Results tagged ‘ West Virginia Power ’
By Jake Seiner
Interviewing for game stories can be a fun process. The thousands of players and coaches spread across the Minor Leagues supply a never-ending chain of unique perspectives on the national pastime. The game story isn’t always the best place for block quotes and expanded thoughts, so once a week, I’m hoping to come here with a look back at some of the more interesting conversations I stumble upon with Minor League players and coaches. Here’s a look back at some quotes from the past week that I hope you’ll find of interest.
Red Sox prospect Bryce Brentz on changes he’s made in his approach this year: (Brentz mashes walk-off no-doubter)
“I’ve always been a guy who is a free swinger, and I have some strikeouts, but the one thing me and [hitting coach] Dave Joppie are working on is controlling the body. Sometimes, I end up lunging or being too, I guess, erratic in the box and go all out and get the ball. I need to slow things down with my hands and timing. That’s been really helpful. I can see pitches better and longer. I’m seeing some good results. Baseball’s a funny game — you go through stretches where you’re doing everything right and the hits won’t fall for you. I’m sticking with the routine Joppie and I established, slowing things down, especially with my lower half. I’m evenly distributed and in a good hitting position, and it’s paying off as of late.
“The things me and Joppie have been working on have been paying off very quickly. Paying good dividends. Usually, you make a small adjustment, and it takes a while to get used to. I made a very small adjustment, but it’s been helping me out as far as being able to stay back and see pitches better and not lunge and get too aggressive. That’s been my Achilles’ heel, being over-aggressive.
“It really starts with the hands. I’ve been really moving them a lot, moving the bat back and forth and sometimes I’ll get stuck with them, then I have to go and regenerate my hands to get back where I need to be. My shoulders will get rotated and it’ll throw off a lot of things.
“I’m not saying my swing is perfect now, but I’m slowing things down with my hands, keeping even and just getting a circular flow going. That’s slowing down my whole body and putting me in the position I need to be in.”
Daytona manager Dave Keller on Chicago Cubs’ Dustin Geiger’s leg kick: (Soler, Geiger tee off for D-Cubs)
“He’s continuing to make adjustments, and that’s nice to see. Any time a guy has a leg kick, timing becomes a huge factor that you have to stay on top of. You have to stay soft and low and be very, very relaxed because the pitchers — they go to the plate at different times and their moves are all different and everything else that can mess up your timing, which is probably the most important thing about hitting.
“He’s found a way to slow himself down, more than anything. He’s slowing his mind down and slowing his mechanics down and when you can do that, the ball looks slower, and I think that’s what he’s going through right now. He’s getting good pitches to hit and using the whole field.”
Keller on Cubs’ Jorge Soler learning English:
“Well, what ends up happening with foreign players over here is that as soon as they start learning the language, they find out the American players, the English-speaking players, they can’t wait to communicate with them. We take communication for granted sometimes. We have all different kinds of crazy things in the world now, technology that we use to communicate, and we often communicate worse. With all the texting and email and everything else, sometimes it just boils back down to talking and using the same language.
“He’s learning English, and the American players are helping him. Everybody understands you can’t be embarrassed to say something that doesn’t sound like it should. That’s something a lot of Latin players go through. From his standpoint, he’s still learning, and that’s helped him open up as a person.
“He’s getting there. I know during Spring Training a month and half ago, he had no idea when I’d start talking to him. … During Spring Training, he didn’t understand much English, so I tried to talk to him slow in English. He knows I speak Spanish. All the Latin kids know I’m bilingual, so it’s easy for them to speak Spanish with me when they want, but that doesn’t help them. I tried to talk slow, and that’s how you learn. Sometimes, he’ll say, ‘Oh, oh, too fast.’”
“He’s warming up to the whole atmosphere well. It’s really nice to see.”
Yankees’ Nik Turley on what he learned squaring off against rehabbing Jason Heyward: (Turley changes things up, gets win)
“Don’t groove in a fastball first pitch of an at-bat. The first at-bat, I got him with a fastball, struck him out looking. The next at-bat, he hit the RBI double off me. He got me, but at least I got him, too.”
