Golden rule: Work ethic defines D-backs star

Persistence helps overlooked youngster grow into All-Star slugger

Golden rule: Work ethic defines D-backs star

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When he speaks to youth groups or camps, Paul Goldschmidt tells them to have fun with whatever it is they are doing, but it's the second part of his advice that is the most powerful.

"And No. 2, if you work at it, that's how you get better and then you can do anything," the D-backs first baseman said. "That goes for school, music, baseball, your job, whatever it is. Only so much can come natural, but that's how you really improve, is putting in the hours trying to learn and get better."

Goldschmidt is an example of just how far hard work and a relentless focus on getting better can take you.

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And his story is also a cautionary tale that too often players are prejudged at a young age without acknowledging just how much they can improve over time.

Now batting ninth ... Paul Goldschmidt

D-backs catcher Chris Herrmann smiles at the recollection of playing against Goldschmidt when they were eighth-graders on Houston-area travel teams.

Back then, Goldschmidt played second base and batted ninth in the lineup.

Pitcher Kyle Drabek, a former first-round Draft pick, grew up near Goldschmidt and played with him through high school.

"He was still a good player growing up, but he was smaller, slower, more of like a contact guy, not a lot of power," Drabek said. "Once we got into high school he was about the same size, but around sophomore year he hit his growth spurt and started getting better and started playing third and first and started getting his power."

Goldschmidt, though, gained something far more important than an extra few inches between his freshman and sophomore years of high school. It was then that he began developing his work ethic, for which his father, David, deserves most of the credit.

"It wasn't just about showing up," Goldschmidt said. "It was about putting in the work."

Five days a week, Goldschmidt would hit the weights, run on the high school track and hit in the batting cage until his hands ached.

Paul Goldschmidt is congratulated by a teammate after hitting a home run for The Woodlands High School in 2006.AP

Transformation begins

When his sophomore season rolled around, Goldschmidt was bigger, stronger and a little faster. The results of his work were starting to pay off, but he still had a ways to go. On a stacked varsity team, he got all of seven at-bats.

"I still did the same thing after that year -- all the way through college to now," Goldschmidt said of his dedication to working out. "You really don't know mechanics, I mean you're just so young. But the one thing you can do is do the work. You can run the sprints, hit the weight room, hit in the cage. I'm sure I did too much work in the weight room and hit too much to where my hands were hurting and I wasn't really getting better, but that was all I knew -- just more swings, more swings, more ground balls, more ground balls."

It was enough to earn him a starting spot his junior and senior seasons, but he did not wow professional baseball scouts or college recruiters.

Goldschmidt didn't get any major college offers and was drafted in the 49th round by the Dodgers.

Texas State University offered Goldschmidt a scholarship, and he played there for three seasons before being selected by the D-backs in the eighth round of the 2009 Draft.

Paul Goldschmidt, who batted .321 with 33 homers last year, has quickly become a fan favorite in Arizona.Getty Images

Focus on the present

It's easy to look at the lack of scholarship offers, the eighth-round selection and the fact that Goldschmidt was not rated among the top prospects in the Minor Leagues and conclude that he used that as motivation.

But that would be wrong. Goldschmidt realized that when he started at each level of baseball he was not as good as the guys in front of him. But he did believe he could get better if he focused each and every day on doing so.

"It wasn't because I wanted to be a big leaguer," Goldschmidt said of when he began working hard in high school. "At that point, I just wanted to make the varsity team. Once that happened, I wanted to start, and once that happened, that summer after the sophomore year we had a lot of guys that went and played Division I baseball at big schools like Rice, University of Texas, and not that I was as good as those guys, but I could compete with them, and in a couple of years I hoped to get to play in college.

"Then in college, I didn't get to go to one of the top schools in the state or the country, but I got to compete against those guys and just figured if I could just keep getting better, who knows what could happen.

"It was the same thing in pro ball, too. I competed against the top prospects, and maybe they have more skills or they're better, but it was like, man, hopefully I can put in the work during the season and the offseason and hopefully get better and eventually catch up and get to the big leagues."

Outlook: Goldschmidt, 1B, ARI

Don't let your teammates down

Goldschmidt didn't just reach the Major Leagues, he became a star. A three-time All-Star, he's started the past two Midsummer Classics and he has twice finished second in the National League Most Valuable Player voting.

Yet he still works just as hard as ever, because it's not about personal goals or stats for him at this point.

"You want to get out there and help your team, and I know that's a cliche, but I believe it," he said. "This is a team sport and you don't want to let your teammates down. You want to make every play on defense because it's that pitcher's earned run and your team's run. You want to get on base so the next guy can drive you in."

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Steve Gilbert is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.