Redleg Nation is happy to add another player to our list of “Redleg Nation Spotlight Players”. That player is Reds 2006 12th round draft pick, Logan Parker.
Logan was kind enough to spend some time recently talking with us. We hope to follow his career all the way to when he’s playing in Great American Ballpark in the near future.
Watch Redleg Nation for more about Logan in the coming months.
Interview with Logan Parker, conducted 2/18/07 in the locker room of the University of Cincinnati baseball team.
RN: Redleg Nation (Bill Lack)
LP: Logan Parker
RN: This is Bill Lack of Redleg Nation sitting in the locker room of the University of Cincinnati talking with Logan Parker. We appreciate the time you’re giving us today. He’s getting ready to get out of the snow and head for spring training here shortly. Thank you for your time, Logan.
Let’s start with some person stuff. You’re born in Odessa, Texas in 1984. Brothers and sisters?
LP: One brother. 5 years older than me, lives in Las Vegas right now, doing sales.
RN: Was he athletic also?
LP: He played football growing up and kind of got the Permian High School football “thing” and just kind of fell out of it.
RN: Were you a big sports fan growing up?
LP: Yeah, still am.
RN: All sports?
LP: All sports until, I think I quit all the other sports after 7th grade. And then just followed sports that my friend were playing, stuff like that.
RN: What teams did you follow growing up?
LP: Growing up, I loved the Texas Rangers. Every year it seemed to be somebody different, for a while it was the Red Sox, from high school until they won it. Once they won it, I didn’t like them any more. I think I liked them because they couldn’t win it.
RN: What players were you a fan of while you were growing up?
LP: Griffey, a lot. I liked his swing. I tried to do, obviously like every little left handed hitter; I tried to change my swing to look like Griffey’s.
RN: Any of the Rangers? Nolan Ryan, those guys?
LP: I liked Nolan Ryan. I had his baseball card when he had Robin Ventura in a headlock. I liked that a lot.
RN: Ok, let’s go back into your past a little. How old were you when you started playing baseball?
LP: My parents say I was 3. I obviously don’t remember, but 3, 3 or 4.
RN: What other positions did you play growing up?
LP: I played corner outfield for a while, played center field on All Stars, then went back to first and never really did anything else. Pitched just a little bit until my arm started to give me problems.
RN: And you didn’t play any other sports in high school, just baseball?
RN: You brought up Permian High School in Odessa, famous for “Friday Night Lights”. And everybody knows about Texas High School football, but there have been a lot of great baseball players come out of Texas, Clemens, Ryan and even the Reds Adam Dunn. How big is high school baseball in Texas, does it compare at all with high school football?
LP: I wouldn’t say in my area it compares at all with high school football. Midland High had a championship team my junior year, had Jason Nix and the year before had his big brother Lance Nix, who played for the Rangers for awhile. They were both there, won state championships and still didn’t draw. You might draw 100 people to a game. It’s not anything like high school football.
RN: High school football draws what?
LP: 10,000 about.
RN: You went from high school to New Mexico Junior College?
LP: First I went to Western Texas College. Then transferred after my freshman year to New Mexico.
RN: That’s in Hobbs, New Mexico? What’s that, about 2 hours from home?
LP: About an hour and 15 minutes.
RN: Why did you go the Junior College route?
LP: You kind of get the letters when you’re in high school that send you the “gimme letters” that tell you “here’s our program”, “take a look at this information”. I never was really recruited hard after that until a couple of junior colleges came around. High school baseball in Odessa, it’s pretty tough to get recruited at a D1 school.
RN: When you played in Junior College, did you play all first base?
RN: Then you came to University of Cincinnati in 2005? 2004?
RN: You put up good numbers here, OPS is .916, your slugging was .561. How’d you like playing here?
LP: I loved it. I had struggles when I first got here, that first semester. I wanted to go home, I thought about transferring. I went and talked to the coaches about it, sat down with them and they were nice enough to really be opened minded with it and say, “Here, what do you want to do wit h this, where do you want to go?” I talked to them and they said, “I guarantee if you come back and play a season here, you’ll love it, you’ll stick it out, you’ll want to rush to get back for your senior year.” So, I did that, thinking that I’ll honor my word, I have a scholarship, I might as well honor it, I signed, I might as well stay. And played that first season, and like they said, I was back two weeks early before school started, just getting back with all my buddies here.
RN: You said you wanted to go home, was it just homesickness, as much as anything?
LP: Homesick, for sure. Missed my family. You know, when you go to a junior college an hour and 15 minutes away from home, I thought, “Ok, I’ve gone to school somewhere else, I’m not at home all the time”. My parents were there every weekend watching games, never been away from them for more than 2-3 weeks at a time without just seeing them or saying “hi”. And I come up here and I’m 21 hours away.
