Q and A With Jacob Gatewood

Jacob Gatewood was drafted by the Brewers in the 1st round of the 2014 draft, after batting .349 with 2 home runs his senior year at Clovis High School in California.

But despite hitting just two homers his final season of high school, it’s Gatewood’s power that is seen by many as his most impactful tool. Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Gatewood first put that power on display at the national level back in 2013 before he was even drafted, blasting mammoth home runs at Citi Field in front of thousands of people in the junior Home Run Derby, and subsequently made his power-hitting abilities known to a vast portion of the baseball world. With the kind of power Gatewood displayed, it was no true wonder why the Brewers thought so highly of him in the draft.

However, Gatewood has seen his share of ups and downs since beginning his professional career, not posting the power stats many had anticipated he would. But even so, Gatewood still managed to have his best season thus far in 2016, hitting .240 with 14 home runs and 64 RBI’s, with many seeing even better things to come from Gatewood in 2017 and beyond.

Making the transition from his long-time position of shortstop to the unfamiliar third base spot last season, the Brewers are seemingly doing everything they can to help clear Gatewood’s path and get him to the majors as quickly as possible. If Gatewood can continue to tap into the immense power he possesses moving forward, Gatewood should be showing off his talents in the big leagues in the not too distant future.

Jacob Gatewood — top prospect in the Brewers’ 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?

For me you could say baseball was love at first sight. I started playing when I was 8, and once I put the batting gloves on it was over — baseball was all I wanted to do. Growing up, I had a ton of different favorite players, but the one who influenced me the most was my dad. He played some minor league baseball with the Dodgers, Twins, and Cubs. He supported me through it all, and I couldn’t be more thankful for him.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

My first favorite player growing up was actually Troy Tulowitzki. I always liked the way he played and how physical he was on the field. I was lucky enough to meet him a few years ago, and it was a great experience to be able to talk to someone I looked up to so much as a kid.

3.) You were drafted by the Brewers in the 1st round of the 2014 draft. What was that process like for you? Did being present at the MLB Network studio (where the names were being announced live) make the experience all the more memorable?

The process of being drafted is a unique one in a sense; you have to grow up very quickly. You go into your senior year at 18 with a lot of pressure on you, but all the added pressure made it fun for me. My dad has always told me pressure is a privilege, so I really took that to heart my senior year and just tried to soak the whole thing in. Being present at the draft was truly a blessing! They took great care of us, and it was awesome seeing all my friends names called; and of course when mine was called.

4.) Before being drafted, you won the 2013 junior Home Run Derby at Citi Field in front of thousands of people at the stadium and millions more on TV:

Is that the moment you feel your name became ultra synonymous for power with people around the baseball world?

The home run derby at Citi Field was another great blessing. It was the first year they started doing the junior portion of the derby so it was all kind of last minute. One day I was in Georgia, the next I was in New York with my parents getting ready to hit in front of over 50,000 people. It definitely helped get my name out there, and I’m very thankful for USA baseball for giving me that opportunity.

5.) On the negative side of that, do you feel that your home run display on such a national stage led to unfair expectations being placed upon you to hit a mammoth number of home runs right out of the gate in professional baseball as you began your career?

I would say no. I have always been confident in my abilities, so regardless, if I would’ve hit in the home run derby or not I would’ve expected myself to hit a lot of home runs my first couple of years. Now I realize that I’m not the one in control. All I can do is prepare as well as I possible can and play every game like it’s my last. God will do the rest for me.

6.) As with many power hitters, your strikeout numbers have remained very high, with you whiffing more total times than number of games played in each of your first three seasons. What are some of the things you continue to work on to improve your overall approach at the plate?

For me it’s always been pitch selection, so I’ve been working on my vision and really focusing on the mental game of hitting rather than mechanics. I recently visited an eye doctor and realized I needed glasses so that could help a bit as well.

7.) Just this past season, the Brewers worked on converting you from shortstop to third base in order to give you a clearer path to the majors. How difficult did you find it to adjust to a new position you had never previously played?

