When the Red Sox hold their first full-squad workout this Saturday, minor league infielder Nate Spears will have already been hard at work in Ft. Myers for more than a month.
(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
“I’ve been down here since the 16th of January and reported on the 17th,” Spears told me. “It was the first week that they opened the complex. It was me, Oscar Tejada, and a bunch of rehabbing pitchers.”
The 25-year-old infielder was not only eager to get to work, but is also looking to stand out among the 61 players invited to major league camp.
“It’s my first big league camp,” Spears said. “I’ve gone back and forth and played in some big league spring training games, but this is my first big league camp and I’d like to make a good first impression and get my foot in the door a little bit.”
Spears earned the invitation to Boston’s camp with an outstanding season last year at Double-A Portland. Nate was an Eastern League All-Star as he batted .272 (.380 OBP/.463 SLG) with 30 doubles, 4 triples, and 20 home runs. The Sea Dogs second baseman led the league in walks with 84 and runs scored with 104.
“It was a fun year,” Spears said. “It was one of the best years that I’ve ever had professionally and I hope to reproduce it this year and maybe be a little bit better. I’ve been working hard this off-season. I’ve been lifting hard and hitting in the cages. My body feels great and I’m looking forward to getting out there on the field.”
Nate was a 5th round draft pick out of high school by the Orioles organization in 2003, before being traded to the Cubs for Corey Patterson in 2006. The Red Sox signed him as a minor league free agent prior to last season and moved quickly to re-sign him this year.
“They came to me at the end of the year and locked me down pretty quickly,” Spears said. “I really didn’t want to test the waters. The Red Sox are a first-class organization and they’ve treated me with the utmost respect ever since I’ve been here. They’ve become like a family and it’s been great.”
Spears has Triple-A experience from his time in the Cubs organization and is a strong candidate to begin this year as Pawtucket’s starting second baseman. His chances of earning that spot could be helped by the fact that he posted big numbers last year while playing for the PawSox’ new manager Arnie Beyeler.
“Arnie is a great guy and we clicked from the beginning in spring training,” Nate told me. “He tells you what he expects and then lets you go out there and play. It’s been fun playing for him and I hope to play for him this year.”
Spears not only had a great season on the field in 2010 – he ended the year by getting married to his girlfriend Amy on New Year’s Eve in Indianapolis. They hope to take a real honeymoon next off-season, but for now, a trip to Ft. Myers two weeks after the wedding was just fine.
“She came down to Florida for a week with me when I drove down, so we had some time together,” Nate said. “After the wedding was over, I wanted to get down to Florida as soon as possible. I’m ready to get after it. It’s been a long, productive off-season and I’m ready to see what it has done for me.”
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