RN: So, your family is very close?
RN: Tell me about the homesickness. That was something that came up in my interview with Gary Roller (GM of the Billings Mustangs). Do you think playing away from home, like here at UC, helped you in your first year in professional ball? Like that was a hurdle that you didn’t have to leap?
LP: Right. It’s something that I think the college kids can get over a lot better than some of the high school kids. It seems like if you’re a college kid and you go to your first year of pro ball and you have struggles, you’ve been there before. You know that there’s nobody right there with you. Also, you have your friends that are there, trying to pick you up. You KNOW deep down that you can get through this on your own, you don’t need someone to baby you and push you through it, like your parents normally would if they were there.
RN: Was it here (UC) that you first realized you had a chance to play pro-ball?
LP: You know, it was at New Mexico. I got letters 3-4 times a week, “fill this out, fill this out… we want to meet with you now…” and all that kind of stuff. And I thought that was really going to happen after New Mexico. The scouts called the day before the draft and said, “we’re going to get you in the 25th round, will you sign for a thousand bucks?” I said, “No.”. They said, “What do you want to sign for?” I talked with Coach Birmingham, who was at New Mexico; I talked to Coach Meador here, and said, “What should I do?” Coach Meador said, “Make your own decision, but we want you to come to school here.” My coach in New Mexico said, “you’ve got a good scholarship, go to Cincinnati….if the money’s not right, go there, up your status a little bit, play a couple more years, and then see what pro-ball has to offer.”
RN: How many teams did you talk to or came to watch you play before the draft?
LP: While I was in Cincinnati?
RN: Yes, here.
LP: I don’t even know, probably 7 or 8.
RN: Could you tell who was serious and who wasn’t? Is that something that is apparent when you’re talking to them?
LP: It is, but at the same time, they throw you a little curveball because I talked to whom, at the time, is your advisor, and I’m asking him, “Joe, who’s looking at me?” He said, “The draft is tomorrow and I wouldn’t be surprised if the A’s, who I had never talked to, and he named off like 4 other teams, if they would scoop you up. I’m surprised, first of all, because with the teams that you think are serious about you, you fill out paperwork, you’ve met everybody, you’ve talked to them, you’ve been to their pre-draft workouts, and then, you have these other teams that are just coming out of nowhere, thinking about scooping you up. You’re just like, “Ok, now who really is going to take me?”
RN: How’d you find out you’re drafted? Phone call? On-line?
LP: We had a kid who played here last year, a senior named Bryan Wood, who lived out in Fairfield (suburb of Cincinnati), his parents always had BBQs for some of the seniors. We all went out there and were barbequing and having a good time and the tenth round was up, my agent called and said, “Be by a computer, it could happen any time around now”. So, we sat and watched the 11th round go by, and the 12th round came and I’m staring at the computer screen, just kind of in a daze, and the Reds thing just popped up and it said so and so pick in the 12th round and my picture popped up and everybody started going crazy. And then my phone blew up, I had a million calls, the scout actually got through to me after about 30 or 45 minutes of trying because your phone’s just been blown out.
RN: You were drafted in the 12th round. Did you ever have any doubts that you’d sign?
Or that you might come back for another year?
LP: That was after my senior year. My junior year, I thought maybe I could come and play one year and get drafted, but that didn’t happen.
RN: I’m sorry. My bad.
LP:I had a decent year (his junior year), but a lot of things changed between my junior and senior years.
RN: You spent all of last year at Billings in the Pioneer League. Was your first year in the pros basically what you thought it would be? Were there any surprises for you?
LP: Personally, I thought there would be more maneuvering with players, going up or down. And (Chris) Valaika were really good friends and (Jason) Louwsma was my roommate and we all were, at the time, hitting .320, all had a couple of home runs apiece, and me and Valaika walked in to talk to Rick Burleson (manager of the Mustangs) and we asked him, “Are we doing anything wrong?”. The organization says nothing, every time they come in they say, “great job”, they’re happy with us it seems like, so we asked if we were doing anything wrong and he said, “Just keep playing and doing like you’re doing…but I think they want to keep everybody here and keep the team together to try to win this” Also, we had a good team.
RN: That’s kind of the impression Gary Roller gave me, his feeling was, and I was surprised in talking to him, how little player development type of things they have, they basically have none, they’re basically providing a venue. But he said his feeling was, from what said talking to the coaches, etc was that they wanted to move the guys that were drafted together with you, Valaika, Dorn, and Turner, and those guys, up as a unit. I’ve got a few more questions about promotion later….
How did you like playing at Billings?
