Chad Pinder is making a strong impression with the A's right now, but then again his road to the big leagues trained him to make the most of whatever opportunity comes his way.
When Pinder was drafted by the A's in 2013 as a shortstop out of Virginia Tech, they were loaded at that position with highly touted prospects such as Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson. But it was that infield depth that opened the door to Pinder gaining the versatility that's served him so well this season in Oakland.
In 2014, Robertson was entrenched at shortstop for Single-A Stockton and the A's shifted Pinder over to second base. Hardly viewing it as a setback of any kind, Pinder instead embraced that switch.
"Honestly, with those two guys in the organization, it opened up an opportunity for me to get a ton of reps at second base, which helped with my development more than anything," Pinder said on the latest edition of the A's Insider Podcast.
And how things change.
In July 2014, Russell was traded to the Cubs in a deal that brought starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland. Russell became a core piece to the Chicago team that won the World Series last season. The A's then dealt Robertson as part of a package to the Tampa Bay Rays after the 2014 season, getting Ben Zobrist as the main piece back. That eased the logjam at shortstop, and though the A's would add another stud shortstop prospect to the mix in Franklin Barreto that same winter, the shortstop position was back in play for Pinder.
But looking back, he sees it as a good thing that there was so much competition at shortstop while he was fighting to the climb the ladder of the farm system.
"I actually learned a ton from Daniel Robertson, just about how to go about getting ready for a game. And it's funny to say that because he's younger than I am," Pinder said. "I think having those guys (Russell and Robertson) was very beneficial to me, and over the past couple years with trades or whatever it may be, my opportunity switched over to shortstop."
Also in the podcast, Pinder shares how he juggled schoolwork with baseball over the past four years to complete his degree from Virginia Tech in communications. He graduated in December.
Pinder recalls playing games in the Arizona Fall League after the 2015 season, then heading over to the Mesa Public Library to finish homework. He crammed most of his classes into the baseball offseason, but he was pulling double duty during the 2016 season, even studying during road trips with the A's after getting his first call-up in August.
He looks forward to possibly putting his communications degree to good use someday, though that likely won't be any time soon. Pinder, 25, is looking like a potential piece of the A's future moving forward. He's assumed everyday shortstop duties as the A's await Marcus Semien's return from a fractured wrist, and Pinder's .896 on base-plus-slugging percentage is second only to Yonder Alonso on the team.
"I really feel like I want to stay in baseball as long as I possibly can," Pinder said. "Obviously you want to play as long as you can, but whether it be scouting, coaching - college or professional - or even getting into the sports broadcasting stuff, I feel like there's a lot of ways I can go after my playing career is over."