It was tough the first two months of the season, but the Brewers were awesome with me, being very patient and building up my confidence at third. I had to learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable, and once I adjusted to that I really started to enjoy playing third.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2016? What are your goals for 2017?

I feel I started to understand how important the mental side of baseball is in 2016, and I can’t wait to put all the things I’ve learned to use in 2017. I have a lot of individual goals for 2017, but most importantly, I want to win a championship. It’s been way too long since I’ve been in a dog pile!

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

I’m actually not a big TV guy, but I really enjoy the real estate shows on HGTV. My Dad is a general contractor, so we like to watch all the real estate shows together as a family. My favorite food is mac and cheese. It’s literally one of the first things I look for on any menu at any restaurant, but nothing beats the home made stuff.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

I would tell them success lies in your preparation. When you are prepared it takes all the pressure off of you. It’s like taking a test. When you are prepared you can’t wait to take the test because you know you’ll do good on it, and when you’re unprepared for the test we know we are gonna struggle with it. Baseball is similar in the fact that if we prepare the best we can we are setting ourselves up to perform at our best more consistently! If we do not prepare we may have a few good games in a row but overall we will be less consistent. The difference in a good player compared to a great player is consistency, and in baseball that is an extra hit or two a week than the other guy. It may seem small but over a 162 game season all the little things will eventually add up. But more importantly, I would also tell the kids to trust in God with everything they do. He knew what each and everyone of us were gonna be before He even created the earth, so trust in Him even through the tough times, because He knows what He’s doing and everything is a part of His plan. Give all the glory to Him, live your life for Him, and He will reward you with eternal life in heaven, which is better than any baseball game or anything we can conceive on this earth.

————————————————————————

Big thanks to Jacob Gatewood for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @Jake_Gatewood2

Advertisements

Q and A With Daniel Norris

Daniel Norris was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft, after going 8-2 with a 2.24 ERA his senior year at Science Hill High School in Tennessee.

norrisSince the draft, Norris has posted some decent stats in the majors after making a unique progression through the minors. Following a couple of poor seasons in 2012 and 2013, Norris absolutely flew through the minors in 2014, jumping from High-A all the way to the big leagues, and going a combined 12-2 with a 2.53 ERA over the course of 25 minor leagues starts that season with three different teams.

After making his MLB debut in September of 2014, Norris spent quite a bit of time back in Triple-A in 2015, making just five more starts with Toronto before being traded to the Tigers at the trade deadline. Following that, Norris made eight starts for Detroit, in which he pitched some of the best baseball he had in his big league career to that point.

In 2016, Norris made just 13 big league starts due to some injuries, but continued to prove to the baseball world that he is in fact a major league quality pitcher, posting a 3.38 ERA over the course of his 69.1 innings. Moving into 2017, it should be exciting to see how Daniel Norris is able to make an even bigger name for himself as an impact pitcher.

Daniel Norris — pitcher for the Detroit Tigers — 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?

Honestly, for as long as I can remember baseball was my gig. It was and still is what I think about before falling asleep. Whether that be my next start or simply playing catch the next day — that passion has always been extremely strong. Growing up, my favorite player was Chipper jones. I loved watching him play the game with such a silky smooth essence about him. Truth be told, I could count Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez as an influence in ‘The Sandlot’. The kid just loved the game more than anyone. I can relate.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

I guess I answered that in question number one. But to reiterate, Chipper carried that old-school baseball approach into the later years of his career, even when the game was starting to change and get younger. I respected his desire to keep the game gritty rather than flashy.

3.) You were drafted by the Blue Jays in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. What was that process like for you? Initial thoughts?

I feel like that process for me was a little different than some, I suppose. All along, leading up to the draft, I was told by everyone that I was a sure-fire first rounder. I started to believe them. But when the draft came around I fell to the second [round] because of . . . well, it was just God’s plan. So through that time, disappointment was unavoidable. But shortly after, I realized how incredibly blessed I was to even have an opportunity to play at the next level. So God played a huge part in understanding the stepping stones of pro ball for me.

