Malec: “I Always Felt Like I Underachieved A Little Bit”

There are many superlatives that come to mind when you think of Chris Malec. 

“Underachiever” likely isn’t one of them.  Unless, of course, you’re Malec.

The Yankees release of the humble 27-year-old this spring caught a lot of people off guard.  A career .285 hitter with two championship rings and a natural leader in the clubhouse, the 2009 Trenton Thunder Fan Favorite award winner had an idea something might be coming.

“I wasn’t totally surprised,” Malec said.

“There were a lot of good infielders lined up ahead of me.  I was a little shocked that my run with the Yankees had ended, but I’d always felt like I underachieved a little bit.  I never put up great numbers, I always put up good numbers, but I always felt like there was room to grow.  I felt like I could have hit .300 at times and driven the ball a little bit more.  Defense, I felt like at times…it was good at the end of last year, but the overall consistency over my career, I think that held me back.”

Like former Thunder outfielder Richie Robnett, Malec signed with the independent Atlantic League’s Camden Riversharks following his release.  Malec joins James Cooper (Newark), Noah Hall (Somerset) and Mike Gardner (Somerset) as recent Thunder players to find their way into independent baseball.

When Malec was released, he was given contacts throughout the baseball world by the Yankees, and one of those names happened to be former Phillie Von Hayes, who is currently managing Camden.

“This was the league I wanted to end up in, because they play a month earlier than everybody else,” Malec said.

Despite having played with Hall, Scott Patterson and others who’d passed through independent ball in the past, the friendly California resident wasn’t very familiar with, as some people would like you to believe, “the dark side.”

“I knew nothing about independent baseball,” Malec told me.

“This is all pretty new to me.  I asked guys very little when they came into Trenton from independent leagues.  I’m just trying to learn a lot about how it works and what’s going on.  But there’s a lot of good players in this league.  I think my best baseball is ahead of me, and my goal is to get picked up as soon as possible.”

But no matter where his career ultimately takes him, Malec will never forget the two years he spent at Waterfront Park.

“It was a blast,” he told me.

“I have a lot of really good friends from there, not only from the clubhouse but from the stands as well.  There are a lot of people I keep in touch with.  I enjoyed it, it was a great place to play and everybody treated me really well.”

With familiar faces in the Atlantic League and not too far away still in Trenton, Malec’s already feeling comfortable in his new digs.

“It’s kind of nice to be able to go back to this general area again,” he said.

“There’s a lot of people everywhere that I’ve played against, I’ve been around for a while.  It’s nice that on an off day or a day game, I can go up and have a beer with some of my buddies from Trenton, too.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

3 Responses to “Malec: “I Always Felt Like I Underachieved A Little Bit””

  1. mbn007 Says:

    I wish him the best of luck. If he displayed just a bit more power, he probably would have been one of the guys traded to the Pirates or someone the past couple of seasons. But right now, I am sorry to say that I can’t see much of an opportunity for him in teh Majors in the future.

  2. Miss Anonymous Says:

    So far, he’s been playing mostly 2B in the AtL, which is, I believe, his original defensive position. And, unlike the INF corners, it isn’t a stereotypical power hitters position.

    I can understand Malec’s point of view as far as never being complacent, but in terms of work ethic and the way he played the game, he certainly has nothing to hang his head about from his time in the Yankees org.

  3. thunderbaseball Says:

    I know Mal is a very humble guy, but I was borderline shocked when he told me he underachieved. You look at what he accomplished…and it’s hard to agree. But if he hit .300, he’d likely say the same thing and feel like he could have hit .320. He’s that kind of guy.

    Malec told me he was going to play second base…I actually should have put that in the article, but that came up in our pre-interview chat and wasn’t on tape, so I forgot to include it. Bad job by me there.

    Malec played a grand total of one game at second for Trenton in 2008, and 14 in 2009.

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