By Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Analyst
The odds of getting drafted to play professional baseball are slim. The odds of making it to the big leagues once drafted are minuscule.
The odds of a player drafted in the 34th round making it to the majors? Well, those are nearly nonexistent.
This week on “Flippin’ Bats,” I was joined by France to discuss, among other things, his unconventional journey to Major League Baseball.
In college at San Diego State University, France amassed a .337 career average with an OPS of .907. His head coach in college was one of the greatest MLB hitters of all time, Tony Gwynn.
Naturally, France learned a lot from Gwynn.
“He was a bag of knowledge,” France said of his coach. “He really tried to simplify [hitting] and make it as easy as possible.
“It came very easy to him. But he did the best that he could to simplify it for us. One of the main things he taught was just get into position and take your best swing. So now, even today, when I go up to the plate, that’s all I’m trying to do is get in a good position and get my best swing off.”
After a phenomenal three years at SDSU, France set his sights on the MLB Draft.
“The draft process was very weird for me,” he said. “My agent at the time told me, ‘You’re going anywhere from rounds 3 to 7.’ So that’s where my mindset went. Then the 15 through 20s started rolling around, and I thought I might be going back to school.
“Sure enough, the 34th round came along, and the Padres picked me up.”
Since that day, France just hasn’t stopped hitting. No matter the level, no matter the situation, no matter the pitchers — he just keeps hitting.
In 2019 at Triple-A El Paso, France hit .399 over 76 games and earned his call to the big leagues.
In 2020, he was traded to the Mariners, with whom he is currently hitting close to .350 and well on his way to his first All-Star Game appearance.
That’s not too shabby for a 34th-round pick.
All along France’s unlikely journey to the bigs, he has kept the words of wisdom from Gwynn in his mind: “Just get into a good position, and take your best swing.”
Just keep hitting.
Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the “Flippin’ Bats” podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @Verly32.
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