After electing not to sign with the Chicago Cubs when drafted in the 20th round of 2005, Leonardo Ware (L.V., as he prefers) went on to sign with the Atlanta Braves, after they drafted him in the 43rd round of 2006. Since being drafted, Ware has played for teams as high as Double-A (Mississippi Braves) in the 4 seasons of his baseball career, but most recently spent the season with Class-A Lynchburg, in the Carolina League. If L.V. can keep up the hard work ethic, and determination, I can see him getting the call up to the big leagues in the near future. L.V. is definitely talented enough, and is a guy to keep a close eye on in the upcoming season, and beyond. L.V. Ware–outfielder in the Atlanta Braves organazation–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:
1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Did you always want to be an outfielder?
I honestly can’t say when I became interested in baseball, but my first year playing was back in 1990, at the age of 3. My father played in the military and I was handed down with no decision but to play. It became a regular activity in my household as I grew older. I remember days where my father use to take flour, make lines in our backyard to outline a field, and I use to hit off a tee. Those are my earliest memories of beginning my baseball career. I never played the outfield until high school. My high school coach told me if I wanted to make the varsity team as a freshman I needed to learn how to play right field because that was my only shot of making the team. I took that statement and ran with it. Now here I am chasing my dream as an outfielder. I was a shortstop and second baseman throughout my amateur baseball career, but looking back now, outfield was a great decision for me in the long run.
2.) Who was your favorite player growing up? Why?
It’s tough ’cause growing up in Atlanta, being an Atlanta Braves fan, Chipper Jones was my earliest favorite baseball player. As I got older I started to watch more baseball teams, then I fell in love watching Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey Jr. Those two guys played the game the way it was supposed to be played, treated the game with respect, and there was always positive things about them being said. Being older now looking back, it’s like, if I was to have a son those are two of the players I would want my son to look up to and remember. In their prime there was nothing either one of those guys could not do! Ken Griffey Jr. was part of the reason I became interested in collecting baseball cards as a kid. He was on so many different cards that it was impossible to keep up with him. Haha. Those were good days, and now that I look back on them I wouldn’t have picked any other two guys to model myself after.
3.) You were drafted by the Cubs in the 2005 draft, but didn’t sign. You were later drafted by the Braves in the 2006 draft. What was the draft process like for you? What made you not sign with the Cubs?
My draft process was quite interesting actually. I was from an inner city school in Atlanta, but yet my high school was by far the best in the inner city district. I’m not going to say that it didn’t help my exposure, but at the same time I’m not going to say it did. I was originally drafted by the Cubs in the 20th round of the 2005 draft by Anthony Grissom (Marquis Grissom’s younger brother) and he made an offer to me that I felt like I should attend college. I had a full scholarship to Okaloosa-Walton Community College, where I had enrolled in, and was very excited about going. Back then the draft and follow process still existed so I still had a whole year to sign with the Cubs. I had a good spring that year, and got an offer that I felt I was better worth. I turned down the offer and proceed to go back in the draft. I was then drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 43rd round by Braves former scout Al Geotz. In the beginning there was no negotiations cause they wanted me to go back to school and become better; which I totally agreed on. I end up signing with University of South Carolina that fall, then tore my rotator cuff later in the fall. I was suppose to miss the spring season, but came back early to DH, and play a little bit of left field. I felt great, but little did I know I really wasn’t healthy. Had a subpar season to what I wanted to achieve, but still received a great offer I couldn’t turn down after having a major surgery. My time to become a professional baseball player had finally come. Playing for my hometown team and living a dream couldn’t be any better. I called Al Geotz and told him I wanted to sign right away after the season, and the rest is history in the making now.
4.) What do you feel went well for you this season? What do you feel you need to work on for 2012?
This past season was a great one for me in ways besides just baseball on the field. I had the privilege to play for Luis Salazar, who is a champion at heart in my eyes. To overcome a obstacle of being struck by a foul ball, losing a eye, and still have the determination to coach, say’s nothing more than a winner at heart! I came into this season wanting to help my team in anyway possible, wether it was off the bench or playing everyday. I just wanted to be a leader and win! I had my chance to become a everyday player in the end of April against the Frederick Keys (Baltimore Organization) and I took advantage of my opportunity! It was by far my best series of the year, and a table setter for what I was looking to accomplish on the year. Me being a outfielder that plays all 3 positions also became a valuable asset to having playing time as well. I was the guy to give guys days off while I would maintain my role in the everyday line-up. That’s where I got away from the program I needed to stick by, which is being a pesky out, staying on base causing havoc, and playing small ball. The numbers where there. Then I started picturing bigger things that I needed not to be focused on and that took me out of my element. Baseball is a game of 75% mental skill I strongly believe. Only the mentally strong survive this sport because of the grind we endure for 145 games a year. My defense is by far my strong asset in baseball. If I can stay consistent and keep the ball out of the air and get on base, theres no limitation as to where I could take my game to. It’s just the facts of life, but making it happen is the challenge that I embark on every morning I wake up. For 2012 I really need to work on staying consistent with the bat. That will take care of the defense and the rest cause you’re relaxed and satisfied when your consistent and in a groove. My top hand is going to be my focal point for the year. It’s my bread and butter to make or break my career as a baseball player. I’ve been doing a lot of one handed drill with my mini bat provided by DS Wood bats. Its a special bat they made for me to ensure that I work on the important things I need to become a better baseball player. Allan Donato and Richard Schwartz have become my brothers and family over the past year. They make great quality baseball bats and have even broken in the Major Leagues with guys like Adam Jones, Robinson Cano, Mark Texeria, and Nick Markakis swinging their lumber. I have no doubt that with their bats in my hands I will comfortable with my bat and confident in my swing with a bat fixed to my liking.
