How has your life changed since being drafted out of high school?
It really hasn't changed a whole lot. Sikeston's a small town. I knew everybody before. Nothing's really changed except that I am gone all of the time. I was in high school living at home year round and now I'm gone more than I'm home. That's really about the only difference, I guess.
Do you find yourself missing home?
Not really. I'm so busy in the summer playing and worrying about what I have to do, but by the end of the summer; when you know it's time to go home, you are definitely ready to get there.
What do you miss the most?
Just my family, really. Not being able to see your family all of the time. It's something I got used to in high school, now it seems it happens a lot less than it used to.
Has your attitude and approach to baseball changed from high school to being drafted and playing professionally? Do you ever find yourself seeing the game as a job, adding pressure on yourself instead of playing for the pure enjoyment of it all?
Not really. I mean baseball is still fun to me. If it ever became not fun, I wouldn't want to play anymore. But I think it will always be fun for me. Never once have I looked at it as being a job.
What's the best part of being a major league prospect?
That would have to be getting to play baseball every day for a living. There's nothing better than waking up knowing you get to go out and play baseball every day.
What's the worst part about being a minor-league player?
Bus travel. There's a lot of it. I never had to travel as far on buses in high school as I do now.
What has been the greatest challenge for you since signing?
Nothing really. There are a lot of things you hear and see, but I really just try to go out and play and have fun doing what I'm doing.
I know you have read your name in print, usually followed by some brief description that usually mentions your "sweet left handed swing." You've been mentioned in numerous publications and they all seem to say the same thing. Does knowing this add any pressure to what you already put on yourself?
Not at all. I try to go out and prove myself every day-- my swing might have been good in high school or good last year but it has to be good this coming year too. It's something you have to continue to work on and get better at.
What's it feel like to see your name listed as the Dodgers seventh best ranked prospect in Baseball America's Prospect Handbook?
It's always nice. I mean, it's a great honor, but then again I know it doesn't mean a whole lot. I know I have to go out this coming season and perform just like I did last year and improve on what I did last year.
Have you ever googled your name?
You know, I never have. I've been around buddies when they do.
What was the cause for the slow start last season?
You know, I honestly think I may have tried to put a little too much pressure on myself. That paired with a little bit of inexperience. From the first half of the season to the second half I feel that I learned a whole lot about the game and a whole lot about each of my at bats and learning how to approach those at bats.
I heard rumor that there was an adjustment period to new contact lenses. Is there any truth to those rumors?
The contacts definitely helped once we figured out what I needed. In the daytime I don't have any problem seeing, but I was having problems seeing the ball at night. Back in spring training, they found that I had a stigmatism, and I was given contacts to improve my vision, in particular my night vision. They were either the wrong contacts, the wrong prescription or something. Everything started to look blurry to me, even during the daytime, and I began to think, "Maybe they just messed up," so I stopped wearing the contacts for a while. So, a couple months into the season I was like "you know, I'm really struggling to see the ball." So, I went to see another eye doctor in town and he saw the same problem, but prescribed the right contacts this time. It definitely helped. I saw an immediate improvement. Anytime you can see the ball, it's definitely a plus (followed by laughter).
How did you spend the off-season? Was it good to be home?
I take that back. I wasn't ready to come home. I was in the middle of a playoff race when I had to come home. I wanted to be there. I wanted to win. We were three or four games away from getting a ring and any time you have a chance to win a ring, it's always something special. I was excited about that and pretty fortunate to get that opportunity. But, on the way home, it felt good to know I would have a chance to relax and spend some time. As soon as I got back I just took it easy for a while, knowing I had to go back to instructional league for another month. I went there for 4 weeks or so, and when that was over I came back and kind of took it easy for a week or two. Then I started up with my work outs back up, and other than that, I've just been doing a lot of baseball workouts and duck hunting. Oh, and a little bit of golf.
There aren't a lot of hunting opportunities between stops while riding a bus, are there?
(Laughter) No, I don't think so.
Does golf have any kind of affect on your baseball swing?
I actually play golf right handed, so it really has no affect.
I hear you recently had an opportunity to rub elbows with some of the bigger names in all of baseball. Could you tell me a little bit about that?
