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Lessons learned in Korea play well for Adduci, Thames

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Jim Adduci and Eric Thames have traveled a similar road back to the major leagues.

Thames may have had a bigger pot of gold waiting for him Milwaukee — $16 million. Adduci, who signed a minor-league contact with the Tigers, is playing for the big-league minimum since being purchased from Triple-A Toledo.

But their stories are the same. Thames is 30, Adduci 31. Both were unable to find their niche in the big leagues when they were in their 20s. Both went to Korea and had great success. Both are back in the big leagues with a newfound belief that they belong.

“I do believe that playing there can teach you things that applies to playing here,” Adduci said. “There have been a lot of guys who have gone over there and hit, and had success. And when you have success, there is something to it.

“There is a mentality that you start to pick up.”

Adduci and Thames were asked to be something in Korea they had barely even dreamed of when they were coming up to the major leagues — stars.

“The demand for us over there is comparable — I am not saying we’re that kind of player — to being the superstar of the team,” Adduci said. “You are expected to produce. That’s what Thames is doing. He carried that over and he’s building on it.”

In a smaller sample, so is Adduci. He was hitting .349 at Toledo when he was brought to Detroit. And all he’s done since getting here is go 6 for 10 with two doubles, a triple and two RBIs.

“When you sign a deal to go over there, they obviously pay you very well, and with that comes expectations,” he said. “It’s no different than here, really. You have expectations. But the first time for me, I was trying to deal with it and I didn’t know how to.

“So I went over there with an open mind. And once I started to realize what they expected from me, that’s when I said, ‘I have to embrace this. I am going to do it.’ That’s what I carried back here.”

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He went from being the 25th man on a roster to batting third or fourth every day, and being counted on to carrying his team. Both he and Thames, who has hit 11 home runs in his first 70 at-bats with the Brewers, adapted and modified their games to accommodate that responsibility.

“I didn’t see Thames much before in the States, but I know he shortened up his swing a lot and his pitch-selection got real good,” Adduci said.

To survive in Korea, you had better need to hit breaking balls and off-speed pitches. And you need to hit balls that would be outside the typical major-league strike zone.

“Absolutely,” Adduci said. “It’s still something I deal with, but you really have to adjust to the breaking ball and to the strike zone. You have to become a good bad-ball hitter. You have to be able to hit pitches that are outside the zone, pitches that aren’t right down the middle, pitches that are in — you have to know how to get to those pitches.

“Because the strike zone is bigger. That’s what you start to learn.”

Thames, in an article in USA Today, talked about making the same adjustments. He was asked if he couldn’t have learned the same plate discipline if he stayed in States.

“You know how life is under certain circumstances, kind of like the butterfly effect,” Thames said. “I feel like if I stayed here, I probably would have gone on the same path that I was on. I was the kind of player that I put too much pressure on myself, tried to do too much. I was too much into my own head.

“When I went over there, I started to read a lot more, study inner peace, meditate, really embrace the mental-toughness training. I could focus on the process, and don’t worry about the results.”

Adduci discovered the same mental strength and inner peace about his game.

“The mentality is — it’s not a psyche job — can you deal with it on a higher level. Every game counts. There is no doubt about that. Over there it’s the same way, except it falls on you — and that’s OK because that’s what we’re paid to do.”

He didn’t have that same serenity, that same self-belief, when he was clawing up through the minor-league ranks.

“I didn’t have what I have now,” Adduci said. “It’s only been a couple of games here, but it’s like I already know that doesn’t matter anymore. It’s about today. What can I do today? Just keep moving forward.

“That’s what it was like over there. You have a good game it’s like, that was yesterday. Today is Game 7. That’s how I think now.”

Thames, in USA Today, articulated what Adduci is feeling a different way:

“My confidence feels different. My swing feels different. My mind feels different. It’s nothing like I felt the first time I was in the big leagues.”