Arizona Diamondbacks newcomer Steven Souza hasn’t missed a step with his new team

Mar 10, 2018, 8:43 AM
FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 file photo, Tampa Bay Rays' Steven Souza Jr. celebrates after h...
FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 file photo, Tampa Bay Rays' Steven Souza Jr. celebrates after his walk off home run off Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Jacob Barnes during the ninth inning of an interleague baseball game in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Arizona Diamondbacks have sent infielder Brandon Drury to the New York Yankees and received outfielder Steven Souza Jr. from the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team trade that includes five players, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)
(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Having just been traded and in the midst of moving into his new home in Arizona, Steven Souza Jr. sent Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo a very anxious text message while Lovullo was eating dinner on a Sunday night.

At the time, Lovullo and the Diamondbacks had decided that they were going to let Souza ease into his new home, and he would not play in a Cactus League game until Feb. 28.

“Around dinner time, I got a text from Steven and he said, ‘I am ready to go. Please, please, please put me in the lineup tomorrow,’ ” Lovullo said.

With the humor and wit of the second-year manager, Lovullo responded to the message the only way he saw fit.

“I told him that if he wanted to get his manager fired, that would be something I agree to,” Lovullo said.

Nonetheless, the eagerness to play only excited the Diamondbacks skipper, and Souza has demonstrated his willingness to prove himself, as exemplified by his fully extended diving catch that he turned into a double play against the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday.

“He’s prepared and ready. … We feel like we are in a really good place with him,” Lovullo said of Souza. “We are getting to know him a little bit. I know him from sitting across the field in the other dugout (with the Red Sox), and everything was coming together a few years ago when he was with Tampa. I am getting to know the guy now, and he’s a pretty special guy that is going to fit right into this culture.”

As for the transition into the clubhouse, Souza was able to fit in right at home with All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

During one of Souza’s first workouts with the team, the outfielder was placed in a batting practice group with Jake Lamb, A.J. Pollock and Goldschmidt, creating time for some friendly and beneficial interactions around the on-field cage.

Souza grew up in Washington playing baseball with Lamb, and Souza and Goldschmidt even went on a hunting trip together prior to their reconnection in Arizona.

“We went on a retreat together in Tennessee and spent a weekend together doing some hunting,” Souza said. “We had a lot of fun.”

The two veteran players went duck hunting, and they will now set their sights on something else — an NL West Division crown.

“He’s so humble and so much here to help,” Souza said of Goldschmidt. “Not just me, but everybody. That makes it easier for me to acclimate here, and I have been picking his brain about pitchers in the division. … He has just been super helpful and knowing each other before has helped, but we have only divulged in baseball a little bit. It’s been really fun to get this side (the baseball side).”

This offseason, Souza made a list of his goals for the season. The list was private, and Souza didn’t want to delve into his personal aspirations, but he did share the story of where he got the idea.

Prior to last season, Souza had never written down his goals during his four-year MLB career, but with the help and motivation of his chaplain’s father-in-law, the outfielder decided to try something new, and to Souza’s surprise, it was something that he will now look to continue every season.

“I sat down with him … he’s a very wise man, and he told me that John Wooden used to write down (his goals) and take a realistic look at his team and say, ‘This is what I think our record is going to be at the end of the year,’ ” Souza said.

“You fold it up, write it down, and put it away and forget about it, and then go play. That’s exactly what I did. He challenged me to do that. I did it, and it was actually a lot of fun. I wasn’t driven by him and I just thought realistically, this is what I could do, and we will see how it turns out (this year).”

With a readiness to play, the comfort of familiar teammates, and a list of goals that one can only assume is full of accolades, Souza hasn’t missed a beat with his new ball club.

“It’s been a lot of fun getting to know these guys,” Souza said. “They just want to talk baseball and get better, which I love. It’s a great group of guys and great teammates, and I am really enjoying my time so far.”

Penguin Air


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