing football was in the rear-view mirror, summer took on a different meaning for the 2016 compensation-round pick.

"It didn't really click until August when football actually started, because I was usually doing summer practices and seven-on-sevens," Trammell said. "I was playing baseball and didn't have to stop anytime soon, so I was having a blast. The transition from not playing football [was really fun], I didn't have to get hit anymore."

Despite all of his prior success, Trammell slumped out of the gate at Class A Dayton in 2017 and was batting .221/.315/.312 with one home run through 20 games after going 1-for-7 in a doubleheader against Great Lakes on April 29. They were the first real struggles the then-19-year-old outfielder had encountered and that got to him.

"[The weather] was cold, but the biggest thing was confidence," Trammell said. "I would go 0-for-2 in a game, panic and think way too much, and I just got myself in a bit of a slump. After that, I really just gained a lot of confidence understanding that I'm here for a reason, and instead of proving myself to other people, I'm just going to prove to myself that I deserve to be here."

Video: Dragons' Trammell goes yard

Trammell did exactly that, registering three multi-hit games over his next five contests and raking to a .292/.378/.476 slash line with 42 extra-base hits -- 20 doubles, 10 triples, 12 homers -- 33 stolen bases, 68 RBIs and 67 runs scored in his final 109 games. And after regaining his confidence following that minor blip on the radar, Trammell has yet to let it fade.

"I know that I'm a big leaguer in the Minor Leagues right now, and the confidence is helping me so much because confidence is everything," he said. "Now it's like, 'I know that I'm about to get a hit off this guy. If he puts it anywhere in the strike zone, I'm crushing it. This guy has no way of getting me out. And if he does, I did something wrong, he didn't do anything right.' It was more of a mental thing -- getting my pitch and absolutely crushing it, not getting my pitch and not missing it."

That confidence can frustrate his teammates at times, but not for the logical reasons. As it turns out, Trammell isn't much of a resource when it comes to providing intel on opposing pitchers.

"Some guys kind of get a little upset at me when they ask me about a guy, because they'll ask, 'How's his curve?' and I'll say, 'Eh, it's OK,'" he said. "It's tough for me to bring myself to say, 'This guy is pretty filthy' or 'This guy has nice stuff,' because in my mind, I've given him the advantage. There are few guys I give credit to when they're pitching."

The combination of elite athleticism, confidence and positive frame of mind has fueled Trammell to this point. And he was able to pinpoint one moment during Spring Training this year where that trio of traits came together to produce his desired results.

After striking out twice against a left-hander Saturday, the left-handed hitter -- who had a .717 OPS against southpaws last season compared to an .860 OPS against righties -- was upset he missed some pitches he could have hit. But his teammates were hitting and scoring runs, so instead of sulking about the strikeouts, he stayed positive and even thought back to a camp visit from a Reds legend.

"We actually had Joe Morgan talk to us about a week [earlier], and one thing that stood out was when he said, 'Go back to the time when you fell in love with the game of baseball.'" Trammell said. "And I went back to the time I hit my first home run and how happy I was -- not a care in the world -- and thinking like, 'Wow I love this game, I'm just having fun.' And I went out there my last at-bat and said, 'Don't even think, have some fun.'

"I got a good pitch, hit the batter's eye and got a triple. I thought positive, and did thinking positive have anything to do with that triple? I truly think it did."

That attitude plays into everything the 20-year-old speedster does on the field and stems in large part from his past athletic successes, not only on the baseball field but as one of the top football players in his state.

"[Football] taught me to grind everything out. I take pride in always giving 100 percent, whatever I'm doing, however I feel," Trammell said. "I had the same attitude that I want to be the best person out here and nobody can hold a candle to me, and that's just the mind-set that I had. I went out there, and whatever I did, I really did try to be the best at football and baseball. Football helped me a lot with my reads in the outfield, my instincts and just trusting everything I did and having a little bit of an edge over other guys."

Offseason MiLB include

Most scouts feel Trammell's speed and instincts will help him stay in center field, but others believe a 45-grade arm -- his only tool rated as below-average -- might push him to left. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound outfielder recognizes the need to improve that aspect of his game and keeps an open mind about his long-term position.

"My throwing is something I've worked on a lot and it's been huge," Trammell said. "I really focused on it with my trainer, Mike Butler, and I've really felt great. My throws have been a lot better ... but I still think [my throwing] needs improvement.

"Wherever I'm at, whether it's center, left or right, I'm going to give it my all. I'm going to continue to be the best defender I can be. I'm going to do whatever job I need to, and that is to make plays in the field, master the routine play and keep guys from getting extra bases -- that's my goal."

Trammell has several other objectives for the upcoming season, but prefers to keep those to himself. He does have a couple he's willing to share, and considering how he views his present and his future, neither is much of a surprise.

"One thing is to dominate," Trammell said. "Just dominate and, wherever I go, I want to win. I want to dominate and I want to win."

Chris Tripodi is a producer for MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @christripodi. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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