LaPorta, though, doesn't worry about responding to the demands and the wild expectations that come with being a key acquisition in such a high-profile trade. When the Indians dealt Sabathia, they dealt one of the more awe-inspiring arms to ever come up in their system. Sabathia's Cy Young season the previous year was proof that he had finally turned all his potential into reality.Now, LaPorta finds himself hoping to walk that same path, albeit in a different role. And Indians fans will be tracking him every step of the way. "I never really think about [that pressure], to be honest," he said. "My goal is to come out and compete every day, and it's competing against myself and trying to make myself better, so I can help the team. Whatever people think on the outside, the pressure they put on me, I don't really think about that." The concept of competing against himself began to formulate in LaPorta's mind during his Gator days. "I learned then that there are other things that are going to go on in your life," he said. "You can't compete against somebody else who might have different talents than you. You compete against yourself. How did you get better that day? That's what's important. The more you compete with yourself and not worry about anybody else, the more you have a recipe for success." LaPorta's search for that recipe leads him to consider the thoughts of many cooks. He's an avid reader of books in the motivational market, and he enjoys learning how athletes in other sports approach their craft. In LaPorta's locker right now is a book titled, "Golf's Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia" by Dr. David L. Cook, a golf mental coach. "It's a different perspective on how to approach the day and how golfers approach their game and practice," LaPorta said. "It just gives you a pattern you can model after, whether it's golf or basketball or whatever. One of the things it preaches is you have to see it, feel it and trust it. That's similar to baseball. You've got to see the baseball and feel and trust that you've prepared for that moment." LaPorta must feel like he's been preparing for the 2010 season forever. He's been a regular at the Indians' Player Development Complex since he came out of surgery. That only makes him all the more eager to get started, but he's learned to respect the length of a season and its inevitable ups and downs. "When I was a kid, I always wanted to be perfect," he said. "I've come to realize it's not always going to be perfect. You've got to maintain your composure and keep your eye on the process." And, of course, have a few laughs along the way.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.