Arizona’s Keon Broxton on drills he’s used to improve his swing/approach: (Broxton burning with two home runs)
“I’ll put a tee right in front of the plate and focus on hitting the ball up the middle. Then I’ll put a higher tee right behind my hands. It puts me in a good hitting position to swing down through the ball. When I try to do too much, I use a lot of my body with my swing and I fly open with my shoulders and drop my back shoulder. So keeping that back tee high by my hands, it makes me go down toward the ball. If I try to get big and use my body, I’ll hit it with the bat.
“That definitely helps me a lot. In batting practice, I don’t necessarily try to pull the ball. I stay middle to right-center. I keep my shoulders in and try to work down on the ball. I don’t try to hit bombs in BP. I’ll get pull happy and keep dropping my back shoulder and try to lift everything. I’ll do some soft toss with my coach. He’ll put two balls in one hand and he’ll soft toss one that’s hard then one that’s softer, and that gets me to where I have to stay in a good hitting position and wait for the ball to come to me.”
“I’ve made tremendous progress just by doing that every day. I’m learning how to stay in a strong hitting position and waiting on the ball and learning how to use my hands and body and work down on the ball. It’s helped with my pitch recognition and helped me with my power and my strikeouts.”
Pirates’ Stetson Allie on fighting the urge to abandon his approach: (Bucs’ Allie slugs two more home runs)
“I think the biggest for me is staying with the approach. I got away from it for a while, got power hungry and was pulling off really bad. If I stay with the same thing, I can see the breaking pitches and changeups better. It just works out that way. The adjustments pitchers were making, they were coming in a little bit, but I was chasing breaking balls also. When I get my foot down and time up, I can hit the breaking ball to left field and the fastball to right field. I’m not getting away from that.”
By Jake Seiner
Interviewing for game stories can be a fun process. The thousands of players and coaches spread across the Minor Leagues supply a never-ending chain of unique perspectives on the national pastime. The game story isn’t always the best place for block quotes and expanded thoughts, so once a week, I’m hoping to come here with a look back at some of the more interesting conversations I stumble upon with Minor League players and coaches.
Bits and pieces of these quotes may have appeared over at MiLB.com, but when you’re trying to dig into somebody’s back story, sometimes it’s most helpful to hear it all straight from the source. In that spirit, here’s a look back at some quotes from the past week that I hope you’ll find of interest.
Brandon Nimmo on moving from Wyoming to Brooklyn for his first full pro season:
“That first summer was a huge learning experience for me. I don’t think I went a day without learning something new. I was from a state where the whole population is less than what fits in a square mile in Brooklyn. We had 500,000 people in Wyoming. It was obviously a huge change for me, living that kind of lifestyle. I was used to being able to see for 40 miles out over the horizon. In Brooklyn, I could see about 40 feet. There were buildings all around you, people living on top of each other in small living spaces. I wasn’t use to that. I had to get used to that fast-paced lifestyle. The thing about baseball is you change your whole life and have to adjust quickly, and I got adjusted and enjoyed my time out there.
“This was a whole new experience for me. Going from, for me, I didn’t have high school ball, and in Legion ball, you faced a good pitcher maybe every fifth day or so. In the New York-Penn League, I just skipped a whole bunch of levels and was facing great guys all the time. You can’t take any at-bats off. It took time to learn how to approach the game and how to be at 100 percent or close to 100 percent every day, mentally and physically. It just, I had to learn how my body works in this kind of season. It’s just always a new learning stage for me. It was great, and I learned how to deal with a lot of failure.”
Padres prospect Max Fried on adjusting to pro ball:
“It’s different now because I’m a full-time pitcher. In high school, I was a two-way guy. Now I’m able to focus on one craft, and that’s opened up new things for me to work on and focus on on the pitching side. It’s also a lot different now because I’m going four or five innings per start rather than the two innings I was throwing last summer in the AZL. It’s enabled me to sort of grow and really just have a more regimented schedule to follow each time I go out.”
