After 'whirlwind' year, it's family time for Refsnyder at Thanksgiving

After 'whirlwind' year, it's family time for Refsnyder at Thanksgiving

NEW YORK -- Like many other 20-somethings, Rob Refsnyder was back in his parents' home this Thanksgiving week, wandering through the memories created in that Laguna Hills, Calif., childhood bedroom. The cardboard cutout of Michael Jordan, the old Lakers ticket stubs and, of course, Derek Jeter's face was somewhere on those walls.

After experiencing what he called a "whirlwind" season, in which the Yankees tested his ability to learn several new positions on the fly, Refsnyder is thankful for this opportunity to kick back with his loved ones, taking a momentary step back in time before he prepares for what promises be a pivotal year in his development.

"It's kind of just all about family and enjoying each other," Refsnyder said. "I have a pretty small family, so just spending time with my mom, my dad and my sister [Elizabeth], that's the most important part of Thanksgiving for me. A lot of food, a lot of laughter, storytelling; really fond memories. It's pretty traditional.

"A big turkey, a lot of food, some football. I always remember the Lions being on and John Madden's turducken. Just enjoying each other's company, hanging out with family, and kind of a lazy day."

Refsnyder said it almost feels "like I'm back in high school," which isn't necessarily a bad thing. His parents, Clint and Jane, are considering selling the house, so part of Refsnyder's offseason has included packing up old mementos and helping out with a garage sale.

That is in addition to the boxes that Refsnyder has helped fill for Boots In The House, a Chandler, Ariz.-based charity that is dedicated to supporting the emotional health and well-being of military service members from all branches of the U.S Armed Forces.

A University of Arizona alum, Refsnyder said he reached out to the charity and donated several items, as it gathers a baseball care package for the holidays -- mixing bats, gloves and balls with the snacks and toiletries that will be sent overseas to U.S. service members.

"Hopefully, it'll be a good distraction," Refsnyder said. "When they get some off time, they can play catch or throw a baseball around and have some fun."

As for Refsnyder himself, he did not take much of a break after a season in which the converted outfielder batted .250/.328/.309 in 58 games for the Yankees, appearing at five positions.

"I was just trying to do everything I could to try to stay with the team," Refsnyder said. "It seemed like, week by week, the role would change. So I tried to prepare as much as possible and tried to stay ready.

"I had never played third base or first base, and I hadn't played left field since my freshman year in college, so I was definitely nervous to play those positions at the highest level. That's kind of how the year went. I did a lot of things that I haven't been accustomed to, but I'm more than happy to do that."

One year removed from hitting .302/.348/.512 in 16 big league games, Refsnyder said that his offense needed to be better this past season. That prompted him to begin reviewing video of several hitters around the league -- including the Twins' Brian Dozier, the Indians' Jason Kipnis and the Tigers' Ian Kinsler.

If Refsnyder can incorporate some of the mechanics that have made those players successful -- adjusting his swing path and using his lower half more -- he believes it will help his power production in 2017.

"Obviously, I don't really know what's in store," Refsnyder said. "What I'm focusing on is some swing changes and mechanical changes -- and watching a lot of video, studying the hitters I've admired over the years. I'm trying to do certain movements and get my swing back to where I'd like. This past year or so, it's been a struggle; I felt like I was close and, right now, I feel pretty good."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.