4.) You broke out in 2014 to have a very special season. That year, you went from High-A in April all the way up to the majors in September. Did you find the rapid ascension overwhelming at times, or was it just one of those seasons where everything came together?

It would be easy to say that everything just kinda came together, but it wouldn’t be entirely true. It was up to the Jays system to challenge me, and I just accepted the challenge each time. I work extremely hard. And I expect for it to pay off. That year my work off of the field started to translated to the mound.

5.) The following year, you were traded to the Tigers mid-season. Switching organizations halfway through the year, did you find the trade somewhat difficult to adjust to or did you quickly adapt to your new home?

The trade definitely came as a surprise to me, but I was welcomed with open arms by my new team. I was stoked on a new place to call home and kind of a start fresh. Sometimes that’s what you need in order to reset yourself and refocus on what is truly important to you and your career.

6.) Despite the success you had in 2015, you also spent a good portion of the season pitching with a secret. Unbeknownst to nearly everyone around baseball, you had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer but chose to finish out the season. How did your diagnosis affect you on the mound?

There’s no doubt that was a wicked curveball thrown my way, but I 100-percent believe that was God’s way of telling me to appreciate everyday I get to put on a uniform. At that time, when I found out, I was pressing on the mound. I had been sent to Triple-A, and I was trying to make my way back up to the big leagues, living and dying by every pitch. But those circumstances immediately made me remember what it was like to just have fun between the lines.

7.) On a lighter note — it’s one of the questions I’m sure you’re asked the most about, but it’s so intriguing to so many people that I would be remiss to not bring it up. Every year since 2011, you’ve spent portions of the offseason living out of a 1978 VW microbus nicknamed “Shaggy”. During those times, what does your typical day consist of?

There’s a bit of a misconception with that. Some people seem to think I spend the entire offseason living out of the van, skipping workouts, and just running around on the beach [laughs]. I have home base in Tennessee where I spend a lot of time working out twice a day. I’m extremely focused on my career and development of my body. That being said, I frequently take camping trips that can range up to a few weeks at a time (still working out everyday on the road). Then, when it’s time to go down to Florida for spring training, I pack up the van in the middle of January and live in it until pitchers and catchers report toward the end of February.

8.) Playing alongside some great pitchers in your career to this point, such as Justin Verlander this past season, what kind of things have you been able to pick up from them that has helped you on the mound?

I honestly don’t have enough space to put in here what Ver[lander] has taught me. I like to watch and learn, and he is one of the best to watch every fifth day. He also goes out of his way to sit down and talk to me about pitching, which obviously helps a ton.

9.) Despite starting in only thirteen games, what do you feel went well in 2016? What are your goals for 2017?

I think I finally started to come into my own toward the end of 2016; starting to understand my mechanics and what it takes to be more consistent. I think it was the best I’ve thrown a baseball in a long time, and I’m excited to continue that work in 2017.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

For me, I gave it all to God and let Him clear my path. All along the way I told myself to work harder than anyone ever has; to keep my head down; go about my business the right way; and respect the game as well as my teammates. But more so than anything, like I said, I always thank God for what I am able to do.

————————————————————————

Big thanks to Daniel Norris for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @DanielNorris18

Q and A With Alex Kirilloff

Alex Kirilloff was drafted by the Twins in the 1st round of the 2016 draft, after hitting .540 with 3 homers and 24 RBI’s over the course of his senior year at Plum High School in Pennsylvania. alex

But Kirilloff wasn’t your typical high school draft pick. Although he played for his local high school team, Kirilloff took classes online throughout his entire four years there, making him just the second home schooled player to ever be drafted in the first round.

However, despite having never attended classes on campus, the Twins saw great potential in Kirilloff, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. In his first partial season of pro ball this past year, Kirilloff hit .306 with 7 home runs and 33 RBI’s in just 55 games played, winning the Appalachian League Player of the Year.

Although only time will tell if those numbers will continue to translate into the upper levels of the minors, if Kirilloff can keep his hitting going into the coming years, he could be playing in Minnesota in the not so distant future.

Alex Kirilloff — top 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?

