Results tagged ‘ MiLB ’
When I made the bold prediction a couple months ago that the New York Yankees would have a great season despite all of the injuries to their lineup, going as far as to say they’ll make the playoffs, I didn’t have many people behind me, agreeing with my opinion. And that’s fine, I’m used to it. But now I get the pleasure of early-season bragging rights, as the Yankees have hung in there, sitting atop the American League East.
Though there’s still a lot of the season left, I think things will only go up from here.
Let me point out that while I predicted a playoff run, I was going more on a wild card spot, rather than a division title, getting them in. I never saw them above second or third place throughout the season. But now, with them sitting in first place, combined with Curtis Granderson expected to return any day, I could see the Yankees extending their lead even further; especially once Mark Teixeira returns next month.
What it’s come down to for the Yankees is the stepping up of every single player in the lineup. Not just the key fixtures, in Robinson Cano, Ichiro Suzuki and even Brett Gardner, but the newcomers in Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Travis Hafner. Everyone up and down the lineup has been doing a great job of not worrying about who they’re missing and just going out and playing great baseball–going 16-0 when they score first, so far this season.
The Yankees are certainly being helped out by the other teams in the division, which have been playing fairly poorly as of late–the Red Sox are 4-8 this month–but that’s not to take anything away from them. They’ve been surprisingly good for a surprising long period of time.
But just how good can the Yankees become?
If you ask me, the first month of the season is a sign of things to come. Once the Yankees get back their big bats in Granderson and Teixeira, they’ll get even better, which may seem impossible with the way they’re currently playing. If their pitching rotation can keep on the same pace, though it could always be better, I can fully see the Yankees making the playoffs, as I originally predicted.
I hadn’t been planning on attending this game–under normal circumstances I probably wouldn’t have–but I was trying to accomplish what I was unable to do the last time I was at the ballpark: Get an autograph from Rays’ number one prospect, Wil Myers. That was my main reason for being there, on what turned out to be a fantastic day for a ballgame: I figured with it being a day game there wouldn’t be as many people at the ballpark, making it easier to get autographs. I was partially right, as while there was a decent amount of people at the game, there were fewer than usual autograph seekers. But in the end, fewer people didn’t do much good, as just like the first Bulls game I had attended, a couple weeks ago, Wil Myers didn’t sign for me. It was very frustrating.
But I didn’t let it bring me down, as the game itself was far more exciting. With there being fewer fans than usual, you could basically sit wherever you wanted, and I ended up sitting in the fourth or fifth row to start the game. The close proximity to the field made the game all that more enjoyable. (Not that I don’t always have a great time at the ballpark.)
Bulls’ starting pitcher for the game, Jake Odorizzi….: ….didn’t do as well as I had expected him to (though he would get the win) giving up a solo-shot to the third batter of the game, Nick Castellanos, who would go 3-3 for the game.
The home run was a very big deal for me because (for those of you who don’t know) Castellanos is the Tigers’ number one prospect, and baseball’s 21st overall prospect. My heart literally skipped a beat when he crushed the ball out onto the center field grass and I was still seated in the infield. I looked on for a few minutes, fully expecting someone to run out there and grab it, but to my surprise, no one did. A few people went over to have a look, but no one grabbed it. I couldn’t stand to just sit there, so I decided to see if I could make it over in time to get the home run ball.
Now, something you have to realize, at the Durham Bulls ballpark, it’s not a mere walk to the outfield. There’s a big flight of stairs you have to climb before you can make the trek over. During that climb, I had my eye off of the center field grass for nearly half a minute, and I was worried that during that short period of time, someone had gone out to get the ball. But thankfully, when I finally made it to the outfield, in what must’ve been record time, I saw a little white speck over in the grass. I patiently waited for three outs to be recorded before I jumped the short fence, and trotted over to grab the ball: This was Nick Castellanos’ second home run of the season, and just the 19th of his career.
