Barry Good Decision

There’s been a lot of hoopla recently over Barry Bonds’ decision to drop out of the World Baseball Classic. But, you know what? I don’t care.

Good for him! In fact, I think more players should follow his lead. I’m sure Brian Sabean, the Giants’ ownership, Barry’s teammates and all of San Francisco’s fans are absolutely thrilled about his decision. And, why shouldn’t they be? Who really cares about some trivial, over-hyped, money-grubbing event like the WBC? As a Mariners’ fan, I can assure you that I don’t want Ichiro playing (and heaven forbid if Felix is allowed to participate!).

I mean, can you imagine the backlash if a MLB player gets hurt during this exaggerated advertisement disguised as “competition”? I know that WBC supporters are thinking, “What’s the difference between getting hurt at the WBC and getting hurt during Spring Training?” Well, I’m glad you asked! Spring Training is just that…training! Players are training for the toll that a 162-game season will take on their bodies.

The WBC is supposed to be a competition. However, it’s flawed because MLB players won’t be playing at 100%. To me, any competition that wants to be taken seriously shouldn’t have any restrictions placed on its competitors (outside of the standard rules for the game taking place!).

However, during the WBC, pitchers will have pitch-count limits. How competitive is it really going to be when Buck Martinez has to pull Brad Lidge because Lidge has reached his limit of 20 pitches. Furthermore, the goal of the WBC is to determine which country is “the best” at baseball.

But, how can that be fairly determined when the best players are dropping out? And, why does it even matter in the first place? You’ve got players playing for countries they may have never even been to (Mike Piazza and Italy) and new American citizens playing for Latin countries (Manny Ramirez). Face it…the WBC is a joke. It’s worse than the All-Star Game.

Yeah, I’ll probably end up watching some WBC games, just because I love baseball so much. However, I won’t be rooting for an individual country as much as I’ll be rooting for all of the players to stay healthy – so they’re able to play when the games really matter!

UPDATE: Uh…yeah. What he said! Jayson Stark is the man.

Interview with Ryan Lavarnway

Ryan Lavarnway is a catcher and outfielder for the Yale Bulldogs. So, if baseball doesn’t work out for him, he’s got a nice fallback plan. But, it looks like he’s going to be just fine. Last year, as a sophomore, the 6-foot-3, 210 pound Lavarnway hit .467/.531/.873. He led the NCAA in batting average and slugging percentage and was named a third-team All-American by Baseball America.

This year, he picked up right where he left off and is again tearing up the Ivy League to the tune of .398/.541/.824. I caught up with Ryan via e-mail and here is what he had to say…

Start off by telling everyone where you grew up, how you became interested in baseball and a little about your prep baseball career.

I grew up in Southern California. My parents took me to a field when I was five and I’ve been in love with the game ever since. I played at El Camino Real High School where we won CIF my senior year and were ranked number one in California.

So, you grew up in California, but traveled all the way out to Connecticut for school. How would you compare life on the east coast to life on the west coast?

Coming to Yale was an easy decision. Firstly because there was no way I could turn Yale down. Secondly because this was my only real offer to play D-I. Life on the east coast is definitely different — from not being able to play outside all year, down to the way people dress. It’s a lot different, but I like it.

Yale isn’t exactly known as a baseball hotbed. What is life like for an Ivy League student athlete? What are you studying?

I’m studying philosophy, and life as an Ivy League student athlete is not easy. We don’t receive any special academic privileges, so you learn time management and life management really fast!

You’ve played both outfield and catcher — which position do you prefer?

I prefer to play catcher. Being in the game on every pitch and being captain on the field are both things I love.

You’re putting up some ridiculous numbers as a hitter this season. How would you describe yourself as a hitter to someone who hasn’t seen you hit? What is your approach at the plate?

I don’t know how I would describe myself as a hitter…that’s a job for journalists! My approach is simple: I just stay balanced, get a pitch I can drive and put a good swing on it. I think that’s all I can do.

Baseball players are known for their superstitions. Do you have any? I have some, but nothing too ridiculous. For example, I don’t walk under a ladder and, if I see a black cat, I walk the other way. I also believe that if you tip well, you’ll hit well.

Did you play summer ball last year? If so, what was that experience like?