My father was my biggest baseball influence growing up. He always tells me about how the first day I was able to stand up and walk he was already showing me how to hit off a tee. I’ve always had an interest for baseball growing up for as long as I can remember, really. Being surrounded by it kinda led me in that direction.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

Josh Hamilton was probably my favorite baseball player growing up. He captivated me — watching him hit 28 homers in a single round of the 2008 Homerun Derby at Yankee Stadium. I also have read his book. His story is a great example of how even Christians are not perfect. His battle with alcohol and drugs just goes to show what the devil can do to us if we aren’t always careful. Josh’s testimony is tremendous, and I would suggest reading his book Beyond Belief to anyone.

3.) You were drafted by the Twins in the 1st round of the 2016 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

Being drafted by the Twins is truly a blessing. The process throughout high school was long and tedious at some points, but it was all worth it. When I first found out, my teammates, friends and family were all at a local restaurant watching the draft. My initial thoughts were how excited, honored and blessed I was to get selected by them.

4.) In 2015, before you were drafted, you won the Perfect Game All-American Classic Home Run Challenge in San Diego, hitting 34 home runs over the course of the competition. With the power you possess, how important do you consider power-hitting to be in regards to your overall gameplay?

I think the power is a growing part of my overall gameplay. I would hope that the older I get and the more I mature, I hope the power will become more and more relevant. Overall, though, it’s a huge part of hitting to be able to hit doubles and home runs, so I hope to continue to do that.

5.) You were the first high school player since Joe Mauer the Twins immediately sent to Elizabethton to begin their professional career, completely skipping the Gulf Coast League. What type of changes did you find yourself having to make to adjust to the differences between high school and professional baseball?

There are a lot of adjustments to be made from high school to pro ball. The game speeds up a lot; you are getting challenged every at-bat; you are playing every single day; you have to take care of your body better; and you have to be mentally focused everyday.

6.) Despite being sent straight to the Appalachian League, you immediately excelled, going on to win the Appy League Player of the Year for 2016. What did it mean to you to have such a successful start to your pro career?

It meant a lot to get my career started on a good note. I felt that it was reassurance from the Lord that this truly is His plan for me and the avenue that He would like me to impact people through.

7.) 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?

Bus rides are usually not exactly the highlight of going on a road trip. Most of your down time is eating and sleeping, to be honest. Again, that’s just another adjustment that has to be made playing pro ball.

8.) Although you had time after signing to play in just 55 games, what do you feel went well in 2016? What are your goals for 2017?

I just think my adjustments to the whole situation went pretty well in 2016. I am always looking to improve though and, Lord willing, do better in 2017.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

Favorite TV show is ‘Intentional Talk’. Favorite food is steak.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

My advice would be that if you are serious about your dream of playing baseball, and that it is what you feel the Lord wants you to do, it takes a lot of work. Training, discipline and motivation are all big keys along the way. Putting yourself in different opportunities to be seen by people is important as well, believe it or not.

————————————————————————

Big thanks to Alex Kirilloff for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @AKirilloff19

Q and A With Jacob Faria

Jacob Faria was drafted by the Rays in the 10th round of the 2011 draft, after going 8-1 with a 1.75 ERA his senior year at Gahr High School in California.faria

Since the draft, Faria has seen a great deal of success, making a steady progression through Tampa’s minor league system, and making big impressions along the way. Over that time, Faria has recorded a stellar career 3.13 ERA, moving all the way up to Triple-A for the second half of the 2016 season.

Between Faria’s time at Double-A and Triple-A in his most recent 2016 campaign, Faria saw his collective ERA jump from 1.92 the year before up over two full runs to 3.99 in 2016. But despite the numbers not seemingly showing it, Faria had another great season and made numerous strides in his path to the majors.

While he didn’t receive a big league call up in 2016, as some predicted he might towards the end of the year, many are anticipating that time to come at some point in 2017 if all continues to go as planned.