After grabbing the ball, I decided to stay seated in the outfield for a few more innings, just in case anyone blasted a home run onto the grass, but looking back, that was a dumb decision. I ended up getting sunburnt, and as I sit here typing this, my arms tingle with every keystroke. (Perhaps not wearing sunscreen was the dumb decision?)
Anyway, when it became apparent that no one was going to hit a home run in my direction, and that my arms were turning red, I gave up my outfield view, for my original seat, where I had begun the game: I know it doesn’t appear to be, but the seat I was in had just fallen into the shade. It felt good to not have my skin roasting anymore.
Since I had been in the outfield for the majority of the game up until this point, I had missed Wil Myers’ first two at-bats. Therefore, I ended up taking roughly 30 pictures of Myers (I won’t share them all, don’t worry) beginning with his third at-bat of the game….: ….and continuing with him above the dugout….: ….in the on-deck circle….: ….and ending with him on first base, after singling in his final at-bat: I went a little Myer’s-crazy. I know. I admit it. But hey, it’s Wil Myers.
The Bulls would go on to win the game, 9-8, despite an attempted comeback from the Mud Hens, who scored four runs in the top of the eight inning. I failed, yet again, in getting Myers to sign for me after the game, but I was able to get Mike Fontenot to autograph a card for me. So it wasn’t a total loss for the day, autograph-wise.
It remains a top priority for me to get an auto from Wil Myers, and although I won’t be able to attend tonight or tomorrow night’s game, if he’s still with the Bulls when they return home from an 8-game road trip, on May 6th, I plan on going back. It’s certainly a challenge to get an autograph from Wil Myers, but I generally enjoy challenges, and refuse to give up.
There are numerous top prospects set to make an impact in the major leagues this season, as I wrote about a few months ago, but for this particular post, I’m only focusing on the players who are ready right now to get a callup to the big leauges; but are yet to, for one reason or another. Keep in mind, as you’re reading through my list, the players (in no particular order) I’ve included are yet to play a single game in the majors:
The first player I feel is major league ready is Wil Myers. I’ve done a few blog posts on him in the past, about how I felt Myers has been ready for awhile, and I really don’t see the point of leaving him down in the minors. Batting .304, with a homer and 12 RBI’s, so far this season, Myers is one of those players who I could see thriving at the next level. The Rays need to give him a shot, in my opinion.
Bruce Rondon is off to another great start, so far this season. Through seven innings pitched, Rondon hasn’t allowed any runs, while limiting the offense to a .179 batting average. Having been clocked at over 100 miles per hour in the past, combined with the closer role for the Tigers still a weak point, I’d say it’s time for Rondon to be called up, and just see how he performs.
A guy who’s not on everyone’s radar, but has the ability to make a big impact in the major leagues is Donnie Joseph. Limiting the opposing batters to a .125 average, including a 1.35 ERA and 12 strikeouts, through 6.2 innings pitched, so far this season, Joseph is ready, in my mind, to show off his stellar stuff in the majors, with the Kansas City Royals.
Though I’m not quite jumping onboard with the thoughts of others that Mark Montgomery will be the next Mariano Rivera for the Yankees, I do agree with many of them, that Montgomery is going to be a star at the major league level. Though he’s still young, at age 22, having only pitched in just over 100 innings, his career 1.61 ERA goes to show just how good Montgomery really is, and in my mind, how ready he is.
Mike Zunino is the last player on my list of players ready for the major leagues, but as the saying goes, he’s certainly not least. If anything, Zunino is near the top of the list, having hit 5 home runs and batted in 21, in just 13 games so far this season. These stats fall in line with his 13 homers and 43 RBI’s in just 44 games last season, and lead me to believe that he’s ready to face big league pitching.
Some honorable mentions, of player who are getting close to being major league ready, but aren’t quite, include: Bryce Brentz, Kyle Gibson, George Springer, Sonny Gray, Nick Franklin, Jarred Cosart, Michael Choice, Christian Bethancourt, Zack Wheeler, Wilmer Flores, Danny Hultzen and Nolan Arenado.
