Paul DeJong’s road to redemption
Redbirds shortstop Paul DeJong discusses the reboot he hopes will bring him back to the form that made him an All-Star with the Cardinals
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - It wasn’t that long ago that Paul DeJong was an MLB All-Star.
That was in 2019. Fast forward to 2022, and while five players he usually calls his teammates were representing the Cardinals at the Midsummer Classic in Los Angeles, DeJong watched from St. Louis on the AAA All-Star break.
“Definitely, I was reminiscing about my time in Cleveland in ‘19,” said DeJong when asked if he watched this year’s All-Star Game. “I just remember all the conversations with everybody, the camaraderie, that’s what I really miss the most.
“That’s what I miss about St. Louis as well.”
That 2019 season saw DeJong make his first All-Star team, hit 30 home runs for the first time, and seemingly cement himself as a key piece of the Cardinals’ core for years to come.
But in 2020, the wheels started coming off.
“Yeah, the COVID stuff hit me (DeJong came down with the virus in August 2020), and then, you know, I just never got in a groove last year,” DeJong explained. “This year I had a great Spring Training, I was confident going into the year. And it was just one of those things that I drifted away from what made me good, and I started feeling the pressure and putting too much on myself.”
That led DeJong back to Bluff City. The Cardinals sent him down to Memphis in early May, where’s he been ever since.
Their expectations of his stint with the Redbirds were clear.
“They told me I just needed to be consistent,” DeJong says. “That I needed to show them that I could be consistent and produce, and they kind of left it open-ended, which I understood.”
DeJong admits there are areas of his swing mechanically that needed work, but the biggest reboot he needed coming back to Memphis for this extended period was between the ears.
“So really it’s just been kind of a reset button for both my mindset and what I’m doing physically,” DeJong said. “But when it comes down to all of it, it seems to be the mindset that I go in with is going to carry me, as opposed to some mechanical fix that may work for a second, but then you start getting fixated on things like that and you just start spiraling a little bit.
“So for me, I’m just trying to have that consistent mentality.”
There are signs it’s working. DeJong was named International League Player of the Week in the week leading into the All-Star break.
Yes, he’s accomplished much bigger things in his career. But at the moment, it’s significant because it’s a sign that the work he’s been putting in to climb from rock bottom is starting to pay off.
“Yeah definitely, I mean I feel like just to be able to put together a good week and show that I can be consistent throughout a week is something I’m looking for,” DeJong said of the award. “It’s one of those things to have a good day, but then to continue on for a whole week, I think is big.
“I feel like I was really able to simplify a lot of things that I was doing and go out there with a clear head.”
He’s been in Memphis for nearly three months—so how close does he feel like he is to getting back to the Paul DeJong that showed so much promise just three short years ago?
“I feel pretty good right now. I feel like I’m trending in the right way. I feel like what I’m doing is consistent and repeatable.
“Going through the highs and lows has allowed me to look back on that and understand what my thought process was then versus what I want it to be now. So it’s all about now for me, and it’s about just preparing myself to play hard every night, and knowing that one of these times I’m going to get a call and pack my stuff up and get outta here.”
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