Jacob Faria — top 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 became interested in baseball at the age of six, and my biggest baseball influence was my dad. He’s the reason I started getting into the game, and he sacrificed so much to help me get a shot at my dream.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

My favorite baseball player growing up was Vladimir Guerrero. I grew up an Angels fan and we had season tickets, so getting to watch him play right field was awesome. But once I started getting into pitching, Jered Weaver became my favorite player, and I modeled my game after him.

3.) You were drafted by the Rays in the 10th round of the 2011 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

My draft day was very hectic. I actually had so many scouts calling me that my dad had to take me out of school early. We went to my mom’s house from school (my parents are divorced) and set up two computers to watch the draft. Once they called my name, I stood up. I remember not being able to feel my legs. It was such a huge accomplishment for me at the time, and it awesome that I got to share that moment with my dad, mom and step dad.

4.) Over the course of your career to this point, you’ve had many great outings. Is there any one start of your career so far that stands out in your mind as the most memorable?

My most memorable performance came in my second Double-A outing in Montgomery on the Fourth of July last season in 2015. It was against Biloxi, the Brewers Double-A affiliate, and I went seven no-hit innings with 14 K’s.

5.) This season, you saw your combined season ERA jump from 1.92 in 2015 up to 3.99 in 2016. Do you attribute any specific thing to the two-run jump in ERA, or do you feel it was simply a result of you spending time in Triple-A and having to face more experienced hitters and tougher at-bats?

When I returned back to Montgomery this season a lot of things just didn’t go my way on the mound or on the field, and that just happens. But it kind of did affect me mentally. It was great to be able to face adversity, though, because it did help me become a mentally stronger pitcher, as well as taught me how to be on the mound and pitch when things don’t go my way or when I don’t have my best stuff. It’s easy to go out there when you have everything going for you, but you learn the most from the games when you don’t have your best stuff and still have to find a way to get out of the inning. Baseball isn’t a perfect game, and that’s what makes it so fun. Everyone expects players to be perfect all the time, but if baseball was perfect the game would be predictable. I’m just thankful for the adversity I went through, because I feel it helped me once I got to Durham, and helped me become a better pitcher overall.

6.) The Rays finished last in the American League East division in 2016. How do you feel about the Rays’ chances of once again becoming a contending team moving forward in 2017 and beyond with the talent you’ve witnessed in their minor league system?

The Rays have a lot of talent throughout the minor leagues, and that’s at every position. It’s really exciting to see guys do so well, too, during the year, because these guys are the Rays’ future. With that being said, I think the Rays have a great group of upcoming guys who will contribute to help them become contenders again.

7.) 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?

The most difficult thing of being on the road is just finding a routine. Every place we go is so different. The hotels are different; the surroundings are different; even the small things down to how to get to the field or the places to eat. You have to adjust quickly to whatever place you’re in, and by the time you actually do adjust you’re back on the bus or plane traveling to the next place. While I’m on the road, I mostly watch TV or movies, and I try to FaceTime my girlfriend as much as possible. I just try to rest overall and enjoy the downtime since I don’t get much of it.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2016? What are your goals for 2017?

I was healthy all year and made all my starts, which is something I strive to do every season. I also got stronger mentally, which helped me learn how to battle through certain situations. I did feel like my time in Triple-A taught me a lot about being an actual pitcher as well. My goals for 2017 are to get stronger and learn more about the game. I’m always trying to build off the previous season and apply what I learned from the year before to my current season.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

My favorite TV show is ‘The Office’. I watch the entire series on Netflix every season. My favorite food is anything Cuban. I’m Cuban and finding Cuban food is tough during season, but thankfully I’m able to find a couple places to hold me over until I get home.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

A piece of advice I would give to kids is to just have fun; that’s the biggest and most important thing. This game is meant to be fun. Also, to keep working hard and don’t let anyone tell you no. I had so many people doubt me and tell me no, but all I did was use it as motivation to work hard.

————————————————————————

Big thanks to Jacob Faria for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @JDFaria36

Q and A With Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly was drafted by the Cardinals in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft, despite recording a 5.65 ERA his final year at the University of California-Riverside.

