GENEVA – Anfernee Grier put on his headphones as he exited Northwest Medicine Field the afternoon of Aug. 20.
The outfielder and designated hitter didn’t play in the Kane County Cougars’ 5-3 loss against Burlington that day as he had been struggling at the plate, hitting just .118 in the 10 games leading up to the contest.
That dry spell was part of what has been an up-and-down first professional season for Grier, who made the Midwest League All-Star Game after a strong start before cooling off a bit as his batting average dipped to .253 as of Aug. 31.
Despite the struggles at the plate, he wasn’t piping the blues through those headphones. He may only be 21, but he’s mature enough to understand that baseball is a game filled with more failure than success.
“I listen to all types of music, from gospel to R&B to rap,” he said. “It depends on the day and how I feel.”
Through Aug. 31, Grier has played in 119 games, a career-high. He had produced 24 extra-base hits, walked 58 times and stolen 29 bases.
“It’s a long season and been a grind, but I’ve enjoyed it so far,” he said. “It’s kind of surprising to me that we’re almost done with the season now. The hardest thing is dealing with the ups and downs of the game and dealing with failure. If you fail seven out of 10 times you’ll be a Hall of Famer, but getting used to that failure, that mental grind, is more difficult than the physical because I love being out there.”
One can go 0-for-4 and hit bullets right at guys four times and have nothing to show for it and one can go 2-for-4 with a bloop and a seeing-eye single and in the box score it looks like that player was really swinging the bat. Recognizing that and accepting it is a part of baseball that Grier now recognizes as part of the mental grind, especially once a player gets to August and September.
“You can also go 0-for-4 the next game, too, so that’s the toughest part of the mental grind,” he said. “You have to learn to deal with the good and bad and not let it overwhelm you. I feel like baseball is a great life lesson because every day is not going to be the best day, but you just got to continue being positive and move forward.”
Expectations in the organization are definitely high for Grier, who was Arizona’s top selection and chosen No. 39 overall in the 2016 draft. He was a 2016 Golden Spikes Award semifinalist who hit .366 with 12 home runs, 41 RBIs and 19 steals in 56 games as a junior at Auburn and certainly was attractive to teams throughout Major League Baseball.
His personal expectations also are high and he’s hoping to finish his first full professional season, which saw the Cougars qualify for the Midwest League postseason and play Cedar Rapids in the divisional round, on a high note.
“It’s been a long year and I just want to finish like I started,” he said. “It’s been a good year and my teammates have made it a lot easier and more fun. We come out and play around, but we’re serious when we need to be. But we have a really good time and that’s made it easier.”