LP: I loved it, the people were great. Here in Cincinnati, we got good fan support, but it’s mostly parents of the kids from around here, coming from Chicago or wherever. Hopefully, it gets bigger and better as the years go on here, but the first couple of years that I played here, we didn’t play in front of that many people, even back in New Mexico, didn’t play in front of that many people. As soon as I got to Billings, Opening Night, we got over 3,000 people and the stadium is loud and crazy and that was fun for me. Just to see the community kind of come around something, it kind of reminded me of how our high school football was. That’s how baseball is treated there.
RN: Gary talked about how old the stadium is. He felt that it was basically the only negative to playing in Billings, is the ballpark. Is it just old?
LP: Really, it’s just old. The playing surface is the best playing surface in the league. Every team says it. The hitter’s backdrop in CF is solid green, you pick up the ball there very well, other hitters from every other team says the same thing. The only thing about it is the stadium was built like in the ’30’s, it’s falling apart. You get rain delays and you can walk through the tunnel and they’re collecting the water that’s leaking through in big trashcans.
RN: And I’m guessing the amenities for the players weren’t exactly top notch either?
LP: No. I remember the trainer went and got two giant fans to put in his training room, which is kind of like this little dungeon area of the stadium. And he’s sitting in there all day sweating, working on pitchers, working on everybody, trying to keep everybody healthy. I said, “Jimmy, you look like you’re losing weight?” He said, “You would too if you stayed in this training room all day.”
RN: What’s the weather like in Billings in the summer? Does it get really hot?
LP: You know, it kind of reminds me of West Texas, it’s a dry heat, it’s 95 or 100 degrees, but it’s a dry heat. There’s really no humidity, until you get to Great Falls, who had a little bit. But it’s nice though.
RN: Good place to play though, you seem like you really enjoyed it.
LP: It was fun.
RN: Beings that you had completed your four years of eligibility in college, were you surprised that you were sent to rookie ball?
LP: No, I had a feeling when I talked to the scout, he came down and interviewed me and talked to me before the draft, he said if we get you, here is where you’re going to go. This is where we send our college kids, our high school kids go to the GCL for the most part and the college kids will go to Billings.
RN: What was the best thing about playing in Billings?
LP: Teammates. Small town atmosphere.
RN: What was the worst thing?
LP: The stadium, the locker room.
RN: What’s the longest bus trip?
LP: The one to Utah. 12 – 12 1/2 hours. In college, we had long bus trips here; we’d go to Carolina every year. You have a 12-hour bus ride, but you have your own seat here. When you’re in pro-ball, you have nobody with their own seat, so me and Valaika, needless to say were really good buddies after being together on the bus for 12 hours. We had his DVD player, which dies about 3 hours into the trip…now what? You’re stuck in this bus for 9 hours. There’s times you’d find yourself sleeping, both of us head to head and we’d wake up and kind of jump. You’d see him right here (putting his hand in front of his face)…but you don’t even care, you’re so tired and you’ve got 9 more hours left, lets just go to sleep.
RN: I kind of talked about this a little bit with Bo Lanier and he was talking about the bus trips in the Midwest League. Apparently there are some of comparable length. It almost sounds like what they put you through in boot camp in the military. You have to go through the grind as you climb up, and they want to see how you handle it.
LP: Right. I kind of expected it. You have to deal with the minor league stuff, bad busses, terrible hotels, things like that. But it’s almost the fun part about it too. There are days that you check out of the hotels, and have to play that night, and you’re going to go home after the game, so there is time between checkout at 11:00 and 2:30 when you have to be at the field where you don’t have anything to do and no where to go. So, they keep like 4 rooms and there are like 10-15 guys in 4 rooms, piled up on beds. There’s like Dorn, Turner, me, Valaika laying long ways on the bed, just watching TV. Things like that you kind of expect and its kind of minor league baseball at it’s finest. Like when you have the trashcan catching all the stuff draining in the stadium, it’s minor league baseball.
RN: Take us through what your routine is for a home game.
LP: I’m usually one of the first ones at the park because, for a while, my host family didn’t have cable. So, I’d show up, they had cable in the locker room, so I’d show up with food, eat my sandwich or whatever in the locker room. Then about 12:30 or 1:00, we had early work, you can go to the cages and hit off the tee, short toss and stuff like that. Anywhere from 1:00-2:30 is when position players stretched, I think it was. Then, from 2:30 on, you stretch, you run, you go from there to a fundamental, whatever it is that day and that lasts a good 30 minutes. Pop up communication, bunting, anything like that…run-downs. And you go from that to BP, which an hour and fifteen or so. You do that and then, you’re done for that day. Then you go and get ready to play the game.