All are showing tons of major league potential, and the majority of those players should see time in the major leagues at some point in the second half of this season. The remaining few will get their first glimpse of the majors in the early part of 2014.
When it was made official a few weeks ago that Rays’ top prospect, and number four overall prospect in all of baseball, Wil Myers, was going to start the season in Triple-A Durham, I knew I’d be attending one of the first home games of the season. Though I would rather have gone to Opening Day, it wasn’t possible, so the next game would have to do.
My main goal for this game was (obviously) to get an autograph from phenom, Wil Myers. I had seen on the Durham Bulls’ twitter page that Myers had signed autographs the night before, so I was keeping a positive mindset, hoping he would sign, once again. But it wasn’t meant to be, as although I was the first person to arrive down by the dugout, before the game, when Myers came up from the clubhouse, he didn’t even look over in my direction. He ended up signing for a few people down the line, but I wasn’t able to get him to come over.
This day would turn out to be a horrible one, if you’re a person like myself who loves collecting autographs. The only player on the entire Bulls team, of the players I wanted autos from, that signed for nearly everyone, was Rays’ number five prospect, Hak-Ju Lee. Lee was extremely nice about it, and I was happy to get his autograph, even if it was the only one I got before the game.
After failing to get any more autographs, I made the trek up to my ticketed seat:
As for the game itself, it was one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever seen in person. After Bulls’ starting pitcher, Alex Torres, struck out the side, in the top of the first, the Bulls proceeded to go on a tear, causing Gwinnett’s starting pitcher, Daniel Rodriguez, to be pulled from the game after only a third of an inning pitched, in which he allowed eight runs:
The Bulls would end up plating two more, for a grand total of TEN runs in the bottom of the first. Five of those runs came from the bat of Brandon Guyer, who blasted two home runs–a two run, and a three run–in the first inning. (The first International League player to do so since 2005.)
Seeing that the ball was flying out of the ballpark, on this particular night, and with the outfield seats being so empty….:
It was during my walk to the outfield that one of the most unusual things to ever happen to me at a baseball game occurred.
As I was making my way through the concourse, a guy, who I had seen earlier taking photos with an old-fashion-looking camera, stopped me and asked if I had been getting autographs down by the dugout before the game. I told him yes, and he went on to tell me that he was a photographer from Minnesota that had been hired (or picked?) by the Bulls (I think?) to take photographs of people at the ballpark for an art gallery (or museum?), and wanted to know if I’d be willing to be photographed. As you can tell, I didn’t fully understand it all, but I agreed to it, nonetheless.
We both made our way out to where his camera was, which happened to be where I was headed anyway. It probably took 10 minutes for him to get the photo he was looking for, but I had nothing else to do, and was happy to do it. Here’s a picture of the camera….:
….with him and his friend standing just below it, looking at the field. So if you happen to see me on a wall somewhere, now you know why; let me know if you do.
Moving back to the game, and to the reason I moved to the outfield, with there still being five innings left in the game after I finished having my picture taken, I was optimistic that someone (I didn’t care who) would hit a home run in my direction. The seats continued to empty more and more as the game went on, and I was getting more and more anxious.
When it got to be the sixth inning, and no balls had even come close to me, I began to feel it was unlikely that a home run would be hit my way, but just as the thought crossed my mind, Gwinnetts’ Ernesto Mejia blasted a moon shot (the 114th HR of his MiLB career), which barely cleared the center field wall. I wanted to just run out there and get it, but I recalled the Triple-A National Championship game, when a guy ran out onto the grass after a home run ball, and the umpires stopped the game. I didn’t want to be “THAT guy”.
So I waited patiently, hoping no one would make a run for it. A few people came over and had a glance, but they didn’t try to retrieve it, which made it extremely easy for me to jump the short fence and run over to grab it as soon as three outs had been recorded.