Fried on managing his body:
“I’m definitely a slender build, going about 6-4 and 185 pounds right now. I’m fine with that at the moment. Right now, I’m focusing on maintaining through the season, maybe just adding a few pounds. In the offseason, I’ll focus in on putting on muscle and getting stronger, but I’m not too worried about the weight right now. I’m definitely still maturing, and if my body wants to put on weight, it will.”
Fort Wayne pitching coach Burt Hooton (Fried’s coach) on coaching young hurlers:
“The reason these guys play Minor League Baseball is to get the experience. As a coach, you have to step back and let them learn from experience and point out what they should be learning. [Fried] doesn’t have that much professional experience under his belt. One thing you can’t slap on a guy is time and experience. That takes time.”
Pirates prospect Stetson Allie on his refined plate approach:
“I think, for me, it was, ‘I’m a big guy and I want to hit a bunch of home runs.’ For me, I can hit more home runs when I stay simple with my approach and try to drive the ball to right field. If I pull one over the fence, great, but I try to stay middle to middle away. When I first started, I wanted to crush balls, but as you move up, I’ve learned you have to have a hard-headed approach and stick with it. The harder you try to hit a home run, the more likely you won’t get it. For me, I just try to make solid contact every time and not even think about hitting home runs.
“That hasn’t been hard at all. Home run or not, I’m sticking with the same thing I’ve been doing. All I’m looking for right now is just hard contact. If it goes out, great. If not, at least I hit the ball hard. That’s what I’m going to stick with.”
Tampa manager Luis Sojo on Yankees catching prospect Gary Sanchez:
“When he’s on, his best weapon is to go the opposite way, left-center. He’s so strong, and he knows how to hit. When he’s good, he hits the opposite way. That’s something that’s really going to work down the road. Good hitters do that. Every time you see a good hitter, they can hit the other way. For his young age, he’s very good.”
Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz on Twins prospect Eddie Rosario:
“He’s a little unorthodox, but his barrel stays through the zone for a long time. The great ones at the big leagues, their bats stay in the zone for forever. Eddie does that. He has a special knack for finding the ball with the barrel. He has a presence when he walks up there. He’s one hell of a competitor. He finds a way to barrel up the ball, drive it line to line. He has a knack for that, always finds the barrel. The only way he’s making outs right now is if he gets himself out. He’s one of the better ones I’ve seen at staying flat through the zone.”
Dodgers catching prospect Tyler Ogle on 2012, when he played 43 games across four levels from Rookie ball to Triple-A:
“Last year was a growing up year for me. I was drafted fairly high, and I thought I was going to come into pro ball and continue to have success. That didn’t happen. My swing didn’t work well with wood, and my catching needed work.
“They kept me in extended, and I did a lot of growing up there. I had to fight to get myself out of extended and out of the AZL every day. I changed my swing, changed the way I catch. They had me start in the AZL and at that point, I told myself I gotta get out of here as best as I know how. That’s hitting and doing what I can behind the plate to help the pitching staff. After I started in the AZL, our farm director told me he that if I did my thing there, he would get me out, but that I had to prove myself.
“After a few games, he got me out like he said he would. I went to Michigan [to Great Lakes in the Midwest League] and I started 0-for-20, and I wasn’t feeling well at the plate. I was playing every couple of days, and I lost my consistency and routine. They saw that and didn’t think I was best suited there, so they sent me back to Short Season [Ogden]. I spent time there working a lot on my swing and I had my two hitting coaches from extended there at Short Season, and they took it upon themselves to get me back out there, Johnny Washington and Doug Mientkiewicz.
“Then Matt Wallach got hurt in Double-A, and all the catchers had to bump up a team, so they sent me back to Michigan, which was a lot of moving. For me, it was okay. I was comfortable. I had been to Michigan already once, and it was basically a second chance, but I don’t get to start over with a new average. I was picking up my 0-for-20. I turned it around a little bit, and then they sent me to Albuquerque to fill a backup role there, which was a great experience. It was a lot of moving around, but it taught me I have to be mentally tough.”
