Cincinnati Reds third baseman Nick Senzel went from Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tenn., 17 miles to the University of Tennessee to play baseball and get a business degree.
An accounting class got in his way.
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“I remember taking accounting,” he said. “Then I remember calling my dad (Jeff) and saying,’this just isn’t for me.’”
Senzel decided to be a drug and alcohol abuse counselor instead.
“The only way to do that was to become a psych major,” he said. “I had some past family stuff, everything I’ve been through, I could help people through those types of situations. I feel like I can help people that struggle with that.”
Senzel was not drafted out of high school and committed to play at the University of Georgia but the Bulldogs made a coaching change during his senior season and he switched to Tennessee as a walk on.
While with the Vols, Senzel was a designated hitter as a freshman, played second as a sophomore, then moved to third as a junior but filled in at shortstop to cover an injury.
The value of playing more than one position is what the Reds hope Senzel can do at the Major League level. They have alternated him between short and third this spring.
“We know he’s a really good player,” manager Bryan Price said. “He’s been a professional. I don’t think he is overwhelmed.”
It is likely that Senzel will end up in the minor leagues at least to start the season but could help the Reds at some point.
“We have to get him ready for the season,” Price said. “If he can play shortstop, he will add to his value.”
Senzel, the Reds’ top propsect, in his first Major League camp since he was the team’s top pick and second overall in the 2016 draft. He has played third exclusively since signing with Reds. His bat isn’t a question.
The 22-year old played just 10 games at rookie league Billings before moving on to Dayton where he hit .329 with seven home runs and had 36 RBIs in 58 games. Last season Senzel hit .325 in 62 games at Daytona and a robust .340 in 57 games at Double-A Pensacola. Combining the two stops, he hit 14 home runs, 40 doubles and three triples. He had symptoms of vertigo at the end of the season but is fully recovered.
Senzel is hitting .273 in 10 games this spring.
By playing him at short some this spring the Reds hope to ease his transition. Jose Peraza is the shortstop after Zack Cozart signed with the Los Angeles Angels. If Senzel can master shortstop the Reds would have the flexibility to move Peraza back to second.
“In spring there’s not as much on the line,” Price said. “You have all the early work time. You’re not playing every single day. You can exhaust yourself with your workload in the morning. Just the weight of playing a new position in a game that counts is way different than a spring training environment, where you can take more chances. To take on a new position during the season would be very challenging.”
Psychology can help Senzel with baseball, he said.
“When your struggling on the baseball field, you have to get to the root of the problem,” Senzel said. “It helps you with the mental aspects of baseball. You have to look at yourself in the mirror sometimes but there are resources you can fall back on.”
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