Myles Straw admits he was shy at first.
It's understandable for a 23-year-old entering his first major-league spring training camp to be reserved, but even more so considering that camp is with the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros.
"It (was) a little uncomfortable," Straw told theScore.
But as the days went by, he found himself fitting in. The veterans did their part to make the young guys more comfortable, and Straw realized he had an opportunity - not only to leave an impression with the Astros' front office and coaching staff but to capitalize on interactions with some of the best baseball brains in the sport.
"You're kind of shy and you don't really know anybody, but after the first couple days (the veterans) come talk to you, introduce themselves, and they make you comfortable," he said. "I've probably talked to pretty much everybody here. I'm not scared to go up and ask these guys questions (now). It makes it a little easier and enjoyable."
Straw has tried to absorb as much knowledge as he can. He keeps his eye on everyone around the clubhouse and in the batting cage. He studies how to be a professional, how to remain humble, in hopes that he'll be the one being watched by a wide-eyed prospect one day.
"It shows you what it's like to be up there and what you should be doing every day," he said. "You walk around the clubhouse, and all these guys are great players and it's crazy how humble they go about it."
One interaction, in particular, could end up paying serious dividends. During his first week in camp, Straw struck up a lengthy conversation with reigning American League Most Valuable Player Jose Altuve - an exchange that might alter the career of the former 12th-round pick.
"If I want anyone telling me what to do it's probably that guy. I think he knows a thing or two about hitting," Straw said. "He was talking to me about my seasons and we went over the numbers. He told me, 'You want to hit more home runs than doubles.' He said my on-base (numbers) were there, I'm good enough, I'm quick enough."
Altuve is an authority on going from slap-hitting singles machine to legitimate power threat. He hit just 21 home runs over his first four major-league seasons before breaking out with 15 homers in 2015. He increased his home run tally to 24 in 2016 and matched that total last season.
"He was telling me, 'I used to have no power,' and then, he said, he talked to guys like Miguel Cabrera, and they told him he has more in the tank and can be better," Straw said. "He told me it's not hard to hit 10 good balls in the air out of the ballpark a year. For me, it meant a lot."
During a time when it seems like everyone is hitting home runs, Straw is certainly an outlier. In 1,038 games over three minor-league seasons across two levels, he's had just two go over the fence. Instead, he relies on his speed and strong ability to control the strike zone. That approach landed him a .290/.405/.360 slash line with 17 doubles through 127 games in Single- and Double-A last season.
But it also left him wanting more.
"I think everybody wants to hit home runs," he said. "I think (Giancarlo) Stanton wants to hit more home runs. That should be obvious for everybody.
"(Altuve) was telling me that if you hit 10 home runs then you're good, because regardless of how many home runs I'm going to hit I'm going to get on base. I am going to steal bases. That's kind of what he was saying. You don't want to get away from your on-base percentage but you want to slug higher. With a .400 on-base percentage you can slug around .900."
Straw isn't a candidate to land on the Opening Day roster. In fact, he's likely destined for several more years in the minors. That's part of life in an organization that's not only built to win now but also armed with a strong minor-league system.
"We have a really good organization from the bottom up and everyone pushes each other," he said. "It's a big brotherhood here. Everyone wants each other to do well. At the same time, we're all fighting for a spot. We just have fun with it, there's no hatred toward everyone."
Straw intends to take everything he learned this spring and incorporate it into his 2018 season: "You want to build yourself to be a major-league player, not a Double-A player. This year, I will take it a little bit more seriously, going to get stronger, work on driving the ball more, and we'll see how it goes."
And while he focuses on making himself the best possible player he can, he won't stop watching his peers in hopes of adopting anything he can incorporate into his own game.
"You can learn everything from everybody," he said. "There's always something to learn; whether it's right or whether it's wrong, there's always going to be something to pick up."
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)