Earlier this morning, MiLB.com published the first installment (link here) of my joint Q&A with Pirates outfielders Josh Bell and Gregory Polanco, who are ranked sixth and fifth respectively among Pittsburgh farmhands. I would encourage you to check that out initially. Below is a second installment of outtake questions and answers. Enjoy.
QUESTIONS FOR JOSH BELL:
Me: What’s your your daily routine at the IMG Academy?
Bell: From about 8:30 to 9:00 [a.m.], we stretch. For the next hour, we train our muscles, train on the glute and the hamstrings and the hip flexors to power through while we run. We do different drills, whether it be ladders or just working on karaoke or sled training. An hour is a long time to be doing anything, really. It’s the toughest part of the day, but it’s nice to see results. Even in this first week, I feel like my running mechanics have sharpened up a little bit, so that’s good.
Me: Do you have time for other stuff?
Bell: It’s an all-day thing. I have time after lunch until we play ball. Pedro Alvarez is up here right now. It’s cool to see a big leaguer. Everyone else is in the Minor Leagues. J.R. Murphy is with us. Just guys trying to get better for the upcoming season.
Me: What outfield position do you see yourself at long-term?
Bell: I got moved to right field last year. I don’t really care. The outfield is fun [no matter the position]. I love tracking balls, so wherever, depends on what the team needs.
Me: Is there a ballplayer you model yourself after?
Bell: Do I model myself after anyone specifically? I follow a couple guys on Twitter if that means anything, I guess, for the off-the-field aspect. I really like [Andrew] McCutchen and Matt Kemp, younger guys that have had success in the game. You gotta love Mike Trout, the way he plays.
Me: Have you met McCutchen?
Bell: I shook hands with him once and went to a players-only question-and-answer session that was like 45 minutes long. We could pick his brain and ask him whatever we wanted. It was cool behind the scenes, since we’re players we probably get more answers to our questions than reporters would. I just realized he was a normal guy. It was really cool.
Me: Aside from staying healthy, what are your goals for 2013?
Bell: I haven’t made a goal sheet for next season. This offseason, I just want to get as strong as I can and not leave anything in the tank. I have nothing to worry about this season because I know I have prepared myself the way I know I needed to. I’ll definitely go into Spring Training with a lot more confidence and being more trusting than I was last year.
Me: Where do both expect to begin the 2013 season?
Bell: I would expect [to be back at West Virginia], but I guess that depends on how I play in Spring Training. We’ll see.
QUESTIONS FOR GREGORY POLANCO (@El_Coffee):
Me: Were there adjustments you made before or during last season to put yourself in a position to have such success?
Polanco: I made a lot of adjustments before and during the season. You never stop making adjustments.
Me: Were you surprised by your breakout 2012? Does it raise your expectations for the 2013 campaign?
Polanco: I wasn’t surprised because I worked really hard for that, and thank god I had a great season, and it definitely has risen my expectations for this year.
Me: What is your favorite thing about playing in the Minors?
Polanco: Being able to work on my game everyday, so I can maximize my tools the day I arrive in Pittsburgh.
Me: Who is the toughest starting pitcher you have faced in the Minors?
Polanco: Jose Fernandez from the Marlins.
Me: What part of your game needs the most work?
Polanco: My consistency.
Me: What is your long-term baseball goal?
Polanco: Playing 20 years in the big leagues.
Me: Where do both expect to begin the 2013 season?
Polanco: I’m not sure but I will probably start in the FSL [with the Bradenton Marauders].
Me: Aside from baseball, what is your passion?
Polanco: Video games since I was a little kid. I’m addicted to PS3.
Me: Lastly, is there anything you want your fans and our readers to know about you?
Polanco: Everybody calls me “El Coffee.” It comes from my skin color. My coach growing up gave me [the name]. Growing up, I was a pitcher, too, tall lanky lefty.