Here’s the ball:
I stayed in the outfield for one more of Wil Myers’ at-bats, but after he failed to hit a home run, I made my way back to where I had begun the game.
The Braves would make things interesting, scoring two runs in the seventh and three in the eighth, to make it a 12-8 ball game, but that would end up being the final score. As soon as the final out had been recorded, I quickly headed down to the dugout, with a dozen others, to try for an autograph from Myers, but once again, he didn’t even look up.
I did succeed in getting an autograph from the star of the game, Brandon Guyer, afterwards, and he was extremely nice about it. He seems like a really great guy in general, as before the game he went out of his way to ask how everyone was doing, when he came up from the clubhouse. It’s guys like that, that you want to see do well, and I wish him the best moving forward.
I’m not sure when my next MiLB game will be, or whether it will be a Mudcats or Bulls game, but if it’s half as great as this one was, it’s sure to be a fun time.
Opening Day for Major League Baseball took place on Monday, however, Opening Day for the Carolina Mudcats (A+ affiliates of the Indians), of the Carolina League, is taking place later tonight. For the second season in a row, I’m attending tonight’s game, once again versus the Winston Salem Dash (A+ affiliates of the White Sox), and I’m extremely excited. This year’s Opening Day game is packed with top notch talent.
For the Carolina Mudcats, while their pitching staff isn’t too fantastic, their position players include the organization’s number one prospect, Francisco Lindor, 2012 1st round draft pick, Tyler Naquin, along with top prospect, Tony Wolters, who is making the transition this season from short stop to catcher. Wolters played with the Mudcats last season, and I really enjoyed watching him play. I’m looking forward to seeing how the move to behind the plate plays out.
As far as the Dash go, the highlight of the team is undoubtedly Courtney Hawkins, who was drafted 13th overall in last year’s draft; doing a backflip afterwards. Though Hawkins won’t be doing any backflips (as far as I know), I’m looking forward to seeing the White Sox’ number one prospect in action–maybe he’ll even blast a home run. If nothing else, I’m certainly going to try for his autograph, as I’m also planning to do from the Mudcats’ Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin.
But when it comes to autograph collecting, no other game throughout the entire rest of the season will have more highly ranked prospects than the April 9th Durham Bulls game I’m planning to attend. Having been traded from the Royals’ organization to the Rays, in the 2012 offseason, the number four prospect in all of baseball, Wil Myers, will be there and is sure to draw a huge crowd, so autographs may be hard to come by. I’ll just have wait and see how it goes.
A few other Bulls’ players worth mentioning, that I’m hoping to get autographs from on Tuesday night, include Jake Odorizzi, Chris Archer and Hak-Ju Lee, who are the Rays’ third, fourth and fifth ranked prospects, respectively. In all, the Bulls are beginning the season with 7 of the top 20 prospects in the organization. I can’t think of a team in all of minor league baseball with more talent, which is why I’m going to be blogging about the game. It will likely be posted on Wednesday afternoon.
So that’s the basic plan for my first two minor league games of the year. I’m not sure when, or where, the rest of the year will have me going to games; the only game set in stone is the June 3rd Bulls day game, when they take on the Red Barons (Yankees affiliate). But one of the games during the series when Billy Hamilton comes to Durham with Louisville is almost a sure bet, as well. Other than that, I don’t know.
Alex Meyer was drafted by the Nationals in the 1st round of the 2011 draft. In his first professional season, Meyer showed off why he’s one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, as he went 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA, to go along with 139 strikeouts in 129 innings pitched. A year which included pitching in the 2012 All-Star Futures game, in Kansas City, Missouri, it’s fair to say Meyer had about as good of a first season as you can have.
Going from the Nationals to the Twins in November, in exchange for outfielder, Denard Span, Meyer is up for some new challenges that come with a new organization, but he’s looking forward to being part of the Twins. I fully expect Meyer to have an even better season than he did last year, truly showing off his full potential and finally receiving the recognition that’s due to him. (I feel he’s vastly underrated.)
