Cole Garner is listed in the Colorado Rockies' media guide as being a switch-hitter from McMurry, Pa.
At least half of those two details used to be true.
Garner, an outfielder who hails from Buena Park, took up switch-hitting at the start of the 2007 Modesto Nuts season. He was coming off a great 2006 season at Asheville, in which he hit .302 with 19 homers and 88 RBIs batting strictly from the right side.
The switch to switching did not go well. Garner hit .213 for the season with eight homers and 33 RBIs and little success from either side, while the follow-through from his left-handed swing aggravated a nagging arm injury. Add recurring foot problems to the mix and Garner's 2007 campaign was a difficult grind.
There was one clear highlight. His grand slam on July 1 at Stockton Ballpark fueled a wild 17-10 Nuts' victory over the Ports that began Modesto's amazing 23-6 sprint through its July schedule.
Garner came back to Modesto this season batting strictly from the right side, and at 23 remains young enough to be able to chalk up last season as a learning experience.
And, by the way, he's never been to McMurry, Pa.
Brian VanderBeek: Coming off that 2006 season, why did you make the decision to try switch-hitting?
Cole Garner: For a first-year switch-hitter I thought I did well. Sometimes when I was scuffling at the plate or my swing didn't feel right I'd flip over and hit left-handed, just to see the ball from a different side. In batting practice I had no trouble hitting homers from the left. So when my arm got healthy they said they wanted me to try it for a year, just to see how it went. Toward the end of last year and in winter ball my arm couldn't handle it, just from finishing the swing. In winter ball I couldn't play the field because I couldn't throw.
BVB: It made the decision easy to go back to hitting exclusively right-handed.
CG: I'd rather be able to throw and play the field than to hit left-handed.
BVB: Looking back on last season, do you look on it as a wasted year?
CG: No, not at all. It was a learning experience. To be able to go through that -- what I went through mentally -- is huge. Just dealing with failure in this game of failure that we play, and dealing with the adversity, has made me a better player.
BVB: That's one of the things that player development people have told me for years, that they want their kids to experience some failure at an early point in their career. The reasoning is, if your first failure comes at the major league level, there's no way to handle that.
CG: I had a good year in Asheville, but even in that year I struggled at the beginning. I guess I'm a slow starter. Right now I'm seeing the ball well. The hits will come. This is something you have to deal with as a ballplayer and if you deal with it the right way it will improve you as a player.
BVB: You probably figured you were headed back to Modesto this season, so you had resolved that in your head before spring training.
CG: I pretty much knew I was coming back here.
BVB: That still has to make it difficult when you come back into this clubhouse and see all the new guys, knowing your teammates from last year are in Tulsa.
CG: It makes it a lot easier to bear knowing I'm only 4½ hours from home, and when we go south I'm 45 minutes from home and I get to see my family. Having Coach Espy here to work with is a huge plus, and having Jerry here is great. I learn so much from these guys.
BVB: The conversation in the off-season with the Rockies about not switch-hitting, I guess it was pretty easy.
CG: I spoke with our hitting coordinator (Jim Johnson) and we probably had an hour-long conversation, just about what was best for me. I had another off-season of rehabbing my arm and they don't want me in a position where I'm going to be vulnerable to injury. My arm is doing a lot better.
BVB: How was your adjustment back to hitting only from the right side, especially the first time you stepped in against a right-handed pitcher?
CG: I didn't get many at-bats in spring training. I had problems with my feet last year, and they're still going on. I have small fractures in both of my feet. I'm getting some orthotics and some custom-made gel insoles. They've told me that even if I stayed in a wheelchair and completely off my feet for six months they might not heal. I have to deal with it. I've switched from spikes to molded cleats, and that helps a little, and I have to do all those little things to keep me on the field. I've seen the right-handed pitching my whole life. It's weird seeing it again.
BVB: The one hit last year that I thought turned around the team was your grand slam in Stockton. It got the team going.
CG: We had a great July. We just really came together last year. It was awesome. It didn't matter who was up, because that player knew there were people in the dugout who wanted him to get a hit just as badly as he did. That's a really good feeling.
BVB: I've seen a lot of teams through the years that didn't have that camaraderie. One guy would be at the plate, and the guy in the dugout was rooting for him to fail so that he would be the one to be promoted.
CG: We never thought that way and it showed. We had played together for three years at that point, and that team really had good chemistry.
BVB: Even with the early struggles at the plate, this team already has shown some of that.
CG: As the year goes on, it's only going to get better.