I’ve played summer ball the last two years and loved every minute of it. (ed. note: in 2006, Lavarnway played for the Monroe Channelcats in the Southern Collegiate Baseball League. Last year, he played for the Manchester Silkworms in the New England Collegiate Baseball League) Between the atmosphere, the families you stay with and the other players, it is very enjoyable.

What is the most memorable moment in your baseball career?

My most memorable moment would be hitting a bomb against my high school’s rival, Chatsworth, to tie the game at five with a full count and two outs. As “Zombie Nation” blasted on the speakers, everyone (including me) was going crazy!

Do you have a favorite MLB team?

I’ve got to go with my hometown boys, the Dodgers.

Who is your favorite pro baseball player? Is there a player that you try and model your game after?

I love watching Chipper Jones play, but I don’t try to model my game after anyone in particular. I just try to play hard all the time.

What do you like to do when you’re not playing baseball?

In my spare time, I love to go bowling or to the beach with the guys and play pick-up football.

Interview with Eric Hosmer

Eric Hosmer is a power-hitting first baseman from American Heritage High School in Florida. With a sweet swing from the left side and huge raw power, Hosmer has drawn comparisons to Casey Kotchman and will be a surefire first rounder this June. One look at any of his numerous home runs on display at YouTube and you’ll know why…

Eric was gracious enough to answer some questions for StopTheWave via e-mail. Here is what he had to say…

First off, start by telling everyone where you grew up, how you became interested in baseball and a little about your prep baseball career.

I was born in Miami, Florida. I became interested in baseball by watching my older brother’s team, the Diamond Kings, play. My dad was the coach, so he would always let me practice with them.

You’re ranked as one of the top prep talents in the county this year. How is your season going and what are you doing to keep your focus?

The main thing I focus on is my work ethic. I wake up every mourning, have a protein shake before school then lift weights at 9:45. Having my older brother and father as coaches at my high school has been the biggest help on staying focused and not worrying about who is on the other side of the fence.

For someone who hasn’t seen you play, tell us about yourself. What kind of approach do you have at the plate? How would you rate your fielding and baserunning? Is there a Major Leaguer that you would compare yourself

Well, I’m 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, so I’m not hard to miss! As for my approach at the plate, I like to be aggressive. I see limited pitches in high school, so I know I have to attack the good ones early. Luckily, having one of the best hitters in the country, Adrian Nieto, hitting behind me it helps out a TON! I also take a lot of pride in my glove. I won the Rawlings Gold Glove award as a junior and haven’t made an error since sophomore year.

You’ve had quite a prestigious prep career. What is the most memorable moment you’ve had on the diamond?

The most memorable moment I have ever had on the diamond was getting the final out in the Connie Mack National Championship game and jumping on the dog pile when we won the game.

You’ve, no doubt, hit a lot of home runs. Do any stand out for any reason? Any favorites?

The most memorable one would have to be my only walk-off homer, which was in a regional tournament at Georgia Tech.

Do you have a favorite MLB team?

New York Yankees

Who is your favorite pro baseball player? Is there a player that you try and model your game after?

Big Papi (David Ortiz), because he has a blast when he plays the game. He doesn’t look at the game as a business, it’s what he loves to do.

What player have you played with or against that makes you say, “That guy is going places!”?

I work out with Chris Marrero a lot and just watching him hit batting practice is truly amazing. I try to take after him because he has such a great work ethic. He’s, by far, the best hitter I’ve seen at his age.

On a related note, who is the best pitcher you’ve faced?

Walker Kelly from Texas. He is NASTY!

What are your goals for the rest of the season? Are there any aspects of your game you’re working on?

I want to win a state championship and I’m always working on getting better, in all aspects of my game.

We’ve now heard about Eric Hosmer, the ballplayer, but tell us about Eric Hosmer, the person. What do you like to do when you’re not playing baseball? What is something unique about you?

Eric Hosmer outside of baseball is a really lucky person. I have, by far, the greatest family anyone could ask for. Everything I accomplish in baseball and life, I truly owe it all to them. My mother works at my school to pay my tuition. Seeing her working there as I walk through the halls, it makes me realize how lucky I really am. I think my mother is the greatest person ever — she would do anything for me. My father risks his life everyday for my family as a firefighter.