We always said after you go through with the stretching and the running and the early work and the batting practice that your day was over. The fun part begins now. You’re tired, you’re sweaty, you go in and change completely, and hang out for about an hour. That part of the day is over, the fun part starts now. You get to play.
RN: How much running do you do?
LP: You know, this summer, going into it, I didn’t think we’d do a whole lot, since you play everyday, but there was two days a week where you had conditioning. They call it conditioning, but it was just sprints. Just trying to keep up your speed, keep up obviously your conditioning.
RN: I assume, and I’ve never played ball at any competitive level, part of that is to keep your legs in shape for a long season that you’re not used to playing.
RN: Were you tired at the end of the year?
LP: Getting towards the end of the year, your body feels like its kind of breaking down. They say you haven’t played a full season in college because you’re only playing 80 games, or whatever it is but what people don’t look at is you’re playing starting in January, you come back and you’re full go practice when you’re on a college team. You play from February on. Then you get a week off for the draft, then you get ready to play and you’re playing again. So, it is a long season.
But there is a lot of stuff that goes into it, running, trying to stay in shape, lifting. We do that twice a week too. There’s things to keep your body in shape. You learn a lot better to take care of yourself a little bit more than you do in college. In college, you can go eat whatever you want, you can do whatever you want really because you play 3 or 4 games a week. Whereas in pro ball you’re playing every day.
RN: Do they talk to you about nutrition, that kind of thing? Or is that kind of something you have to figure out on your own?
LP: It’s kind of something you have to figure out on your own. I was lucky enough here (at UC) we have a nutritionist come in twice a year, she talks to us about performance, hydration levels, stuff like that. What effect bad eating, alcohol, stuff like that has on your body for the long haul. And so, I can take a lot of that into the pro ball stuff. Players here still complain, “We have this meeting today with this lady.” I say, “You’ll use it one day. You really will.”
RN: You talked about a host family. Is that how it works in Billings, they place the players with a local family? I ready a book about the Cape Cod League and it sounds similar.
LP: Yeah, that did it in the Texas Collegiate League. I think a lot of summer leagues do it where people in the community have an open room can do it.
We went to a banquet our first night there or second night there. They have a banquet to meet everybody in the town and they tell us, “Go to this banquet and sell yourself, market yourself to these people and maybe you’ll get a host that way.” Well, nobody did that night except for (Drew) Stubbs (Reds #1 draft pick). ‘Cause Stubbs was already set up.
RN: Yeah, being that #1 draft choice helps a little bit, doesn’t it?
LP: He walked in and a kid walked up to him and said, “Hi, I’m Jordan, I’m going to be your host brother. You’re going to live with us.”
The rest of us, we sat there and we were in Gary Roller’s office, we were hasslin’ Matt Bender, who is the Asst. GM, Matt was the one that really did a lot of it like from our point of view. I don’t know if Gary did a lot, but Matt we were messin with to every day, “Matt, where’s my family…you got a host family set up?” He said, “I’m working on it. I’m trying. There’s a lot of you guys trying to get families.” But yeah, that’s how they do it, it’s nice.
RN: It that where everybody stayed? Were there enough families for all the players or did you ever hear what they did in cases when there wasn’t enough families?
LP: They said, if you don’t find a family within this amount of time, you’re going to have to stay in the hotel, which is right down the street from the field, you can walk there, but you have to start paying. I think it was $200 or $300 a month, which is almost your paycheck. So, everybody’s rushing to get these families.
RN: At Billings, you had a heck of a year. You struggled a little bit in July. Did I read that you had a hamstring problem? You sat out for a week or week and a half?
LP: Yeah, 5 or 6 games.
RN: But you had a great August and September. You finished really strong. The one thing I noticed in looking at your numbers and the numbers that I saw from UC, which I think were your senior year numbers, your OBP went up something like 3X. Was being more selective at the plate something that you concentrated on?
LP: Definitely. Between my junior and senior years, if you can look at those numbers, at UC, were dramatic…I think I had maybe 15 walks my junior year. (Actually, it was 16.) I had a lot of strikeouts. I wasn’t really good at taking pitches, I was really jumpy, would swing at anything that was close. And that’s something Coach Meador worked with me a lot here at UC, was seeing pitches, working myself in the count, not being afraid to hit with two strikes.
RN: And you continued that when you got to Billings. Is that something the coaching staff at Billings stressed? Working the count?
LP: There wasn’t a whole lot of stress for anything from the coaching staff. Burleson was kind of just like, “Here’s the ball, here’s your glove, go play.” And obviously it worked out great for our team because we had a lot of college kids on our team, we didn’t have a whole lot of high school kids who needed a ton of instruction. When you needed instruction, they were there for you, they’d help you. It was fun to sit down next to him (Burleson) and talk to him about when he was a Red Sox, going to Yankee Stadium. Those kinds of things are more of what I learned from him. Approach to the game and approach to this at bat.
