ST. PAUL -- Royce Lewis just wants to win. Well, that, and play baseball.
So much so that “Winning: The Unforgiving Race to Greatness,” is currently the book du jour at book club, which consists of Lewis and other players who are down at the Minnesota Twins’ complex in Fort Myers, Fla., rehabbing.
“I want to win. I’m tired of losing,” Lewis said. “I’m tired of seeing people lose. And this injury, to me, was just a big loss that unfortunately I really couldn’t control. But what I can control is how I come out of it.”
The injury he’s referring to is the tear of his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, for which he underwent surgery to fix in late February. It wiped out his entire season on the field, but his ironclad determination has Lewis convinced he will come out of the year for the better.
After months of rehabbing and waiting, the 22-year-old shortstop finally was able to return to the diamond to start throwing and fielding last week, an experience he likened to a dog finally, mercifully, being let off the leash to go chase after a nearby squirrel.
Lewis has been running in the pool already, but he expects to begin jogging on land next week. Near the end of the month, he’ll travel to Minnesota to visit team physician Christopher Camp, where he hopes to get the go-ahead to progress his hitting and lateral movement. He plans to stay in Fort Myers through October and then report to spring training a month early in early-to-mid January to help him get some more at-bats under his belt.
“(He’s) just started to re-acclimate to some baseball activity, which I know is a little bit of a relief, mentally, especially for a guy who obviously wants to be out there and wants to be playing,” Twins director of player development Alex Hassan said. “He’s put in the work necessary in the training room to put him in this spot, and I couldn’t be happier with the effort he’s given on the rehab front.”
Reading and rehabbing
Lewis has put in the work outside of the training room to continue to grow, too.
Sometimes that means talking to new draftees like Chase Petty and Noah Miller or others down at the complex, sharing what he’s learned so far in professional baseball and talking about the game to keep the baseball aspect sharp in his mind. Other times, it’s through books.
Lewis started by setting a goal of reading 10 pages a day to keep himself engaged. Now, sometimes it’s 20-25 pages a day. He recently finished, “The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph,” which was recommended to him by Camp. From it, he took away strong parallels between what he was reading and what was going on in his life, the obstacle, of course, being his injury.
“We started a book club, and we’ve really enjoyed that, and trying to just get better, whether it’s one percent better every day, two percent,” Lewis said. “Whatever we can try to get better at, we do.”
That, he believes, will help him once he returns to the field.
Lewis, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, thought before the season that he had a good chance to make it to the majors this year. He wanted the opportunity to show the world — and himself — “what I really had in me.”
Instead, he has watched from afar while former minor-league teammates like Trevor Larnach, Ryan Jeffers and Alex Kirilloff — who is now down in Florida rehabbing with him — see the realization of their major-league dreams.
Soon enough, he’s convinced that will be him, too.
By the time he next plays, he will have not have competed in a minor-league game for two full seasons — Lewis trained at the Twins’ alternate site last year when the minor-league season was wiped out — but that’s no deterrent for him.
“My goal is just to come back and ball out like people have never seen before because I know I have it in me,” Lewis said. “It’s just my time to shine, and it’s been fun to not be talked about for two years and now I can really go out there and come out of nowhere essentially for half of these guys that forgot about me.”