ANAHEIM – Despite their six-year playoff drought, the Angels are a team built on superstars.
There is Mike Trout, who is almost universally considered to be the best player of his generation. Shohei Ohtani, who broke form as a two-way talent; Anthony Rendon, just selected by the MLB Network as the Majors’ best third baseman; Albert Pujols, the only player to score at least 650 homers and 650 doubles; and even Justin Upton has been one of the most successful outfielders in the past decade.
But when it comes to the club’s most popular player among Angels fans, it’s tough to beat the downsizing
Fans can’t get enough of him, and neither can manager Joe Maddon, who raves about Fletcher every time he grows up.
“He’s the type who can be overlooked with today’s methods,” said Maddon. “I would take a few more. We all would. He’s a baseball player. He just does things right. He’s playing the game right. He has great skills. He sees things that other people don’t see beforehand. “
As Maddon noted, the 26-year-old Fletcher is not the prototypical high-strike-rate thug that is so prevalent in the modern game because of his other strengths, including his otherworldly ability to make contact. He led the majors by making contact on 92% of his swings last year, almost two percentage points higher than any other baseball player. He swung and missed only 3% of the time, which is also the best rate in the big leagues.
All of this helped Fletcher beat .319 / .376 / .425 in 49 games with three homers, 13 doubles, and 18 RBIs. And it led to some memorable moments, like the time he doubled up on a fastball from A’s pitcher Mike Fiers that was almost over Fletcher’s head. The pitch was 4.74 feet above the ground, according to the statcast, which was the highest hit for a ground strike in the majors in 2020.
But when you ask the quiet and easy-going Fletcher how exactly he is the best at the game when it comes to getting the bat on the ball, he makes it easy.
“I think it’s just a combination of good hand-eye coordination and a short swing,” said Fletcher. “I’ve always had those two things and in the last two years I’ve really refined my approach. I have a better approach and plan up there. “
Fletcher attributes his success to his longtime trainer Stan Grebeck and former Angels trainer Matt Martin. Fletcher has been training with Grebeck since he was 13, while Fletcher flies to Lubbock, Texas to work on his punching and mental skills with Martin.
That work helped turn Fletcher’s skills into the ideal ball player, and Maddon raves about his instincts and his ability to influence the game in so many facets as he’s also a versatile defender who can play just about any position on the diamond can. Fletcher is slated to be the club’s first second baseman in 2021, but saw ’20 action on second, short, third and right fields.
“This is what baseball players have looked like for 100 years,” said Maddon. “He has been taught properly and is a real pleasure to work with. That’s a baseball player, and that’s how a baseball player is supposed to play the game. “
Fletcher’s relaxed and calm demeanor also convinces the fans, and even Trout jokes that Fletcher is “not a man with many words”. But Fletcher has started coming out of his shell after three seasons with the majors, and he’s known for being competitive in the clubhouse. Essentially unbeatable in the Madden soccer video game series, he’s blowing out all comers and showing off the hand-eye coordination that makes him so special on the plate and on the defensive. He is also an expert on board games, poker and escape rooms and shows his mental sharpness.
It’s just impossible not to like him, and Fletcher is growing into a leadership role in the clubhouse because of his work ethic and passion for the game.
“If you were like an Avengers team, or a Marvel teammate, he would be like Captain America because he’s Mr. Baseball,” said Rendon. “It’s great. It’s definitely fun to be here.”
It also helps that Fletcher is a local product who grew up near Angel Stadium in Cypress, California and attended Loyola Marymount University before being drafted as a sixth classic in the 2005 Angels draft. His father, Tim, is an army veteran who has worked in construction for over 30 years, and his mother, Fernanda, is a dancer.
Fletcher still lives in Orange County with his wife, Kierra, which introduces him more to the fan base than someone who is on-site year-round. Unlike other athletes who are instantly recognizable due to their immense size, it is Fletcher’s relativity that makes him so popular with the fan base. He is also active in the church and on the face of the angels for many charitable purposes.
“It’s pretty motivating for me and it’s really cool to be recognized by the fans,” said Fletcher. “It shows me that I’m doing things right and somehow motivates me to keep getting better.”
He welcomes this support from fans and is also aware of the various memes created by younger supporters on social media during the 2020 season.
For example, after Angels won, the fans flooded the @ Angels account with pictures of Fletcher and the words: “You made David Fletcher happy“Or the other way around, if they lost the other club’s Twitter account with pictures of Fletcher and the words”You made David Fletcher unhappy.“And the angels’ favorite post in 2020 was one from Fletcher, who stood behind him with the shadow of a goat, which means he is the GOAT or” the greatest of all time “.
– Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) 3rd December 2020
“I’ve seen a bit of that,” Fletcher said of that Social media posts. “I thought some things were pretty funny.”
Fletcher can relate to the fans because he grew up with the angels – and his favorite player was Eckstein, of course – and even competed in the 2002 World Series parade with his parents and brother Dominic, who was designed by the D-backs in the second round of the ’19 draft.
Fletcher has one more photo of that day and his goal is to lead the Angels to another parade on Katella Avenue to give fans what they deserve after a tough stretch the franchise hasn’t been in since 2009 Playoff game has won more.
“Playing at home is a dream come true. I couldn’t be in a better situation,” said Fletcher. “But it’s been a long time since we went deep into the playoffs. I think our fans definitely deserve it.”