Though consistency with finding the strike zone has been an issue for Meyer in the past, he did a much better job of it last season, and that alone should enable him to excel in the coming year, if he can continue his progression. Meyer possesses an above average fastball, with a decent slider and changeup, and if things continue to go the way they’re going, barring any major setbacks, Meyer could see time in the majors as soon as the second half of the 2014 season.
Alex Meyer–top pitching prospect in the Twins’ organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:
1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?
I started playing ball at age 4. I have had a passion for the game ever since my first practice. My dad played a very influential part in getting me started.
2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?
Ken Griffey Jr. I loved watching him play. Watching him do everything he did was always exciting.
3.) You were drafted by the Nationals in the 1st round of the 2011 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?
It was an exciting process throughout the whole thing. I was excited when I saw on TV my name come up. It was something I had dreamed about happening for a long time.
4.) After spending a full season in the Nationals’ organization, you were traded to the Twins, in November of 2012. What are you looking forward to most with your new team?
Just the opportunity to keep playing. I enjoy baseball and the fact that the Twins thought highly of me and traded for me makes me even more excited to get to playing.
5.) Talk a little bit about life on the road. What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?
I don’t really find anything too difficult about it. I enjoy being with my teammates and getting to check out the different cities. I spend a lot of time listening to music or reading.
6.) You pitched in the 2012 All-Star Futures game, in Kansas City. What did you take away from that experience? What was most memorable about it?
The whole experience is something I’ll never forget. Just being able to be on the field with some of the top players in the minor leagues at a major league venue and a setting like that was truly unexplainable. It’s hard to put how incredible something like that was into words. Being able to call George Brett my manager for a day is pretty cool.
7.) Is there any one stat that you pay attention to throughout the season? Or do you try to steer clear of them altogether?
I try not to read into them. I just worry about every 5th day.
8.) What do you feel went well in 2012? What are your goals for 2013?
I feel in 2012 it was good to be able to go out and throw a full professional season. I had a blast and look forward to doing it again with a new organization in 2013.
9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?
I loved the 24 series, but now I am a big fan of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and ‘The Walking Dead’. Favorite food would probably be a nice steak.
10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?
Work on getting better every single day, and if you do that, good things will come.
Big thanks to Alex Meyer for taking the time to answer my questions.
You can follow him on Twitter: @Meyer17A
When it was first reported that the Cincinnati Reds had plans to convert Aroldis Chapman–known for his overpowering fastball, that’s been clocked up to 106 MPH–from closer to a starter, to begin the 2013 season, I couldn’t help but question the decision.
Chapman struggled a bit last year after pitching in multiple outings in a row, so I don’t understand what good would it really do to make him a starter. And now, with the recent comments from Chapman himself that he would prefer closing out games over starting, I question the change even more.
“In the beginning when I started closing, it was something I didn’t know,” Chapman stated in an interview. “But as I started throwing and getting into the late part of the game when the game is more exciting and has more meaning, I kind of liked it. Yeah, the adrenaline goes up and I like to be in that situation. I would like to be a closer, yeah, but there are some things that I can’t control.”
I understand that the Reds would like for Chapman to have a greater impact on the entire game, rather than just the ninth inning, but I feel they should just leave things the way everyone’s used to: With Chapman as their closer. That’s where Chapman feels the most comfortable, and where he has proven to be the most dominant–recording 38 saves off a 1.51 ERA, with 122 strikeouts in 71.2 inning pitched, last season.
To me, there’s too much uncertainty to have the move work out in the long run, especially with Chapman not fully on board.
In other news, Wil Myers was reassigned to minor league camp on Saturday, ensuring that he will begin the 2013 season with Triple-A Durham. Thus finally answering the question everyone had on their minds throughout the entire offseason, of whether or not Myers would break camp with the big league club.
Myers seems to be taking the news well, stating, “It was something I knew was going to come eventually. It wasn’t a surprise at all…I’m really looking forward to getting down there [to minor league camp] and getting some at-bats….I really enjoyed my time here, it was a blast. But now I’m ready to get down to business.”