Joe KellyFollowing the draft, Kelly performed well in the minors and made a steady progression through the ranks from 2009 to 2012, earning a mid season call up in 2012 to the Cardinals, where he proceeded to post a 3.53 ERA over the course of 107 innings pitched.

Kelly had a terrific following year in 2013 with the Cardinals, recording a 2.69 ERA over 124 innings and looked to be on his way to becoming one of the Cardinals’ top pitching options in their rotation. But after a 4.37 ERA seven game start to the 2014 season, Kelly was traded to the Red Sox where he has remained ever since.

The 2015 season saw Kelly take the mound for the Red Sox 25 times, but his outings varied in consistency and his overall results were subpar. Following the up and down year, Kelly was shut down for the final portion of last season due to shoulder soreness, after a cumulative 4.82 ERA.

Despite the poor year for Kelly in 2015 and subsequent talks that he may be moved to the bullpen full time, many people still feel that he can turn things around to become an effective major league starting pitcher once again. After all, he still owns a decent career ERA of 3.82, and there have been plenty of signs in the past that he has the potential to still pan out.

Joe Kelly — pitcher for the Boston Red Sox — 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 became most interested when I was about 5 years old. Growing up, my biggest influences were my parents. They were always so supportive and loving.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

My favorite baseball player was Ken Griffey Jr. He was the best player in the league. Everyone loves a winner.

3.) You were drafted by the Cardinals in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

It was an awesome feeling. I was with my family and closest friends at a local pizza parlor. It was also my 21st birthday, and we had a great time celebrating all night.

4.) You made it to the World Series in 2013 with the Cardinals, and started game three. What was that overall experience like for you?

Being in the World Series is a great experience that I will never forget. I can’t wait to hopefully make it back and get a ring.

5.) For the Cardinals, you pitched in around 70 games before being traded to the Red Sox midseason in 2014. What were the biggest differences you noticed about switching to pitching in the American League? How difficult was it to make the transition during the season?

The biggest difference is that you don’t get to face the pitcher hitting. You actually have to focus on the number nine hitter and work for your out. It was hard in the middle of the season, because it was such short notice. I had to live in the hotel for two months in Boston.

6.) Throughout your career in the minors and majors, you’ve made the switch back and forth between the bullpen and starting rotation numerous times. How do you enable yourself to thrive in whatever role you are placed in?

I just try to keep pitching simple, whether it’s in the pen or being a starter.

7.) The Red Sox made the major additions of David Price and Craig Kimbrel this past offseason to bolster your rotation and bullpen. How do you feel their presence will impact the overall makeup of the Red Sox in 2016?

I think we have a really good team, and should compete for the top spot in the AL East. Adding those two guys is huge. They are great teammates and leaders. I can’t wait to play with them.

8.) After a somewhat poor start to 2015, you won eight consecutive starts from August through September before being shut down due to shoulder soreness. What do you feel you were doing differently that allowed you so much success?

I just started to locate my fastball with more consistency and mixed my off speed pitches well. I hope that I will pick up right where I left off at last season.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

Favorite show is ‘Breaking Bad’, and favorite food is ‘In-N-Out’.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

I would tell kids to just have fun, throw the ball as hard as you can and swing as hard as you can. You can always teach proper mechanics later on in life.

—————————————————————————

Big thanks to Joe Kelly for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @JosephKellyJr

Q and A With Josh Hader

Josh Hader was drafted by the Orioles in the 19th round of the 2012 draft, after going 10-0 with a 0.39 ERA and 125 strikeouts his senior year at Old Mill High School in Maryland.

HaderSince the draft, Hader has switched organizations twice, going to the Astros in 2013 and being traded once again to the Brewers this past season. However, all the transitioning has seemingly had little impact on Hader and his ability to post stellar stats. In 2015 alone, Hader recorded a 3.03 ERA with 119 strikeouts over 104 innings pitched and held batters to a mere .224 batting average.

Due to his consistently good numbers, Hader has seen a steady climb in the overall prospect rankings, winding up all the way at number 61 in all of baseball heading into this season.

