Francisco Lindor Is Making His Own Way

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 15, 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 06:  Francisco Lindor #12 of the Cleveland Indians runs the bases after hitting a grand slam in the sixth inning against the New York Yankees during game two of the American League Division Series at Progressive Field on October 6, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

For some players, the MLB offseason is an opportunity to rest and recharge before embarking upon another long season.

For Francisco Lindor, it's just another opportunity to get better.

The 24-year-old shortstop has been expanding his game ever since Cleveland made him the No. 8 overall pick in the 2011 draft.

Viewed as a standout defender from the onset of his pro career, he's been as good as advertised with the glove, racking up 32 DRSThat was all expected.

It's the progress of his offensive game that has been a surprise—and a pleasant one at that.

While he possessed an advanced approach, good bat-to-ball skills and plus speed throughout his time in the minors, no one envisioned him as a true power threat.

He could have easily carved out a place for himself as a defensive-minded shortstop with modest offensive skills—there's plenty of room for a player like that in a team's everyday lineup.

Instead, he burst onto the scene with 12 long balls in 438 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015 after never hitting more than 11 in a season in the minors.

He followed that up with a 15-homer season in 2016, before launching 33 bombs to lead all shortstops this past season.

Simply put, Lindor is changing the game with his unmatched combination of skill, style and swagger.

This passion, charisma and original approach are catapulting Lindor into the limelight. He spoke to Bleacher Report in an interview in collaboration with New Balance, which has Lindor front and center in its new brand anthem film, Fearlessly Independent, among others from the worlds of sport, music and culture.

This time of year, players are regularly seen on Instagram getting in some early work at the team's spring training facility or hitting the weight room hard in preparation for the annual parade of "best shape of my life" storylines.

Lindor also puts in the work, but he's not afraid to do things a little differently.

Perfect example: He spent part of this offseason in Japan practicing the martial art of Aikido and immersing himself in the culture.

That experience was in part a family vacation, yet he still found something to take back to the baseball diamond.

"It's all about balance and keeping in your center body under control; that's what I want in baseball—that's what I want when it comes to hitting," Lindor told Bleacher Report of his Aikido lesson.

"I never really understood what balance was, but now I know balance comes from your core, from the inside of your body, not from the outside. Everything is centered from the forehead all the way down to my legs, and I'll take that home for sure."

Lindor's success and personality have quickly made him a global ambassador for baseball, and that's not something he takes lightly.

"It means a lot, it shows that my family did a great job of raising this little kid that was wild, that was running around the neighborhood being crazy. They showed me how to be a young adult, and also when I became an adult they showed me how to represent the family and represent whoever you surround yourself with. It means a lot to me that New Balance thinks of me as a global ambassador. It's a dream and I'm humbled by it. I'm blessed to be an ambassador and to be able to bring kids a little bit of joy, a little bit of hope. To me, that means a lot—that's something that I've always wanted and now I get a chance to do it."

Yet even as he's become a star, he still brings the same youthful exuberance to the field each and every day.

"I like showing emotions. I like when a player smiles, when a player celebrates...I am human; I'm going to show emotions—I like showing emotion, I like smiling and I like enjoying the game. At the end of the day, it is a game."

For Francisco Lindor, it's all about becoming the best player he can be, and that's something he treats more like a responsibility than a goal.

"I owe it to the game. I owe it to the people that have helped me throughout my career, throughout my life. I've got to work as hard as I can to make sure I become the best player I can be."

If his career trajectory to this point is any indication, he's just getting started.

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