RN: Do you get the impression that, at that level, they’re kind of seeing what you’re capable of doing?
LP: I almost think so, I almost think at that level they want to see what you can work through. Like you were saying, with the bus trips, to see what you can deal with without breaking down mentally. And they want to see if you can get through an 0-10 streak or something like that. They want to see mentally how you’ll still play. How you’ll go out and play defense.
RN: As I said, I talked to Gary (Roller) the other day, and we were talking about you, one of the things he really raved on was your defense being very, very good. That’s not something that comes up often when you’re talking about ballplayer; usually they talk about how well they hit or how well they run. Do you work hard on your defense?
LP: A lot harder once I got here (UC) than I ever did in New Mexico. I was just terrible defensively at New Mexico; I’d just kind of would run into some things and get lucky. But here we worked a lot on it. Coach Meador’s an infield guy and I took a ton of ground balls, a ton of infield drills, things like that. I think the thing that helped me most here was first baseman here have to do the same things as everyone else. You walk through the same drills; you do everything the same as the shortstop would. At other places, first baseman, you’d just go hit in the cage or something, they just took it for granted.
So, this summer, I thought I had an ok summer fielding the ball. Most of my errors were from pop ups, which I’m still terrible at I’m sure. I haven’t taken many this fall. From a ground ball point of view, taking balls, like that a lot of it came from here. (UC) Just the work that I put in here.
RN: Overall, were you happy with your 2006?
LP: Oh yeah.
RN: What were you most happy with? Just personal stuff, not the team winning both pennants in the division, I’m sure was right up there, but just personal stuff?
LP: Ummm, I would say just some of the friends I’ve made. Some of the stuff that I figured out how to go through. A lot of things. Taking care of myself is one thing I never really paid much attention to until I got there. Growing up, knowing how to handle things, I guess you could say.
Personally, I liked how good my strikeout to walk ratio was. I look at that, I don’t like to strikeout a lot, but if I do, I want to have a lot of walks also. Besides that, just the friendships that I made up there.
RN: What were you least happy with?
LP: The one thing that still sticks out in my mind is my defense, the errors that I had. They were what I consider “stupid errors”. Some of the balls that my teammates threw to me that I couldn’t pick. Errors are on them, it doesn’t affect my numbers, but it does affect me.
RN: You feel like you should have been able to scoop them or reach them or whatever.
RN: Did you have any adjustment problems with the wood bat? It’s apparent from your numbers that you didn’t, but had you don’t much work with the wood bat before last year?
LP: We had that Texas Collegiate League that I played in after my junior year. I went to McKinney and they do the same thing, set you up with a family, so basically that summer. I think I played something like 40 games with a wood bat and that was about it.
RN: It didn’t seem to be much of an adjustment for you.
LP: No, I think it’s more of an adjustment for littler guys. For guys who aren’t as strong. Big strong guys, the bat still feels the same.
RN: How tall are you, you’re a very tall guy?
RN: What do you run, about 220?
RN: Can you name a big league player that you compare yourself to? That you kind of have the same “skill set”?
LP: When I was here last year, a lot of the scouts were comparing me to Lyle Overbay. And I talked to Greg Zahn, who works out here a lot, and he said, “Yeah, I can see that.” Your swing, the way you look, your fair complexion, stuff like that. He said, “I kind of see that in you”, but I haven’t had a chance to watch him that much. But that’s what they said.
RN: You said you look at your walk/strikeout ratio; you look at your numbers during the season?
LP: It’s hard not to, they’re posted in the locker room every day. Your friends or somebody’s always telling you, you think you had a bad game and you go back to the hotel and you’re kind of upset and you’re saying, “Man, I had a bad game today, I was 0 for whatever” and your roommate looks at you and he’s on his computer and he’s looking at your stats and he says, “Hey, shut up, you’re hitting .330.” You had a bad game, who cares?
RN: When you look at numbers, what do you look at?
LP: Walks to strikeouts, a lot of it is walks, I look at the walks a lot to see where I’m at. They break it down a lot more in pro ball, but your “hits in certain counts” I like looking at that stuff too.
RN: Do you consider yourself a good clutch hitter?
LP: Yeah, I’ve become a lot better.
RN: How do you define that?
LP: Just when your team needs you to come up with a hit, whether it’s the first inning, second inning, anytime in the game really your team needs a hit and they want somebody up there, I want to be that guy.
RN: When coaches talk to you about that, and you said that there isn’t a whole lot of instruction, does the coaching staff every talk to you about numbers?