He has coached me since I was 5 years old. The thing I respect most about my father is that he understands everything going on now with the draft and never once has he put any type of pressure on me. My father is also a great coach who could easily be coaching at a D-I college. And my brother…wow! Words can’t describe him. He could easily be a Major League hitting coach. I can truly say my brother and I have never gotten in one fight. We are the same person trapped in different bodies. If I didn’t have my brother, I would be nowhere near the hitter I am today. My brother is my idol.

Favorite Movie? Music group/artist? TV show? Food?

“Wedding Crashers,” rap music, “Entourage” and any type of Italian food.

MVP ’06 NCAA Baseball review

I recently received the first issue from my subscription to Baseball America. It’s awesome…but that’s not what this post is about. When I opened the magazine, the first thing I saw was an advertisement for the new MVP ’06 NCAA Baseball. Now, I was a huge All Star Baseball fan for a while, never really giving MVP a chance, even though I love the Madden series.

However, when ASB died out, I switched over to MVP and wondered what the hell took me so long! EA Sports is awesome and I absolutely fell in love with MVP Baseball from day one. So…I was really bummed to find out that they lost their MLB licensing rights or something and are not releasing a Major League Baseball video game this year. Bummer. So…they decided to do the next best thing: college baseball. At first you might think, “College baseball? What’s next…Arena Football?” However, if you think about it from a business perspective, it was probably a good move. With ESPN airing more and more of the College World Series every year, college baseball is gaining popularity. Plus, because the college season begins earlier than the MLB season, EA gets to release its game before MLB 2K6 comes out. EA obviously has a solid reputation and I’m sure I’m not alone in my love for the MVP game – therefore I was willing to trust their collegiate endeavor. After playing several games, fiddling with all of the options and simming through a couple of dynasty seasons with Jeremy Reed’s Long Beach State Dirtbags, here are my thoughts…

THE GOOD

First of all, the gameplay is basically the same as MVP ’05. For me, that’s certainly a plus – because MVP Baseball ’05 is one of my favorite games of all time.
During the intro, there are some cool video clips of current MLB players during their college days. You get to see Roger Clemens pitching for Texas, Bonds as a Sun Devil, Giambi and his mullet playing for the Long Beach State, Nomar at Georgia Tech and Todd Helton at Tennessee…among others.
You may think the big barrel baseball bats are annoying, but they sound perfect. And, if you hate them, you can switch the settings to “Summer League” rules and use wood bats.

After the Tony Hawk series let you create your own skatepark, the create-a-stadium feature is something that I always wanted to see in a baseball game. Although it’s not too in-depth, it’s still a neat option for MVP ’06 NCAA Baseball.

The throwing is better in this game than it was on MVP ’05. In the old game, when you were using the throwing meter to make a throw, if you only went a little way up on the meter, you would throw a little dribbler to your target. This time around, if you only use a little bit of throwing power, you still throw it to your target on the fly, it’s just a very soft throw. Obviously that’s not true if you’re throwing home from the warning track, but this is a lot more realistic and made me glad.

The batter steps out between pitches and the catcher throws the ball back to the pitcher. These are minor details – but they make a nice difference in adding to the realistic quality of the game.

And finally, there is a mid-game tuning option for all of the elements. Personally, I like to crank the pitch speed up all the way – it makes it more realistic.

Overall, the game is pretty good. It’s fun to play, but there are still some things that I didn’t like…

THE BAD

When I first discovered that a college baseball game was in the works, I was very excited for a “Golden Spikes Challenge.” In the NCAA Football game, there is a Heisman Challenge – where you create a player, they go through training camp and then are recruited by different schools. You pick which one you want to attend and then join the team as a freshman. You then have four years to play with that team and your ultimate goal is to win the coveted Heisman Trophy. I know that the Golden Spikes award isn’t as prestigious as the Heisman, but…c’mon…it only makes sense to have a Golden Spikes challenge. I was disappointed that it didn’t make it onto the game.

EA is really hyping up their new “Load & Fire Batting” system. The ad in Baseball America states, “Past baseball video games have never succeeded in recreating the essence of what it’s like for a player to step up to the plate and take a swing at a pitch. Simply pressing a button just does not capture this feeling. There is no sense of being in total control of your swing.