5.) What’s the most memorable moment of your baseball career thus far?
My number one memorable moment in my career is representing my country on the Team USA Junior National Team in 2005. By far the greatest moment ever for me. To wear a jersey with the letters USA on my chest was a chilling feeling as a 18 year-old young man. Being selected out of 164 kids to travel to Mexico to participate in the PanAm games was a true blessing. A great experience with some great players, and overall the best baseball I’ve ever played as well. We went 7-0 in pool play to reach the championship game against Team Cuba only to fall 2-1 in the championship game. Overall though there isn’t one thing I would change about the summer of 2005. Winning an Appalachian League Championship is right up there as well, but Team USA can not be outdone in my eyes.
6.) When was the first time someone asked for your autograph?
Funny you ask that. My uncle asked me for my autograph when I was 6 years old. I wrote it on a piece of tablet paper. If your up near my age you can remember tablet paper was khaki looking with baby blue and red lines. Doesn’t feel like notebook paper these days, but was a softer fabric. But I proceed to sign my name, and that was my first autograph. ‘Til this day he keeps it in the front of his bible and I hear about that story every time we talk. My first encounter for an autograph in professional sports came in Spring Training of 2008 when I was asked to sign my Team USA card that I thought no one would ever purchase. Little did I know how serious card collecting was until I became a professional baseball player. It’s a legit hobby, and takes up a ton of time. Hats off to the people that take time to travel and get autographs of players that they have cards for.
7.) Favorite food?
My favorite food would have to be a nice porterhouse steak. I love to eat steak and potatoes. I know it’s not healthy to always have, but when I need a great meal to turn to, a steak is always my decision. For dessert, it would have to be banana pudding.
8.) Favorite TV show?
This is a tough decision right here because I’m a sucker for old school TV shows. The Cosby Show, Seinfield, Sanford & Son, The Jeffersons, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Saved By The Bell, just to name a few. My favorite of all though is Martin. By far the best TV sitcom ever, haha. I could sit here and say word for word of every episode, but yet when I watch today I laugh like I’ve never seen it before. If you’ve never seen an episode please watch, haha. You might think it’s not funny but I can assure you that you will get a few laughs in. Probably not like me though, haha.
9.) Favorite thing to do on an off day during the baseball season?
Sleep, sleep, and more sleep! When living on a bus traveling in and out of hotels, and coming home from the ballpark from 10pm – 11:30pm–depending on when the game ends and leaving the ballpark–I can assure you that a high percentage of baseball players will tell you all we want to do on off day is rest. Lay in bed watching movies, playing video games, or just browsing on the internet. One thing for sure is that I want to let my body rest from the days of playing consecutively. Normally there is one day off for every 21 games played. Some days are shorter or longer, depending on the schedule, but it’s typical to have 1 day off every 21 games. Your body is in desperate need of rest after playing day in and day out. Being at the field from 2:45 till 10:45, maybe weights at 10:00am, kills your energy. That’s where that day off comes in handy, where you don’t move a thing, and just catch up on rest.
10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out, who dream of playing professional baseball one day?
Advice I give kids now is a lot, but it all comes back to the basics. Hustle on and off the field, and run every pop fly or ground ball out. There is always someone watching you, whether you know it or not. Someone always has tabs of what you are doing. Go about your business as if it was your job. Even when it is your job, remember to have fun, but it’s a business. You represent you and your organization at all times. No one wants to deal with a hard-headed young man. Someone who isn’t coachable or willing to apply to change. There is always someone out there working hard like you, if not harder. Remember that a million people want the same job you are after, but the question is what are you going to do to separate yourself from the rest? I just want to see kids push themselves and reach their max potential. The generation today is totally different from when I was a kid. I didn’t have people to tell me how to go about my business in baseball, so I try to give as much advice as possible when I see talent with lack of direction. It’s all about giving back to build for my future! It starts from within, and goes as far as you take it. Long as I’m living I will do my best to always help guide someone who shares the same dream as me. Hopefully one day I can get into coaching and share what I’ve learned throughout my career.
Big thanks to LV Ware for taking the time to answer some questions for my blog.
You can follow LV on twitter: @LV_Ware