With a fastball in the mid-to-upper nineties, an above average slider and a work in progress changeup, Hader could be seeing time at the major league level in the very near future if everything continues to go as planned.

Josh Hader — top prospect in the Brewers’ 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 baseball at the age of 3. My father got me interested in the game, and I fell in love with it.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

I loved Randy Johnson — watching him on the mound and attacking hitters.

3.) You were drafted by the Orioles in the 12th round of the 2012 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

It was a wild experience — a lot of emotion going through the process. I was actually headed to Camden Yards for the high school senior All-Star ceremony, and I got a call saying I had been chosen by the Orioles in the 19th round. Everything kind of stopped. I definitely felt like my truck was floating in the air. The next day I played at Camden Yards for the All-Star game and was able to throw in front of Buck [Showalter].

4.) When you were in high school, your fastball sat in the upper 80’s, but after being drafted you saw a jump to the mid 90’s. What do you attribute to such a rapid burst in your overall velocity?

That’s one of the most asked questions I get. All I can think of is being on a set program long tossing, keeping my upper body loose and throwing everyday. Having me grow into my body also helped. I started to gain more weight and was on a set weight program which helped me build leg strength.

5.) Back in 2013, you were traded from the Orioles to the Astros organization, and in 2015 you were sent to the Brewers. Being traded midseason each time, what overall impact did the swap have on your mentality and effectiveness for the remainder of each particular season?

Being traded the first time, it was different, but very easy for me because the guys at the time from the Astros were very welcoming and helped me transition easier. We were a winning team and had one thing in mind, and that was to win games. Being traded the second time with guys I knew helped out because you at least know some guys. If anything, being traded midseason helped, because you get the couple of extra days rest, so it gets your arm a little more amp.

6.) After a great 2015 season, you were sent to the Arizona Fall League where you had a terrific showing, winning the ERA title with a mere 0.56 ERA. What was the overall experience of the Arizona Fall League like? What type of things did you work on most during your time out there?

Going to the AFL helped me out a lot, being able to get some extra time to work on my changeup and slider. The slider — I changed the grip midseason, so it was a whole new feel. In the AFL the slider became one of the bigger pitches for me. Being able to pitch against the best of the best there also helped me because I knew 1-9, everyone could do damage. It helped me be able to work hitters and made me throw offspeeds behind in the count, and made me keep the hitters off balance.

7.) When you began your career, you were used solely as a relief pitcher, but were switched to a full time starter in 2013 before being used as both a starter and reliever again over each of the past two seasons. How do you go about making an effective transition between starting and relieving throughout the season? 

The biggest thing is the warm up before the game as a starter you have a routine you go through and you have time to get ready, but as a reliever you don’t have that luxury of the pre game warm up. No matter the role the job still stays the same, doesn’t matter if it’s the 1st or last inning, you have to get hitters out and keep the game in our team’s favor.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2015? What are your goals for 2016?

Changing where I stood on the mound and my slider grip was the best thing for me in 2015. It made all of my pitches become much better and easier for me to command. My goal for 2016 is to be in the big leagues and to keep the same momentum going into this year.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

Spaghetti would have to my favorite food hands down. [For TV show], any hunting show on the outdoor channel. 

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

To never give up on the game; to always work hard, because you never know who is watching you play. Never take the game for granted because it goes by so fast. Always have fun playing. It’s a kid’s game no matter how old you get.  

————————————————————————

Big thanks to Josh Hader for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @jhader17

Q and A With Scooter Gennett

Scooter Gennett was drafted by the Brewers in the 16th round of the 2009 draft, after hitting .470 his senior year at Sarasota High School.

GennettMaking a steady climb through the minors from 2010 through 2013 — including an appearance in the 2012 Futures Game in Kansas City — Gennett debuted at the big league level in June of 2013. By batting .324 with 6 homers and 21 RBI’s over 69 games his rookie year, Gennett set himself up nicely to be a big part of the Brewers moving forward.

Gennett once again had a solid year in 2014, where he hit 9 home runs with the Brewers to go along with 54 RBI’s. However, this past year not everything went quite as smoothly as the previous two seasons for Gennett, with him hitting a few rough spots throughout the year.