While I somewhat disagree with the Rays’ decision, Myers beginning the year with Durham guarantees the opportunity for fans, like myself, to see the number four prospect in all of baseball in action. So I can’t really complain all that much.
The Reds have made the decision to leave Aroldis Chapman as their closer.
About a year ago, I made the statement that I’d love to take batting practice and play catch on a professional baseball field, should the opportunity ever present itself. Little did I know that there was a way to make my wish a reality, as the local Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Durham Bulls, hold a fan fest twice a year, giving fans the chance to participate in both of the activities I was looking to take part in.
When I first learned that there was such a thing as fan fest, in October of last year, I already had a vacation planned with my family, so I unfortunately couldn’t attend. Therefore, when it was announced that they were holding another one in March, I made sure to mark the date on my calendar.
I wasn’t going to miss it this time around.
Accompanied by my dad, I arrived at fan fest at 12:30, right at an hour and a half after the gates first opened:
With the line being so long (continuing further out of the frame in the picture above), we decided to go ahead and play catch first. So we made our way down the steps, and into the outfield:
All of the balls were being used when we first arrived–we weren’t told to bring our own, though I think most people did–however, a couple of kids were nice enough to let the both of us play catch with them, in a square formation, of sorts.
After the four of us played catch for around 30 minutes, the plan was to head to the batting cage, to take some hacks, but after watching a few people take their turn, it came to my attention that you only received five swings. Knowing that I would more than likely swing and miss on every pitch, I figured it wasn’t worth it. So after a stop in the Bulls’ dugout….
I continued my walk, ending up over by the blue monster….
I had a great time at Bulls fan fest. It’s something I’d recommend to anyone, if you’re ever in the area when they hold it. But then again, it’s hard not to have fun anytime baseball is involved.
All of the pictures were taken on my phone, so if they seem a bit blurry, that’s why.
Although Spring Training games have yet to begin, the current speculation is that Rays’ phenom Wil Myers will start 2013 with AAA Durham, instead of with the big league club, down in Tampa, regardless of how he performs over the course of the next month. This leaves many people (myself included) to ask the question: Is this the right decision for Myers?
I’m not 100 percent sold on the idea.
This past season, before getting traded from the Royals to the Rays, in December, Myers batted .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI’s, between AA North West Arkansas and AAA Omaha. The expectation was for Myers to receive a September call up from the Royals, however, that didn’t end up happening. Leaving many people scratching their heads.
In response to not calling up Myers, the Royals made the statement that they didn’t feel he was big league ready. While that might be true, I still don’t understand why they didn’t give him a shot for the last few games of the season, especially with them not being in play off contention; just as I’m not fully understanding the Rays’ logic with Wil Myers, going into the 2013 season.
According to Rays’ manager Joe Maddon, the decision to keep Myers down in the minors, to begin the season, is merely a “baseball decision”, that would give Myers a greater chance of success once he makes the transition to the major league level, sometime this season. Maddon is known for preferring this type of strategy, as his recent comments would suggest:
“I just think that it’s easier for a player with that kind of expectation level to get some time under his belt on a Minor League level, get it rolling, get the feel going, when you know it’s going well, then walk into a big league situation. Not as difficult as opposed to leaving a camp with all this expectation, all this hype then having to match up to that on a Major League level right out of the chute.”
I sort of understand where Maddon is coming from, though I still have to disagree.
While it’s vastly debated as to whether or not Maddon’s approach with Myers is the correct one, there’s no argument when it comes to if Myers has enough natural talent, and potential, to perform at the big league level. Anyone can see that, just by watching the guy play. No one more so than Rays’ hitting coach, Derek Shelton, who, after day one of Rays Spring Training, had this to say about Myers, and his talent level:
“The thing that’s the most impressive is the bat speed. The way the ball comes off his bat….You don’t see very many people who generate that kind of bat speed….It’s loud. It’s a different sound….You don’t hear many guys that can create that sound….it’s exciting to see.”