RN: When you went to Billings, when you were assigned to Billings, did you set any goals for yourself or things you wanted to accomplish while you were there?
LP: You always want to set goals, just things that are within reach. I wanted to hit over .300. And when that became almost obvious that I was going to do that, without a complete breakdown at the end of the year, I was going to hit .300, so you can set another short-term goal, to hit .330. And I came up shy of that one.
Things like that, which are within reach, that I kind of do, but besides that average, not really.
RN: You knew where you were going to be last year, this year you really don’t know where you’re going to be. You’ve probably got an idea of where you’ll be. When you’re going to look at goals for this year, will they be numerical or will they be which level or will they be, this is where I want to start, this is where I want to end up?
LP: You know, it’s kind of that way. People tell you where they think you’re going to go before even they know. Agents say, “Hey, you may go here or if you have a good spring training you may go here.” They say if I have a good spring training, I may go to Sarasota. If all else fails, I’m in Dayton, which is a great place, obviously everybody loves it. A lot of fans, a lot of friends that I have around here can go watch, which would be great for me. That’d be fun.
But if I start out in the Florida State League or start out anywhere, it’s not a bad deal because you’re moving up a notch.
RN: When you wind down at the end of the season, do they give you things to work on over the winter? Is there any kind of “after action report” or end of season critique?
LP: They invite the people that they want to go to Instructionals, I knew they were going to ask me to go, they knew I was going to come back and finish my degree, instead of going to Instructs. So, I talked to Rick Burleson, we sat down and he said, “Here are some things that I would like for you to work on. Now, that’s not the organization telling you, it’s me. But you can take my word for whatever it is, considering I did what I did.”
So he said, “I would want you scoot up on the plate”, just minor adjustments, nothing overall in the game. He said, “Just keep taking good care of yourself, watch what you eat” those kind of things. But besides that, nothing.
RN: He’s what, the system-wide minor league hitting instructor now?
LP: I don’t know what he’s doing.
RN: I think that’s what I read; he’s more of a system-wide guy now. Gary Roller had nothing but kudos about Burleson. Were you really impressed, did you like playing for him?
LP: Oh yeah, he’s kind of tough to get to know, kind of scary in a sense. He’s a little fiery guy when he gets upset, when he’s upset, you can tell he’s upset. When he’s not upset, he’s just kinda quiet. He reads his game report and says “Good night, see you guys later.”
Me and Turner were kind of the jokesters on the team and with him; we’d walk up next to him and just kind of mess with him. You finally open him up after about a month of trying to and trying to feel him out to see what you can and can’t get away with. After that, I loved the guy.
I had a feeling that he may have been the manager in Dayton, just from what you hear, like you hear that Bair (the pitching coach) was going to go, and Burleson’s going to be the new manager, and that would have been awesome, but obviously it didn’t work out.
RN: What’s your degree in?
LP: Criminal Justice.
RN: You’re going to be 23 this summer, right? Generally, statistically speaking, most hitters hit their peak around 27 or 28, which is younger than pitchers do. Does this make you feel like you need to move through the organization faster because you’re already 23?
LP: Yeah, but at the same time, I’m not really that worried about it. Like Ryan Howard was 27 when he made it to the big leagues in Philly and look what he can do. Obviously, if I haven’t hit my peak at 21 or 22 and am still having good numbers and having good years. Eventually, all that kind of stuff will take care of itself.
There’s not a lot I can do from my point of view to sit and worry about where I’m going to be, when I’m going to move up, all you can do is put up the numbers and hopefully the organization sees that and wants you to move up.
RN: One day at a time..
RN: Do you look at other first baseman in the organization? Do you know who they are and does that have any effect on your thinking?
LP: The only one I’ve looked at, because this kid lived with Valaika’s host family is Votto. I got into looking at his stuff last year. Unbelievable player obviously. You see highlights on him and on any kind of Reds TV channel around here they talk about him. Other than him I don’t know any other first baseman in the organization.
RN: Does the organization every give you any indication of how you should progress?
LP: Not really. If they have, it’s just been hints, little things like that that obviously I haven’t picked up on. But they don’t really say much about that, they just want you to go out and play and do the best you can.
RN: What’s your normal off-season routine? And have you changed that at all when you went from college ball to pro ball?
LP: It got changed a lot. There wasn’t a whole lot of focus on conditioning; it was all weights, weights, weights. You’d do some sprint work here and there, but in the fall; I followed the workout plan that they give you. They set everything up so a two-year-old kid could follow it. If you can read, you can follow it. So, I did that.
It was 20 minutes of cardio this day, 25 the next, lifting in between. We were lifting 4 days a week with Wednesday just being a straight cardio day. So, you would lift, then do cardio, stretch, do all of those kinds of things.