However, in MVP 06 the all-new Load and Fire Batting system does recreate that experience at the plate by using the right thumbstick. It’s similar to the hitting mechanic used in Tiger Woods PGA Tour with one notable difference. In golf the ball is just sitting there, while in baseball the pitch is flying at varying speeds and in different directions. Your job with Load and Fire Batting is to Load your back swing at the proper time and Fire your swing through the zone towards the pitch with the proper timing based upon where the pitch is located.”

Sure, it sounds fun, but my first reaction is that it really blows. Often times I will try to hit the ball and it feels fine, but then I end up doing some half-assed check swing and I hit a six-hopper back to the pitcher. I can’t afford to break any more controllers! Now…perhaps I just need more time with it. I’ll admit that I absolutely hated the new Madden QB vision feature at first, but have since grown to love it. But I already switched my default MVP ’06 settings back to the classic zone hitting technique.

You can’t change the names of the players. With my first issue for my Baseball America subscription being the college preview, I was ready to enter the names for the top prospects, only to be really disappointed that it wasn’t even possible. What gives? You can put in names in the EA Sports NCAA Football game!

And, why can’t you save replays in the baseball games? I love saving cool replays on Madden and wish I could do the same for this game. I realize that Madden brings in a LOT more money, but it doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult to add.

There’s no batting practice. I would much rather take plain old BP than the shitty arcade-style batting practice game they make you play. For a company that has the motto, “If it’s in the game, it’s in the game!” you’d think they would have normal batting practice. I don’t go to as many college games as I would like, but I don’t think any teams are taking BP with ramps and tractors out in the field. I would also love to see pitching and fielding practice.

The baserunning can be clunky at times. It says that to advance all runners, you hold down the left trigger – however, I’m still not sure that works and I’ve been thrown out several times when I had plenty of time to beat the throw- it’s just that my guy either didn’t go when he was supposed to, or stopped, came back to the bag and then tried again. Also, players don’t run automatically when there’s two outs.

The swings look really funky sometimes. Most everything from EA Sports looks fantastic, but some of the swings in this game are downright awful. Oftentimes, players will slide their back foot toward home plate when they’re swinging. No college hitter in the nation does this, and you would think that EA would try to perfect an aspect that is about 75% of the gameplay. Check out these screenshots I took of a bad swing and notice how much the hitter’s foot slides toward home plate upon missing the pitch…

And finally, there are just a few minor quibbles I have about the game. One thing I really liked about All Star Baseball was that hitters could wave their bat through the strike zone, like many players do, while they’re waiting for the pitcher to start his delivery. You couldn’t do this with MVP ’05, and it’s still not possible with this year’s installment. Again, this is minor – but it’s something that I would enjoy and I think that it adds a nice element in making the game more realistic. The final minor quibble is that all games have four umpires. Again, I don’t make it out to many college games (although that’s one of my New Year’s Resolutions), but I really doubt that very many NCAA games before the College World Series have more than two men in blue.

So, as you can see, the bad traits of the game seem to outweigh the good ones, but obviously I’m grading on quality instead of quantity. Sure, there are a lot of complaints I have with the game, but they’re not equal – either to each other or to the things I enjoy about the game. The most important thing is that it plays virtually the same as MVP ’05, and that’s important. I loved that game and, although this one is different and it doesn’t seem that as much care was put into it, it’s still fun to play and I’m sure help me kill some time before MLB 2K6 comes along.

FanFest = FunFest!

After working 80 hours between Sunday and Friday, Saturday was a much-needed day off from work! So, I spent it in the best way possible…I attended Mariners’ FanFest at Safeco Field with my father.

We woke up, got ready and drove through Starbucks on our way downtown. It was pouring rain and we got soaked walking a block to the stadium, but once we were inside I warmed up with the sight of the field, the smell of hot dogs and the thought that Opening Day is right around the corner.

We headed straight to the first base line, where they were having the Dugout Dialogue series on top of the Mariners’ dugout. Immediately, I spotted Deanna, who was already with Positive Paul and his brother-in-law, whom I actually knew vaguely as a customer from my store.

