That’s the word that best describes the rise of Spencer Horwitz, one of the Buffalo Bisons’ most consistent hitters in the 2023 season. Posting a .337 batting average and a .945 OPS, Horwitz earned himself two separate callups to the big leagues by the Toronto Blue Jays.
In his first stint, a three-game cup of coffee with the Herd’s parent club in June, Horwitz recorded his first career hit off Jon Gray of the Texas Rangers while going two-for-eight with an RBI and a run scored. After being called up again in early September, Horwitz has gone four-for-12 with a homer – the first of his Major League career, off the Colorado Rockies’ Chase Anderson – three RBIs and a walk.
What explains Horwitz’s success this year, and his path to being included in Toronto’s push for a postseason berth? Buffalo Sports Page sat down with both Horwitz and Bisons manager Casey Candaele before his recent callup to find out.
Buffalo Sports Page – What are your thoughts on Spencer as a player and as a person?
Casey Candaele – He’s great in the clubhouse, he keeps it light. He comes here every day to work hard and get better. And so those kinds of things are tremendous attributes. His teammates like him, they enjoy being around him and he puts together a quality professional at bat every night. He doesn’t give any away. And he’s moved around a little bit this year with some outfield, and he knows he can get better out there and so he’s determined to do that.
He’s just trying to expand his horizons and his versatility a little bit. Most of the time when you go to the big leagues, you don’t go in the position that you play. You go up sometimes because they want some offensive output or they have an opening in some place. He’s a professional and he wants to play every day, so he’s a great guy to have around.
BSP – Having that positional versatility has got to be really appealing to any club.
CC – It’s huge. We have an organization that we believe in getting guys multi-positional games, and so what they lack in playing one position, they can make up with the ability to play multiple positions and do it well.
BSP – His rise, going from college to summer ball to High A to Double A to Triple A. It’s almost like it’s a matter of time before he’ll eventually be a permanent fixture in the major leagues.
CC – There’s not a lot of complexity to his approach at the plate as far as the things that he does with his swing. It’s just a simple approach to how he swings the bat and how he goes through with it. There’s not a big move or anything that can get out of time. So he’s on time all the time and, and very rarely does he go through long periods where he doesn’t hit.
If you look at most of the great hitters in the game, they didn’t do a lot. There was not a lot of movement. Their bat was right there and they made the move and the path of their bat stayed consistent all the time. And he does that and so that’s why he puts together really good at-bats most of the time and the reason that he stays away from long periods of not being successful.
BSP – Spencer’s also played at the World Baseball Classic. What can that experience do for him going forward?
CC – He’s just not intimidated by anything. You saw when he went up to the big leagues, he got thrown into the lineup and did great. It’s not like he’s going to go and be intimidated by anybody. He feels that he belongs and that he can compete. That’s a big part of the battle, and being able to do that he is very confident, but not arrogant. He respects the game and he respects the people that played and that are good players. And he’s one of them.
BSP – What’s been the secret to your consistency this year?
Spencer Horwitz – I think it’s just me growing up. I’ve had success at other levels. Each season has had its own identity with different highs, different lows and this year I’ve been trying to lessen those highs and lows and just kind of be the same person all the time. It seems to be paying off not just results-wise but also the person and growth. I feel like I’m in a good spot.
BSP – What was your first game like in the majors?
SH – I didn’t play the first two days I was there. I got a chance to just to take it all in and watch those guys work and see how things went there. I got the start on Sunday which was Father’s Day. When I got the new that I was going to be in the lineup, I was at dinner with my family and everyone was very excited. It was an unbelievable experience and a dream come true.
BSP – What has the impact of Buffalo’s coaches been like on you?
SH – I think it’s a combination of a bunch of things. It’s great game-planning that I’m getting better at, and with the help of (hitting coach) Matt Hague and other coaches I’m understanding what they’re saying and they’re understanding what I’m feeling and we’re just getting more aware of what we need to work on. That ha been clicking for us the past few weeks. It’s when you have a swing that’s off or just not feeling right, you know exactly what you need to work on. And that’s been the most beneficial thing for me.
BSP – Good healthy communication between coaches and players definitely makes everyone better.
SH – Exactly. And especially with Hague, this is my second season with him. So just having spent that time with each other and trusting that we’re going to do what’s best for each other, and not just for each other but for the entire team.
BSP – What was your first game in the Blue Jays’ lineup like?
SH – I had my mom, dad, brother, cousins and aunt and uncle there. It was amazing. It was a day that I had dreamed of for years and it was way better than my dreams were. Luckily I got that hit my first at-bat and then it kind of settled in and it’s just another baseball game after that.
BSP – Who was your favorite player growing up?
SH – Being from Baltimore, I was a big Orioles fan growing up. I loved Cal Ripken Jr., he was our hero. But I also really loved those really good Oriole teams with guys like Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Manny Machado. Watching those guys were exciting times and I loved watching them play.
BSP – Who are some of the players that you got to interact with at the World Baseball Classic?
SH – I got to hang out with Zack Gelof, who’s doing great with Oakland right now. Matt Mervis who’s been up with the Cubs this year. We hung out a good bit, also with Garrett Stubbs who had a lot of big league time compared to most of us and he was a great leader on that team and had a clutch hit. Ryan Lavarnway was a leader on that team. He had a lot of experience and a lot of great wisdom.
Our staff was unbelievable with guys like Ian Kinsler, Kevin Youkilis and Brad Ausmus and Joc’s brother Tyger Pederson. It was an unbelievable experience with great people. I hope I can do it again in the future and I’m very grateful because that prepared me really well for my debut.
BSP – I’m sure there’s a couple things you picked up from being around them every day.
SH – Oh, yeah, absolutely. Some of it was on the field stuff, but a lot of it was how to be a professional, how to go about your business, how to handle the media, and it was a lot of those little things that a lot of people don’t talk about in professional baseball. Those guys had an unbelievable amount of experience.
I remember one day I was there at a coffee shop and I ended up sitting down next to Youk and Lavarnway. We had an hour-long talk about their careers and what they wish they could have done differently and they gave me some great advice.
BSP – How has playing more positions this year expanded your skill set?
SH – It’s just an opportunity to get in the lineup, that’s the goal. Being a hitter has been my main niche in baseball my entire life, and we’re just trying to find out different ways to get me in the lineup.
We have Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at first base in the big leagues and Brandon Belt – two guys that have had great careers and are leading the team in a lot of offensive categories. So why not try and get versatile with this time that I have here? I’ve played in the outfield and done a little bit of time at second base. I think it’s going well. It’s always a work in progress and I have a lot to learn still, but I think I’m getting better out there.
BSP – How has the approach on defense differed at positions other than first base?
SH – When I’m in the infield, I know I’ve got to have quick reaction timing and those balls can be hit 110 miles an hour right at you and you’ve got to react on a dime. But in the outfield, sometimes you have a little more time to see where the ball is and slow it down a little bit.