Before pro ball, I didn’t do a whole lot of cardio. You did sprints; you’d get in shape. But you didn’t get where you could go out and run a mile in so many minutes. You do like sprint work.
RN: Is there a physical test at the beginning of spring training? Like a length run? Did they do that with you guys last year?
LP: Yeah, we had that minicamp and they said they were “player evaluations” and they wanted to see where you were at, to set you into some groups. So, you do a sit and reach test where you sit down and try to reach out as far as you can. After that they tell you if you’re in the flexibility group. Then they do a sit-up test, where you had to do 45 sit-ups in a minute. Then you’re out of sit-up group. Other than that, you’re in core group.
For position players, they do a 300-yard shuttle. They put cones 25 yards apart and you run there and back six times. So, if you do that in 60 seconds, then you get a 3-minute rest then you do it again.
But for pitchers, it’s a mile and a half run in 10 minutes or something.
RN: Do pitchers run more than position players?
LP: Yeah, they’re running poles and stuff every day.
RN: You came back to Cincinnati in the off-season, rather than going back to Texas. Was that for the facilities here?
LP: First, to get my degree, then after that, I was done in December, I came back in January and it’s definitely for the facilities. You can go out and hit in the cages, we have a brand new weight room that’s unbelievable. There is 60 yards of track in there, you can do all your sprint work in there, pull sleds, do anything you want to do. Box jumps. Any kind of workout stuff you can think of, its here, all within one little area.
RN: Let’s talk about life in the minor leagues, after one year. What’s the hardest thing so far about being a minor league baseball player?
LP: Not knowing what’s next. Not knowing what the next day holds. Like, right now I’m worried about spring training because I don’t know what spring training is like. I’m showing up, never been, don’t know what to expect for the first day or the last day. You’re just unsure about everything. You’re the new guy. Being the new guy again is the hardest part.
RN: Best thing about being a minor league baseball player?
LP: Getting paid. You’re playing a game. You get mad, you’re hot, you don’t want to go to the field today, but then you realize, you could be back in Odessa in the oil fields drilling oil.
RN: Did you have to work during the off-season?
LP: No, I didn’t. I got lucky, coming back and finishing my degree. By that time, it’s kind of hard to find a job. “Hey, I’m going to work here for a month then I’m going to leave.”
But next off-season I’m looking forward to trying to find a job because money’s getting tight.
RN: Steroids, supplements, that kind of thing. I assume there is some time of informational meeting, how much information do they give you on “this is what you need to be careful of, etc”, how much of that is there?
LP: I would say too much, but obviously there’s not enough because people still get caught. If you know your body and know the rules, then you really don’t want to risk it. It’s stupid to even try to risk it in my opinion because there are so many tests that you’re going to get caught if you’re doing it. Eventually, you’re going to get caught.
If you want protein, you want to do this and you go talk to the strength coach and the strength coach has it lined up. He orders it from a special shipment and it comes in and if you fail your drug test, you say, “this is the only thing I’ve been taking is this protein that you gave me”, they go back and test that shipment and if that shipment is wrong, then your drug test is clear.
RN: Did you see much of this type of thing in junior college or college ball?
LP: Steroids? I saw more people wanting to experiment with steroids. Supplements are everywhere in college baseball, but you’d just go get it at the store. Everybody can go get that kind of stuff. But in pro ball you really don’t see it a whole lot. Or I didn’t anyway.
RN: Correct me if I’m wrong, the first time you get caught in the minor leagues, it’s a 50 game suspension?
LP: I think so.
RN: Is that fair?
LP: Yeah. You know, I like the steroid policy. I like the fact that they can test you in the off-season, which they did to me this year.
They call you one day and say, “Can you come and meet me in Blue Ash (a suburb of Cincinnati)?” So I met this guy in Blue Ash and took a random drug test for Major League Baseball, which I like because the people that do get caught, they get suspended and I get the chance to move up faster and get to perform at different levels.
RN: And it protests the integrity of the game.
RN: The players that cheat and we know there’s always going to be some percentage that think they can get away with it. Do you think they believe that the risk is worth the opportunity?
LP: I think they may just think they’re above the drug test, that they’ve found a way they can beat it every time. And they think the risk and the rewards are pretty much even, so they want to do it. I don’t know.
I don’t understand why people would do it. I mean I understand WHY they would do it, but with all the testing it doesn’t seem worth it.
RN: Of course, your goal is to play in the major leagues. How confident are you that you’ll play major league ball?
LP: REALLY CONFIDENT. I think in baseball, if you have confidence, that’s a major part. If you think you can do something, you know you can do something, then it’s only a matter of time.