I introduced myself to Positive Paul and we all chatted for a few minutes until a few guys started walking on top of the dugout. The first group in the Dugout Dialogue series included Jeremy Reed, Greg Dobbs and Felix Hernandez. Now, the questions for these things usually aren’t too good.

People asked Felix what’s the fastest he’s ever thrown, Kenji Johjima was asked if he’s been eating American food yet and someone asked Jeff Pentland, the M’s new hitting coach, why Ichiro pulls on his sleeve before he hits. I know I’m sleeping better knowing that the answers are: 99 MPH, Yes – I love Red Robin, and Rick Rizzs answering for Pentland, “Hitters are weird.” Felix certainly won the award for “pimpest attire worn under his Mariners’ jacket.” Check it out…

Next up was Mr. Bill Bavasi. I really enjoyed listening to him speak at the USSM/BP event this summer, but he seemed to be more distant at FanFest, which is to be expected. Positive Paul asked Bavasi about the M’s possibly acquiring Jeff Weaver. Bavasi said that the M’s were basically tapped out financially, but added that he liked Weaver, noting that Weaver had grown up and “isn’t such a goofball anymore.” After Bavasi was done, our little crew packed up and decided to head out to the bullpen.

On the way, I checked out some of the booths along the main concourse. I got some pamphlets and trivia cards from the SABR booth (I can’t wait for the convention in Seattle!), got a Moyer Foundation bracelet, picked up an Aquasox schedule, and we took our pictures in one of those silly things where you stick your face through a wooden cutout before finally making our way downstairs to the bullpens.

I had never been in the M’s bullpen before, so it was a really neat experience to be able to throw a couple of pitches in there. I tried a knuckleball first, but I pick my nails too much to get a good grip on the thing and it sailed over the catcher’s head. So, for the second pitch (everyone gets two), I went with a straight four-seamer and I think it was actually a strike.

After we all had our turn, Deanna and Positive Paul decided to head upstairs to get some autographs. I didn’t want to wait in line, so my dad and I headed back over to the third base line and waited in line to catch a popup in the outfield.

I was a little disappointed that when you were catching the pop flies, you were facing the outfield wall – not facing the infield, like you would be if you were actually catching fly balls at Safeco. However, it was still a fun experience to be on the field. I had been on the field before – the first time was when my dad and I attended “Play Catch in the Outfield” day at Safeco, and I have also been in foul territory several times – reporting for the Grand Salami and at my sister’s high school graduation. But, it’s always exciting being on the field and I caught both fly balls that were shot my direction. After my dad and I caught a couple pop flies, we headed back over to the Dugout Dialogue series.

Now, the section by the M’s dugout was really packed – this is because next up was Kenji Johjima and Jamie Moyer. I could tell from the press conference that fans are really going to love Johjima (or “Jo” as he says his teammates are already calling him) and the Dugout Dialogue just cemented that idea. When Johjima walked onto the dugout, I gave him a thumbs up, and he gave me one back. He was beaming the entire time and seemed genuinely happy to be in Seattle. He was very upbeat, he had everyone laughing, and you can already tell that the language barrier won’t be a problem for him. Moyer said that his favorite place to pitch is Yankee Stadium, which made me throw up in my mouth a little bit since Moyer reportedly rejected a trade to the Yankees last season. For the record: As a Mariner, Moyer is 4-2 with a 5.10 ERA at Yankee Stadium. Whatever…

Anyway, people really cleared out after Johjima got off the dugout, so I moved to a better seat because I was really excited for the next group. Up next was Benny Looper, the Vice President of Player Development & Scouting, and Greg Hunter, the Director of Minor League Operations.

They seemed really cool, but I felt bad for them because there were only about 25 people sitting in the section and the questions they were getting were pretty bad. I asked about Anthony Varvaro, and they said they’re expecting him to pitch this summer. I think drafting him was a steal for the M’s and I’m excited to see him this summer – presumably in Everett. If you’re wondering, here is what Hunter and Looper look like (Aaron definitely got his father’s ears!):

After those guys, Jeff Pentland, the M’s new hitting coach came out to answer some questions. Reed and Dobbs had already raved about the guy earlier, and from listening to him talk, you could tell that they were being sincere. They both said that he was really easy to talk to and had a ton of knowledge. I don’t doubt that he has a wealth of information (he said that he’s now been coaching for 34 years), and it was apparent that he would be someone that is easy to approach. This is an important quality for a coach, especially if the team has a lot of younger players. Pentland said that his main expertise is power.

