The transition from high school to professional life for Brewers outfielder prospect Tristen Lutz became a little trickier when he was assigned to the Frozen Tundra with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
The most severe winter weather that the Arlington, Texas, native was used to was sleet back home, so when he first stepped up to the batter's box at Fox Cities Stadium, it definitely felt different.
"I knew it was going to be cold, but there was no way to prepare for it. I stood in the box and I felt super stiff, couldn't feel my hands," Lutz recalled. "It was definitely something I had never experienced before, but it's something you kind of just have to experience to get better at."
"I remember the first game against Beloit, he was playing centerfield," Manager Matt Erickson remembered. "He came in on a ball and he picked it up and he went to throw it — and he had a shot at throwing somebody out trying to score from second — and the ball just poofed out of his hand. He came in and he was like, 'I had no idea. My hand was frozen. I've never played in anything like this.'"
But beyond getting used to the cold — or stocking up on hand warmers — acclimating to professional comes with its own steep learning curve.
"There's been a lot, you know? I'm learning something every day," Lutz said. "It's a lot different than high school ball. It's a lot faster. Competition's a lot better, but I knew that coming in."
Through the first 29 games of his first full year as a pro, Lutz is batting .191 and has racked up 22 hits, two homers, and 12 RBI. He said right now, he is more result-oriented than numbers-focused as he develops.
"Tristen's a competitor, and he has all the physical skills needed to play this game," Erickson said. "There's just some fine details of the game that you learn only by playing it every single day."
Lutz — who with his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame was unsurprisingly a linebacker on his high school football team until his sophomore year — has shown flashes of power in his bat and arm in the outfield - big factors in Milwaukee selecting him 34th overall in last June's MLB Draft.
Lutz had committed to play baseball at the University of Texas, but instead signed with the Brewers for a reported $2.35 million bonus before playing 40 games in rookie ball in Arizona and Helena last summer.
"It was obviously a very tough decision for me," he said. "UT was my dream school growing up, so it was a tough decision, but ultimately given the opportunity the Brewers gave me, I mean it figured it would be best for me to start my ultimate dream which is to be a big league baseball player."
As of late, Lutz said he's tinkering with his swing and making minor adjustments, the latest step en route to living out that dream in Wisconsin.