After reading all of what Shelton had to say, combined with my personal observations of Wil Myers’, and his stats from 2012, if it were up to me, I’d choose to let him loose to see what he can do at the major league level. Worst-case scenario, Myers doesn’t produce, and the Rays could then decide to either work through it or send him back down to the minors. But there’s always the possibility that Myers could hold his own, picking up where he left off in 2012, absolutely tearing it up out of the gate.
To me, the mere chance that Myers could be an impact player for the Rays to begin the season is enough to give him a shot. Playing in the somewhat difficult American League East, if the Rays want a chance to win their division, I’m not sure they can afford even a few weeks without Myers.
Jake Hager was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 1st round of the 2011 draft. Since the draft, Hager has played in a total of 161 games, over the course of two successful seasons, batting a combined .277 with 14 home runs and 89 RBI’s.
Last season alone, Hager batted .281 with 10 home runs and 72 RBI’s, including an OBP of .345, with Single-A Bowling Green. In addition to his consistency at the plate, Hager stole a total of 17 bases, showing his ability to steal a base if necessary–speed being one of the main things Hager plans to work on in the coming season.
If Hager can continue to produce the same kind of numbers, combined with his incredible work ethic, he should be able to make it to the major leagues fairly quickly. He certainly has the talent, but it will come down to whether he can keep up the performance at the plate, over the next few years. However, looking back at Hager’s professional career thus far, and even into High School, that shouldn’t be a problem, as posting great stats seems to be his specialty.
Jake Hager–prospect in the Rays organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:
1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?
I started playing ball when I was about 5 years [old]. My dad inspired to me to play the game. He always brought me outside to play catch or swing the bat. Once we started tee ball I loved it ever since. Best decision I have ever made.
2.) Who was your favorite player growing up? Why?
My favorite player growing was Cal Ripken Jr. He was my favorite player because of how humble he was and how much he loved to play the game. He was a great all around player and really fun to watch.
3.) You were drafted by the Rays in the 1st round of the 2011 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?
The draft process was amazing. Seeing all the scouts from each team come to your house and talk about your future was a lot of fun. The Rays ending up taking [me] which I had a great feeling they were because they were scouting me pretty heavy. Then on draft day–I was at my house with all of my friends and family–they called me before the draft started and said they were going to take me at 31. Then at the 30th pick they called my dad saying they were taking me at 32. We all went crazy and then once Bud [Selig] said my name it was the greatest feeling in the world.
4.) Being drafted out of high school, what’s the biggest difference you noticed between that and pro ball in your first few games, in 2011?
The biggest difference for me was the speed of the game–ten times faster than high school ball. Seeing 90-94 everyday was a huge difference, and the ball coming off every bat was just way different!
5.) What do you feel went well in 2012? What do you feel you need to work on for 2013?
Once I got my swing and my new stance down, everything started going great from there. Seeing the ball a lot better and swinging at better pitches helped me out a lot. I feel like [for] 2013 I just need to work on my speed more than anything. I am always working on my swing and defense, but I’m going to concentrate more on my speed.
6.) Is there any player you model your game after, or do you just try to do your own thing?
I honestly just try to do my own thing. I don’t worry about who I should be like or anything, I just want to be the player I can be.
7.) When’s the first time someone asked for your autograph? Oddest thing you’ve ever signed?
The first time somebody asked for my autograph was my best friend’s little cousin, when I was high school. That was the first ever ball I had signed. The oddest thing I have ever signed is [a] drawn picture of me in a Rays outfit!
8.) Favorite food?
My favorite would have to be grilled chicken right off the grill.
9.) Favorite TV show?
My favorite TV show is ‘Dexter’.
10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?
To always work hard and don’t let anybody get in the way of your dream. Stay humble and work for your dream.
Big thanks to Jake Hager for taking the time to answer my questions.
You can follow him on twitter: @JakeHager1