He talked about helping Barry Bonds in college and about working with Sammy Sosa on the Cubs. He also said that he expects Jeremy Reed to improve a lot this season. I asked Pentland whether controlling the strike zone and patience is something that can be taught at this level, or if by the time guys get to the Majors, it’s either something they have or they don’t.

He said that controlling the strike zone and patience were indeed two of the most important things he’ll be working with players on during Spring Training. He said that he believes – and this is similar to what he told Doug Miller on the M’s official site the other day – that a lot of times when players struggle, it’s not because of something they’re doing mechanically, it’s because they lack confidence. Pentland made it almost seem that what a hitting coach does for its hitters is more psychological than physical. I hope he’s right and I’m excited to see what he can do for the M’s young hitters this season.

After that, Dad and I decided to call it a day. He was cold and I was tired and hungry. We decided to drive back to Redmond for some Thai food. As we were leaving, we stopped and looked at the Mariners Care Silent Auction.

They had some crap that was being sold for way too much money, but what caught my eye was tucked back in the corner – the Mariners Garage Sale. Here, they had about 30 autographed balls that they were just trying to get rid of. You didn’t have to bid, you just had to be willing to shell out $15 – $30 for autographed balls from crappy ex-Mariners. $15 for an Aaron Taylor ball? Ha! The funniest thing though was the chart that listed all the prices had more errors than Mike Morse.

Miguel Olivio? Yorvealt Torrealba? Grerg Dobbs? I’m not making this up. But, that was that. I wish I hung around a little longer. I wouldn’t have minded watching more Dugout Dialogue sessions – notably the one with Howard Lincoln and the one with Jarrod Washburn and J.J. Putz. I also would have liked to meet “msb” with Deanna, hit in the Mariners’ batting cage and participate in the trivia contest, but as I’m sure I’ll be saying in September…wait ’til next year!

Interview with Micah Owings

While reading Baseball America today, I suddenly remembered that there was an interview I never posted on this website. I feel really bad about it but, in my defense, May was a very busy month for me because I had just graduated school and had started a new job. Anyway…back to business.

Micah Owings was kind enough to answer some questions for me via e-mail and I’m sorry I didn’t post this earlier. For those who don’t know, Owings was a standout two-way player at Tulane. Last year he hit .355/.470/.719 for the Green Wave and was just as dominant on the mound, going 12-4 with a 3.26 ERA, 135 strikeouts and only 25 walks in 129.2 innings. After being named the Conference USA Player of the Year, Owings was drafted in the 3rd Round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-Backs decided to use Owings’ talent on the mound – and it appears that they made the correct decision. In 22 innings at Lancaster of the California League, Owings dominated hitters – posting a 2.45 ERA with 30 strikeouts and a mere 4 walks. Micah’s brother, John Mark, is in the Braves’ orginazion.

First off, can you please talk about yourself a little bit? Tell everyone where you grew up, a little about your youth baseball career and what made you choose college over signing with the Rockies out of high school.

I grew up in Forsyth County, a small town in north Georgia where I played ball on rec. teams for my Dad until I was 11. Some of the greatest joys of my life were playing for my father while I was growing up! He decided that it would be best for me to begin travel ball at age 11, so that is what we did. I spent every summer since traveling all over to play this game that I have always loved. In high school I transferred my junior year to Gainesville High School, another town about an hour north of Atlanta. After winning two state titles and playing with my younger brother at Gainesville, it was time to go pro or off to college. I chose college because I felt that was where God was leading me. It was not an easy decision to give up a lot of money at a young age but I thought it was the best thing for me to do!

What made you transfer from Georgia Tech to Tulane?

Many reasons led up to my decision of leaving Ga. Tech and my home in Atlanta. Most are personal but the main reason was that I felt that God was telling me to move on and open another chapter in my life.

Which do you prefer: Playing infield or pitching?

That question comes up quite often and I wish I had a good answer. I enjoy playing the game and doing whatever I can to help my team win. I have been blessed in certain areas both ways and love each!

