PEORIA, Ariz. — Walter Trammell spent more than nine years in the Navy as a linguist. After a stretch in the private sector, he wound up at the post office in 1993 and has been there ever since.
He clocks in at 4:30 a.m. for each shift. More often than not, he stays longer than eight hours.
Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.
At 59 years old, Walter Trammell is eligible for early retirement later this year and nothing would please his youngest son more than to finally see his father fish whenever he likes.
It’s an ongoing conversation Padres prospect Taylor Trammell won’t win anytime soon.
“Oh, he tries,” Walter Trammell said with a laugh, “but I’m a worker.”
All the Trammells are.
The youngest son in a blue-collar family, Taylor Trammell was the Reds’ first-round pick the same year he was Georgia’s high school football player of the year. He has been an all-star in the Florida State and Southern leagues. He’s twice been invited to All-Star Futures Games in big league stadiums and was the MVP in one of them. His ceiling as an athletic defender with plate patience and room to grow into some power has Trammell ranked among the top 30 prospects in all of baseball.
Impressive stuff, to be sure.
Of course, the way Trammell was raised, the 22-year-old outfielder knows he ain’t done nothing yet.
“I’m never really satisfied,” Trammell said. “I’m always working toward something, to the point where my friends and family get irritated. They want me to live in the moment. But I already lived in the moment when I was in the moment. ‘This is great … next.’
“What do I have to accomplish next?”
The question, naturally, is rhetorical.
The opportunity is clear as Trammell — acquired last summer in the Franmil Reyes trade — settles into his first camp with the Padres, who muddled their center field picture by dealing Manuel Margot just before camp opened.
Newcomer Trent Grisham appears to be the favorite to earn that vacated job, with perhaps a healthy Franchy Cordero challenging him this spring. Wil Myers figures to bounce in there from time to time (provided he remains a Padre) and Juan Lagares, in camp as a minor league signee, could win a job as a late-inning option off the bench.
None of that, however, has lowered Trammell’s sights this spring, however long the odds are that he jumps from Double-A Amarillo directly to the majors.
“If you’re here,” Trammell said, “you should be trying to make the roster.”
Toward that end, Trammell has been in Peoria since early February. The full team worked out for the first time Tuesday, but Trammell had already been rotating through outfield throwing drills with new coach Wayne Kirby for several days and continuing to refine the reimagined approach that fueled a late-season turnaround.
His go-ahead grand slam — propelling the Sod Poodles to a Game 5 win in the Texas League Championship Series — punctuated a postseason in which he recorded a .998 OPS, more than 300 points higher than his regular season numbers.
Days later, Trammell was happy to report to the fall instructional league — the oldest participating player, no less — to continue leading the conversation with a new employer that had afforded him plenty of space to work through last year’s struggles.
His left-handed stance was too narrow at times. Later, Trammell spread his legs too far. Opening up his hips created pull-happy tendencies even as he tried to stay left-center with his approach.
More than anything, Trammell was overthinking it all, he said.
“I know now I’m starting in a more athletic position,” Trammell said. “I feel more athletic. I got comfortable. That’s the one thing for me. I tried to get as comfortable as possible and make sure I’m aggressive at the plate. It’s attack, attack, attack.
“That’s where I am right now.”
Where he comes from was reason to believe it was only a matter of time before Trammell snapped back into form.
“I’ve always been a proponent,” Walter Trammell said, “of if you work hard, you’ll reap the benefits from it.”
Taylor’s mother, Cynthia, had retired after more than two decades of work at Sam’s Club when she took a job as Trammell began his freshman year at Kennesaw’s Mount Paran Christian School. Because that wasn’t quite enough to cover the bills that mounted, she added a second job cleaning a dental office several nights a week.
The labor wasn’t hard, but it was tedious enough — clean the bathrooms, straighten up the kitchen, vacuum the carpeting, wipe down the windows, etc. — that the Trammell family decided Cynthia shouldn’t be the only one working overtime.
In fact, a family effort could shave the commitment down to maybe a couple hours a night.
So Walter Trammell joined his wife after finishing his early-morning shifts at the post office. Both Taylor and his older brother hopped in the car, too, after finishing football or baseball practice. If their homework was on the heavy side on a given night, or if they had a game or a tournament out of town, the rest of the family picked up the slack.
“We’re there for each other,” Cynthia Trammell said, “regardless of what we have to do to make it.”
That way of life, of course, colored so much more than Trammell’s ability to put his nose down and get a job done. Among his most elaborate purchases since signing for $3.2 million was the new GMC he fell in love with this offseason, a replacement for the original used truck he bought after the draft.
You can even imagine his mother speaking — “If you think everything is going to be happy-go-lucky and ‘weeeeeeeeeeee,’ then that’s how your money is going to leave you” — when Trammell describes how it pained him to actually drive a new vehicle off the lot.
“I’m really big into depreciating assets,” Trammell said. “Everybody knows that when you buy a car new, 30 percent is gone right away. But I got the best deal possible — way below MSRP.”
Trammell hesitates to admit he gifted that original used truck to his older brother Kyle to celebrate him completing his masters in engineering.
He would like to do so much more for a family — his mom, his dad, his brother — that grounded his values while setting him up to soar.
Maybe they’ll let him one day.
But there’s still work ahead.
Taylor Trammell can understand that.
“I haven’t done anything yet,” he said. “I want to be in a situation where I’m helping this team win ballgames. … I want to help these guys win a World Series. That’s my goal. Of course, I have my individual goals that I keep to myself, but that feeling in the championship game last year, winning it all, and knowing that’s going to be magnified times a thousand for the World Series?”
His voice trailed off. He smiled wide and knowingly nodded his head up and down.
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