But I think now, paying my dues to get to the big leagues, you go through the system, you go through the steps, I’m not an Albert Pujols or Alex Rodriguez that can jump right up there or a Ken Griffey Junior. But going through the whole process, I think it’s just a matter of time.
RN: Are your plans to play ball just as long as you can?
LP: I came back to get the degree for myself and my parents, my grandparents, they were the ones most worried about it. But I have my degree to fall back on, in case I need it. But at the same time, I hope I do never need it. I never want to mess with it.
RN: I think you’ve really already answered this, because you’re so confident that you’re going to be playing on a major league roster at some point in your career, you haven’t set any kind of deadline, like “if I’m 28 and still playing high A ball”…
LP: There are times when you have to be realistic with yourself. When I say I want to play baseball forever, I also don’t want to be in A or high A when I’m 28 years old.
Those are steps that you have to take to get there, you have to take all those steps to get to the big leagues, but at the same time, I don’t want to stay in one spot forever.
In AAA, it’s obviously a little bit different. AA is even different than high A. I want to get out of A ball as soon as possible.
RN: If you had to make a prediction, right now, where do you think you’ll start this season?
LP: Dayton. Another reason we may not move up is to get a certain number of Abs before you can move on to the next level. Maybe they want that, maybe they want a whole team to stay together, like you were saying earlier.
RN: Krivsky’s regime seems to be very adamant about going through each level.
RN: I think there were 2 or 3 guys last year…2 guys I think, that jumped over Dayton and went to Sarasota and I think they were both pitchers.
You talked earlier about being a little surprised that there wasn’t more movement between like Billings and Dayton. To be honest, I was also. Towards the end of last year, Dayton had some injuries and they were hurting offensively. Bruce was hurt; he sat out basically the last month. They had some offensive problems and it looked like some of your guys at Billings might have been able to help and it might have been able to squeeze them into the Wild Card in the playoffs, possibly. But it never happened. There was some grumbling from the fans in Dayton.
You said you talked to Burleson about that, but you didn’t get any real answers, he didn’t really have any answers either about why that wasn’t done?
LP: No, he just said, “Take it day by day and do what you can”. You can’t get caught up in what they’re (the organization) is trying to do.
RN: Do you know what the daily reports said that were sent in by the manager and the coaching staff on you players? Do you know what’s included on those? Was it just numbers?
LP: I have no idea. That was all done behind closed doors. They’d go in their offices and do it all. They didn’t share that kind of stuff with us.
RN: Other than yourself, we won’t talk about you, but the guys you played with last year, tell me about some of these guys. I’m assuming we’re going to be seeing most of them in Dayton this year. Their abilities on the field, who might surprise us.
LP: I think a big surprise would be our catcher, Esquer gets overlooked. Tony Esquer. A late 20 round guy. Put up good numbers, hit over .300, had a couple of 4 or 5 hit nights. He just seemed to fly under the radar. He doesn’t’ have a lot of HR power, hits occasionally balls in the gaps. Hits a lot of balls in the middle, line drive guy. He gets overlooked a lot. Throws a lot of people out at second, calls a great game. He gets overlooked.
Dorn, you know what you’re going to get from Dorn. And Turner, and Valaika. All of the guys that you read about all the time, you know what you’re going to get out of those guys.
Turner is a jokester, has a lot of fun, but knows when to get serious and knows when to take his job to the next level. At game time, you know it’s game time with Turner.
Dorn is the same way; I think it’s something in the Fullerton, what Fullerton does in their program.
Valaika is a gamer all the time. Takes every ground ball during batting practice like it’s the last ground ball he’s ever going to take. When Burleson tells him he’s done for the day, he says, “No, I want 5 more.” That’s the kind of kid Valaika is.
Louwsma is kind of the same way. Gets frustrated, gets down on himself, when he has a rough streak. But he’s the same kind of kid, he likes to work, he likes to get himself back.
Pitching-wise, Jordan Smith. Unbelievable arm. The most competitive guy I’ve ever seen in my life. In the training room, you’ll ask him, “Smitty, what do you think about this?” He’ll say, “I don’t care. I’m going to be in the big leagues in a couple of years, I don’t’ care.” And he’s not cocky, he’s really just confident. You’ll say, “These other guys are working hard too.” And he’ll say, “I don’t care, they don’t’ want it as bad as me. They don’t work as hard as me. They don’t want it as bad and I’m going to work 10 times as hard as them, so don’t worry about it.”
So, things like that from those kinds of guys and you know, if they do keep us all together, I think we’ll have another great team in Dayton next year.
RN: I wanted to thank you very much for your time and Redleg Nation wants to thank you for being one of our “Spotlight Players” and good luck in sprint training.