What has been your most memorable moment in your baseball career?

First of all, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of many great teams. I am a part of two state titles, two summer World Series championships, and an ACC regular season and tournament championship. Above all my most memorable moment would have to be growing up just tossing in the yard with my Dad and brothers. That is really where my love for the game began so it is a very fond memory.

What player have you played with or against that makes you say, “That guy is going places!”?

This is a tough one because I have played with and against so many great ball players. However, two come to mind…Matt Murton – I played with him my freshman year at Tech and he is now in double-A with the Cubs, and Brian Bogusevic – whom I am currently playing with at Tulane. Both of these guys are tremendous players and great friends of mine!

On a related note, who is the best hitter/pitcher you’ve faced?

The best pitcher that I have ever faced is Kyle Sleeth from Wake Forest who is now in the Detroit Tigers’ organization. The best hitter that I have ever faced is probably Stephen Drew from Florida State.

What part of your game would you say needs the most work?

I would have to say that I can improve in every area of my game and work hard all the time at doing so. Don’t really want to disclose my true weaknesses if you know what I mean.

What is something specific that you are currently working on?

Just doing whatever I can to help our team continue to win ball games.

How much time does your commitment to baseball take each week? How do you keep up with classes? Will you finish your degree?

I’d say fifteen to twenty hours a week…approx. 2 or 3 hours a day six days a week. It is tough sometimes to get motivated to study after a long day at practice or a game, but something that I have to do to play. I do plan on getting my degree.

What is your conditioning regimen during the season and during the off-season?

In the off-season, I tend to hit the weights and conditioning a little harder…about five days a week including two upper body lifts and two lower body lifts with an ab/conditioning day in the middle. In season is a little lighter but just as important. I usually get three lifts a week in to try and maintain my strength through the duration of the season. Have to be careful lifting in season because we play so many games.

Is it difficult to maintain a healthy diet while you’re in school?

At times it is, but I eat my share of whatever is in front of me. I just have to stay away from the sweets more.

Do you have any superstitions? If so, how did they develop?

I like to think of my superstitions more as routines – Things that I do on a regular basis. If they qualify as superstitions, I do not tell anyone, but they are welcome to try and pick up on them.

Can you please talk about your experiences on the 2003 USA National Team?

It was one of those things that I will never forget! I got to play with some of the country’s best college players and for some of the country’s best coaches. Not to mention, every game we had the country’s initials across our chests! I am sorry every kid does not get to experience it, but I feel very fortunate and blessed!

Who is your favorite MLB team?

I don’t really have one anymore. I grew up a huge Braves fan and I guess I still am because my brother is in their organization.

How often do you talk to your brother, and what advice has he given you about, not only the game of baseball, but also what you can expect for life in the minor leagues?

I talk to my brother about every day. Unlike me, he decided to sign out of high school and it has worked out great for him! We are two different people and he decided that he was ready for pro ball. He played in the Gulf Coast League for the Braves rookie team last summer after he signed and is currently in extended spring training in Orlando. He had a rough injury at the end of the season that has set him back a little. I have spoken with other friends of mine that have played in the same league and moved up the last few years, and they have said it is the hardest place to play. Jon Mark has a tremendous drive and I have the utmost respect for him. He realizes that he is where God wants him but works daily to do whatever he can to make a move to the next level. He said it gets pretty rough at times but loves the game.

Which is your favorite baseball website?

Ok, I will tell you that is www.hittersbats.com. This is the interesting site about baseball bats the guys behind the site not only gives you the advices but also guide you the techniques in baseball. I’m really impressed with this blog.

Who is your favorite baseball player?

Growing up, I always loved watching Greg Maddux pitch and Frank Thomas swing!

What will be the first thing you buy if you get a signing bonus?

I will have to think about that once it comes…right now I am trying to help my team win a National Championship! however, may be i will buy a BBCOR bat of 2019 if i got bonus. This always in my mind. haha.

If you make it to the big leagues, what player would you most like to hit against?

Partial to this answer but I would love to see what Randy Johnson’s 100 mph fastball looks like from the left side…notice how I said looks!

And finally, please tell me something interesting/unique about yourself.

I have been blessed with a great family that I love very much. “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength” -PHIL 4:13