Following an unfortunate freak injury to begin the season, Gennett proceeded to produce subpar numbers for the Brewers, leading to him being sent down to the minors midseason. But despite the setback, Gennett was quickly brought back up to finish out the end of the year in Milwaukee, and wound up with 6 homers and 29 RBI’s for the season.

While 2015 was a somewhat down year for Scooter Gennett, he should see a bounce back to his former self in 2016. If everything goes as planned, he is likely to be the everyday second baseman for the Brewers all of this upcoming season.

Scooter Gennett — second baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers — 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 got into baseball when I was 2 years old. My dad and I would play all the time, and he started teaching me everything about the game. I’d say he was my biggest influence in the sense that he taught me everything I know.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

My favorite baseball player was always Barry Larkin. As a small kid growing up in Cincinnati, I admired how he played the game. He was a professional and took the time to say hi to young kids like myself. I really respected him for that.

3.) You were drafted by the Brewers in the 16th round of the 2009 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

Well, to be honest, I thought I would have gone sooner. So as an 18 year old, I was pretty upset [laughs]. But I was with my family and girlfriend (now wife) at our house listening to the whole draft on a laptop. Once I finally heard my name, I was excited and just ready to get my career started.

4.) Your official full name is Ryan Joseph Gennett, but are known as Scooter around the baseball world. While you’ve told the story a few times before, for those who don’t know, briefly retell how you received the nickname Scooter that has stuck with you ever since.

I was a bad kid and didn’t listen very often, especially in the car. I would always undo my car seat belt while my mom was driving, so she would have to stop the car and get out. One day she wanted to teach me a lesson on seatbelt safety and scare some sense into me. So when I was like 4 years old she pulled into a police station where an officer came over to talk to me. When the officer asked me what my name was, I thought I was getting arrested so I quickly thought of an alias, Scooter Gennett, named after my favorite muppet babies character “Scooter”. I didn’t respond to Ryan at all for about a year after the incident, afraid that I would still get in trouble, so Scooter just stuck around.

5.) After a couple of good seasons in the minors in 2010 and 2011, you were selected to take part in the 2012 Futures Game in Kansas City. What was that experience like?

Being in the Futures Game was really a great honor. To know that I was selected to play amongst the best talent was just a really amazing feeling.

6.) Over the course of your Major League career, you’ve hit .307 against righties but just .123 against lefties. As a left handed batter, how do you differ your overall approach when facing southpaw pitchers? Is there anything you’re working on to attempt to improve your production against lefties?

I can only hope I get the opportunity to face more lefty starters this year to show what I can do. Throughtout the minors I never had a problem with lefties, and I know I can hit them. Like anything, I just need consistent at bats against them. It’s the consistency that is key.

7.) In 2015, you were placed on the disabled list early in the year, and after a somewhat poor return you were sent down to the minors for around a month before being recalled. What was your overall take regarding being sent down? Did that experience change the way you go about every day in the majors now?

Being sent down last year just really showed me to enjoy everyday in the big leagues and to do my best everyday. You really never know when your last game might be, so enjoy every moment you have playing at that level because it really is such a blessing. I wouldn’t say I worked harder when I got sent down. It was just a reminder to do the very best you can everyday. That goes for life in general, also.

8.) What do you feel went well for you in 2015? What are your goals for 2016?

I feel my attitude was good in 2015, especially while getting sent down. I think that went well for me, and I am going to continue keeping a positive outlook. My goals for 2016 are just to play everyday and stay healthy!

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

I’m a Netflix guy. I watch a movie every night before bed, and I will literally give any movie a shot. As for a show I’m just now watching, ‘The Bible’ series on Netflix is pretty awesome. My favorite food is definitely beef tips and noodles — yummy.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

I would tell kids that if baseball is in their heart, to never give up on their dreams. No matter how many people tell you you can’t do something or you will never make it, if you want something bad enough you can achieve any goal! It’s all about having faith and the right mindset.

—————————————————

Big thanks to Scooter Gennett for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @Sgennett2