Whenever quarantine fully ends, Austin Slater will be significantly more prepared to save par. Slater and his roommates set up a couple of golf holes in their backyard in Arizona and have been practicing their chipping to help pass the time.
"My golf game was almost nonexistent before the quarantine, and now I have a somewhat OK -- I wouldn't even call it decent -- short game," Slater said on this week's Giants Insider Podcast.
Throw in video games and dips in the backyard pool and Slater is making the most of his free time. But it's not all fun and games as he waits for the season to return.
Like the rest of the Giants, Slater is working out, throwing where he can, and taking swings to try and stay in game shape. He also happens to be somewhat involved in the ongoing process to return to the field. Before the Giants unexpectedly broke camp, Slater was selected as the unofficial MLB Players Association representative for the clubhouse.
"Technically ... officially ... I'm not the players rep. The elections aren't until June. The players union holds elections every two years in June," Slater said, smiling. "However, I went to the meetings this winter as our representative and obviously there's been -- not only the coronavirus -- but a lot of issues coming up, and I've been lucky enough to be included in a lot of those text conversations and phone calls."
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Matt Cain was the longtime Giants player rep and Cory Gearrin, who has shown a strong interest in politics even while playing, took over after that. When Gearrin was traded in 2018 the Giants temporarily held the position vacant, with Brandon Crawford taking over on an interim basis last year. Each team meets with Tony Clark and the MLBPA every spring and that's when Slater found out he had been elevated.
"When the players union guys came in for spring training, they asked who's our players rep, and (Buster Posey) said, 'Austin Slater,' " Slater said. "It was a semi-official election, I guess, if Buster deemed me to be the players rep. Crawford did as well.
"Obviously I feel blessed and lucky to be supported by those guys. Obviously our locker room has a lot of veterans, and that they trust me like that, it means a lot to me for sure."
The rep serves on the MLBPA executive board and is responsible for meeting with players on his team and representing them in the resolution of any issues at the club level. It generally is not a very dramatic role, but Slater has found himself on lengthy calls at a time when players are not only dealing with the coronavirus, but also have been expressing concerns about the way free agency has gone the last couple offseasons. The collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season.
Slater said there have been some long calls with other reps, but it's something he enjoys. It's also something he is well-suited for, and perhaps that's why he was such an easy choice. In addition to being a Stanford alum, Slater is the grandson of former Jacksonville mayor Ed Austin.
"That's something that I'm willing to do and it's something that interests me," Slater said of the additional work. "I love baseball, I love the finer details of the sport that maybe a lot of guys either don't pay attention to or don't know about, and I think it has a huge impact on our future careers and the future of baseball.
"It's something that I've taken a personal interest in."
On the podcast, Slater also discussed how long it would take him to get ready for a season, originally getting drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers, taking grounders at second and short and much more. You can download it here.