Try as he did, Rob Refsnyder simply couldn't overcome. He was easily overmatched and overwhelmed -- clearly unprepared for such competition.
"I'd have both hands on his back, pushing, but I'm just getting knocked back,'' he said. "He would post me up constantly and block my shots.''
Refsnyder was a kid then and his dad, Clint, a 6-8 former college basketball player, never once let him win a pickup game. Or even a board game; not even Candy Land.
For all the athletic accolades he would receive as a high school baseball and football standout, there remained that hurdle. He eventually beat his dad once, when he was 17.
"It was frustrating, but it taught me that you're not going to be given everything and nothing comes easy,'' Refsnyder said. "I think that made me who I am today.''
Today, Refsnyder is one of the Yankees' top prospects, a star second baseman for Triple-A Scranton / Wilkes-Barre whose name has buzzed in recent months about a potential call-up to the majors.
He was drafted by the Yankees in the fifth round in 2012 after leading Arizona to a College World Series title.
Refsnyder began this year at Double-A Trenton and earned a June 10 promotion. As the RailRiders' No. 2 hitter, his slash line is .297/.393/.475 with seven homers and 24 RBIs in 54 games. For the season, he's batting .321 with 13 homers.
He worked extensively with Trenton hitting coach Marcus Thames earlier this year to "eliminate wasted movement and make me more direct to the ball.'' The results were almost immediate. Refsnyder now stands almost upright, knees bent slightly, and has a level, compact swing.
The converted outfielder also has become solid defensively at second, with only one error there in 42 games at Triple-A.
The odds are against ever matching Robinson Cano's big-league production. But here's a fun comparison: Cano, in his last full minor-league season in 2004, hit .283 with 13 homers.
In July, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Refsnyder is "rising like a meteor.'' When second baseman Brian Roberts was released two weeks ago, Refsnyder's name again bubbled to the fore. But Cashman said he was "reluctant to bring him up.'' The plan was to have Refsnyder complete the season in the minors and vie for a major-league spot next year. For all the accolades, it was kind of like getting his shot rejected in the backyard. In this instance, too, Refsnyder will have to keep improving and continue waiting for his time. That's fine by him.
"Hearing my name brought up is flattering, but I know there's a lot I have to work on,'' he said last week. "If I continue getting better, everything else will sort itself out.''
RailRiders manager Dave Miley said the "sky's the limit'' for Refsnyder and that the recent hype hasn't at all changed the 23-year-old's attitude and work ethic. Teammates agree, including Zelous Wheeler, who made his big-league debut in July before being sent down.
"Rob's got great hands as a hitter. He's so quick to the ball,'' Wheeler said. "He's got all the tools and the dedication to make it. Just keep it up. Good things are coming for him down the road.''
Refsnyder was born in South Korea, but at 3 months old, he and his older sister Elizabeth were adopted by an American couple, Clint and Jane, and raised in Laguna Hills, California.
Rob became immersed in baseball early on and grew up an Angels fan, with childhood fantasies of hitting like Vladimir Guerrero. Now he is a step closer to those dreams. And all of his success, he said, can be attributed to his upbringing.
"I don't think I was blessed with amazing talent, but I was blessed with an awesome family,'' Refsnyder said. "They instilled in me all the things I need now: competitiveness, focus, hard work.''