There was one place, however, where he’d yet to visit. Until this week.
Christian finally set foot inside the visiting clubhouse in the capital city for the first time on Monday as a member of the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
“It was a little bit different,” Christian said.
“Being over on the home side, you always see the opposing team come in, but being on the other side and coming in was a little bit different. But it still kind of feels like home over here.”
Now 31 years old and three seasons removed from a 24-game stint in the big leagues with the New York Yankees, the personable native of Lincoln, NE went 0-for-4 in his first game back in his old stomping grounds, but ultimately hit .333 (4-for-12) over the course of the three-game series.
Christian finds himself back in Double-A during his first season in the San Francisco Giants organization, despite spending a brief part of spring training in big league camp and the remainder of it with the Triple-A group.
“There was an injury that happened here that allowed me to have to come here,” said Christian, who’s batting .265 through his first 14 games this season.
“I don’t look at it as it being any different than being in Triple-A, I still have to come out here and play well every day. For me, to come back to Double-A — which I think is one of the hardest leagues, especially the Eastern League — it’ll definitely be a challenge. Having to come back here, if you put up numbers, you won’t be here long…it is what it is, and you can’t really do much about it. I think the only way you can look at it is from a positive outlook and say hey, you’re going to get your AB’s and you’re going to play and you have your opportunity to play well and (get out).”
The road has certainly been one with many twists and turns since Christian played for the Yankees in 2008, a stint in which he certainly held his own by hitting .250 and stealing seven bases in his first and, to date, only Major League service time. Christian signed with the Baltimore Orioles in 2009, but stayed in Triple-A Norfolk for the duration of the year before his season was cut short due to an arm injury.
Christian joined the independent Atlantic League’s Southern Maryland Blue Crabs early on during the 2010 season, looking to show teams that he was healthy, and he was quickly signed by the Yankees and assigned back to Trenton after a brief stay in Waldorf. Christian split last season between Trenton and Triple-A Scranton, and appears no closer to a big league return with the Giants than he was with New York last season. But considering the road Christian took to even get to affiliated ball in the first place — coming through independent ball and signing with the Yankees as a free agent — Christian is able to maintain a positive attitude.
“I feel like I’ve had to do double what everyone else had to do for my entire career anyway in pro ball,” Christian said.
“Being an All-American in college and having to go to independent ball and not being drafted, and then playing well every level and still not getting an opportunity. It’s one of those things for me where if I were to write a book, it would probably be a pretty good book just because of all the adversity I’ve had to go through in baseball. Just because you’ve played in the big leagues doesn’t mean you’re going to be an everyday player in the big leagues or that you’re even going to get back to the big leagues.”
For Christian, he says a big league return is a realistic goal, so long as he can stay consistent.
“My numbers at the end of the year are always pretty good, so for me, it’s not a matter of putting pressure on myself. It’s a matter of being as consistent as possible throughout the entire year,” he said.
“The difference between the minor league guys and the major league guys is simply that, the consistency of being able to put together quality at-bats. Once that starts happening, I feel like I’ll be able to have the numbers and I’ll be where I need to be.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com