I wrote a story about Sonoma State outfielder Joe Slater in today’s paper that was long enough to make my editors cringe.
With their stress over my novel in mind, some Joe Slater stories were left on the cutting room floor.
My favorite one is about how Slater developed his work ethic. I kind of assumed he’s always had to be the hardest-working guy on his team due to his size (he was 5-foot-9, 135 pounds as a freshman at SSU).
Not true. He developed that drive as a senior in high school.
Slater was the starting first baseman as a junior at Rancho Cotate High and assumed he would keep his starting spot as a senior. His backup at first base was Brett Potter, not a guy he figured could compete for the job.
He figured wrong.
“Over that summer (Potter) lost a ton of weight and he got way faster and way better,” Slater said. “I thought I was going to walk into my starting job, but we got there and on day one of the season he was the starting first baseman. He worked his butt off and took me and that really motivated me.”
With that, Slater, suddenly a back-up, began arriving two hours before practice to hit and staying two hours after practice for more hitting. It worked: He won his starting job back. He’s had a similar routine at SSU, which explains why he’s batting a team-high .370 this season after getting 15 at-bats his first three years.
Five years later, he credits much of his success to Brett Potter, who he lost touch with after high school.
“Him beating me out was huge,” Slater said. “I think that’s a lot of the reason I’m still playing is that he worked so hard and made me better. That really motivated me and by the end of the year I was a lot better player. I doubt he knows what an impact he had on my life.”