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Ever since Wade Gaynor was drafted by the Tigers in 2009, he has steadily moved up the organization’s ladder.
The 26-year-old Kentucky native, who said he has learned different lessons at each step along the way, learned a valuable one to start this season: Patience is a virtue.
“A big goal of mine [this year] was to make it to Toledo,” Gaynor admitted. “I played in Double-A last year, and I started there this year.
“I enjoy my time in Erie, so there was no frustration [when I started there]. But there was a strong desire to do well at that level so I could move up here.”
Gaynor’s patience was rewarded thanks to a fine start with the SeaWolves which saw him bat .293 with six homers and 16 RBIs in 27 games. He was called up to the Mud Hens in mid-May, which proved Gaynor had learned another lesson: Focus on playing well and not on being promoted.
“It’s not easy, but I think everyone has to learn that lesson,” Gaynor said. “You think, ‘I should get moved up,’ or ‘I could play there’ — even when you’re in rookie ball.
“So you can’t think you are better than the level you’re playing at or you’ll get humbled pretty quick.”
Gaynor struggled early in his time with the Mud Hens, although a hot stretch in August — he hit .267 in his first 13 games this month — has raised his season’s marks to .207 with six homers and 28 RBIs in 71 games. Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said Gaynor is a respected member of the team because of the way he plays the game.
“Players accept and respect guys who run every ball out, and who play hard whether they’re going good or bad,” Parrish said. “Other players are never going to complain about players who are playing as hard as they possibly can. …
“I think Wade falls into that category. Even when he’s struggling, you try to find ways to get him into the lineup because of the way he goes about his business.”
Gaynor has proven valuable to the Hens because of his versatility, filling in well in both rightfield and leftfield as well as at third base and first base.
“The kid is a good athlete — he can run, and he’s got power,” Parrish said. “But he can play left and right, third base and first, and he probably could play second if you needed him to.
“He’s one of those guys who is a hard-working kid with a good attitude.”
Gaynor said he enjoys playing multiple positions.
“When I was younger, my dad would make me play every position on the field,” he said. “I think it’s an advantage to play multiple positions, because it gets me in the lineup a few more times than I might have been.
“And it’s fun to come to the ballpark every day when you don’t know where you’re going to play.”
Despite his offensive struggles in his first season with the Mud Hens, Gaynor has learned a couple more lessons.
“Triple-A is a lot of fun because you play in nicer ballparks in bigger cities,” he said. “There are older guys who are fun to play with. But it’s also a tougher level because you play against guys who have played at the major-league level.”
■ Position: Infielder/outfielder.
■ Ht./Wt.: 6-3, 225.
■ Hometown: Hawesville, Ky.
■ Age: 26.
■ Family: Wife, Neena; son Josey, nine months.
■ Nickname: Never have had one. Everyone calls me Wade.
■ Favorite way to spend time away from the field: Anytime I can go hunting or fishing, I enjoy it.
■ Baseball player you admired growing up: Barry Larkin.
■ Favorite sport other than baseball: Basketball. I played in high school, and I wish I could have played longer.
■ Favorite music: Country. I like Jason Aldean, Gary Allan, and George Strait.
■ Favorite meal: Anything breakfast … pancakes, eggs.
■ Favorite beverage: Cherry Coke.
■ Favorite movie: Gladiator. It was on the clubhouse a couple of days ago, and it seemed to be everybody’s favorite.
■ Favorite TV show: I watch the news a lot — until I get fired up and have to turn it off.
■ Do you have a Twitter account? No social media.
■ Person you most admire: My dad, Randy Gaynor, and “papaw,” Bob Huddy. Both are men of faith who have shown me what it means to be a man.
■ If you could meet any person, who would it be? I’d love to meet John the Baptist. The description of him in the Bible – living in the wilderness and all – sounds cool to me.
■ Top sports moment: Getting drafted comes to mind, and in college we played in the regionals. And a lot of guys on this team played on the team that won the Florida State League championship in 2012.
■ Baseball superstitions: I will chew the same piece of gum, especially if I have a few hits. As soon as I make an out, I throw it out.
■ Something nobody knows about you: I’m from a county with exactly two stoplights. There are 8,000 people in the county, and everyone goes to the same high school. There’s nothing there. No McDonald’s, no Walmart.