I was fortunate enough to get to work out with a few guys; Albert Pujols, Mike Matheny, John Mabry, and a few other guys. It was neat to see their approach to the game and see how they go about their business. I didn't get many chances to talk with them, but just getting a chance to sit there and observe them, and see how they approach the game was pretty special.
Did you ever get nervous working out with those guys?
Not really. All of those guys are the same as everyone else, only they are a little better and more consistent than all of us (minor leaguers) but it was just neat just seeing how they go about their business
What separates Albert Pujols game from yours? What makes him the kind of player he is? Is it technique? Consistency?
I definitely believe he's a different kind of player than I am, but the guy is so consistent. He's consistent with what he does. He's consistent with how he looks at the plate. His results are consistent. How he does it I may never know. Few ever have.
Did you pick up on anything that he was doing that you could incorporate into your game?
Not really. You see him standing around joking around, joking around and then once he steps into the cage, it's all business. He concentrates on what it is he's trying to do--He's concentrating on getting better. It's really neat to see a guy that's that good trying to get that much better with every swing of the bat.
With left side infield prospects such as Joel Guzman, Andy LaRoche, not to mention big-leaguers Bill Muehler, Oscar Robles, and Willy Aybar all in the Dodgers system, do you foresee a move to the right side of the infield?
I don't really know. I got a lot of time at second base during instructional league and I fared pretty well. Other than that, I don't know for sure if I am going to get a chance to move to second or not. If I do, it's great, if I don't, that's fine too. I know I have to go out there and perform. Who knows what this year hold.
Did you find it to be a difficult transition?
I really didn't. The double play is definitely tough, but you still have to field ground balls, make the play, and make the throw. But making the turn is definitely the harder part of playing second.
Have the Dodgers told you that you will be moving or have you been led to believe that your playing at second during instructional league was a hint of things to come?
You know, I really don't know. I couldn't really begin to say right now. Terry Collins said to come in and be prepared to play a little bit at second. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I'm sure I'm going to get some time during spring training at second base.
If you could compare your game to any current big leaguer, who would it be, and why?
Man I really don't have any idea. I don't have a clue. You know, there are a lot of guys out there with swings I like. Any time you see a guy out there like Eric Chavez, a left handed third baseman, you don't really want to emulate, but he'd be the guy that comes to mind.
Are there any other left-handed hitters, maybe not third basemen, who remind you of you?
That's really a tough question. It's my goal to be there playing along side those guys some day. I just want a chance to do what it is they do.
Where do you expect to start the season? Where do you feel you'll end up by season's end?
I'll probably start at Vero Beach-- high A. I don't want to rule out the chance of starting at double-A, but if LaRoche starts the season at triple-A, I could see the spot being open, not to say that's what would happen. But I don't want to rule it out, because I don't want to hold myself back.
Have the Dodgers laid out a plan for you, maybe telling you where they expect for you to wind up by season's end?
My ultimate goal this season is to end up in Jacksonville and have a good year. You really can't worry about anything else, especially those things you can't control. I can only allow myself to worry about my performance.
What part of your game do you or the Dodgers feel needs the most work?
Definitely my defense. Before signing, I hadn't really worked a lot on my defense. I've probably made my greatest strides defensively, since signing. I've learned a lot and I've been surrounded by some pretty good coaching.
Which do you seem to have the most difficulty with defensively: fielding the ball, throwing the ball, or maybe even the footwork?
It's really a combination of all of those. Until I signed, I had never really concentrated on defense at all. All of those elements all fit together, so I guess I had problems with all of them at first.
When do you foresee an arrival in Los Angeles?
That's a tough question. It's really hard to say. My ultimate goal is to be there for good in two years, by opening day of 2008. Hopefully that works. Whether it does or not, who knows.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself as an everyday big league infielder with L.A. I hope I'm with L.A. It's where I want to be.
Regardless of what career a person is in, we all aspire to peak at a particular level. Where do see your career peaking?
To me, honestly, I want to be a player that plays in and wins a world series. That is my ultimate goal.
Before leaving for camp, is there anything you'd like to tell the folks in Sikeston?
Thanks for all the support. There are a lot of people, everybody I see, that are saying "We're rooting for you and check up on you on the Internet every day." It makes you feel pretty good to know you have so many people behind you.