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Roberts Report

By
Leland Roberts

We have a special treat for those of you who are checking out this installment of "The Roberts Report," an exclusive interview with Philadelphia Phillies prospect Eric Valent. Selected with a supplemental first round pick (42nd overall) in the 1998 draft by the Phillies following a standout collegiate career for the UCLA Bruins, Valent was named by "Baseball America" as the sixth best prospect in the Double-A Eastern League this past season. The 23-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder batted .258 with 22 home runs and 90 RBI for Reading while only committing four errors in 122 games during the 2000 campaign. We recently had a chance to catch up with Eric and ask him a few questions, and we thank him for his time.

The Roberts Report: As of the beginning of June, you were scuffling a bit offensively, but then you had a torrid month to become the Eastern League's player of the month for June and you went on to finish third in the league in both home runs and RBI en route to leading manager Gary Varsho's Reading Phillies to an 85-57 record, the best record in Double-A. So how did you turn your season around and how would you evaluate your performance this past year overall?

      
Eric Valent: First off, thank you Leland for being a true fan of mine, believe me it's greatly appreciated.
 
As far as this season went, let's just say I'm not ready to be content yet. In the first month of April, I hovered right around the .290 mark with about maybe 3 or so home runs, and toward the end of that month, I had a hitting streak going, that got up to 19 games.
 
But, during that hitting streak it went into the first week of May, and at that point my approach was gone at the plate, and all I was trying to do was get base hits, instead of my normal approach of driving the ball right up the box or left center.  I scuffled in May greatly, hitting under .200. It got to be more mental than anything. The last day of May I believe, I went down to the cage by myself and just got back to the basics of getting set early and seeing the ball, from then on I got myself into a nice little groove for the month of June. Hitting is so mental, you just have to trust yourself, and not get too impatient.

As far as my overall performance, I was pretty happy about it. I played outstanding defense, and I had another good year at the plate. I just want to keep getting better though. The critics seem to find something to say negative about players all the time, and you just have to keep proving them wrong.

TRR: You are likely to be placed on the Phillies 40-man roster for the first time this winter and have a legitimate opportunity to reach the majors at some point next year, so are you approaching this off-season any differently than you have in past years, and what are some of the things that you do in the off-season to stay in baseball shape?

EV: I'm going to go about my off-season the same as last year. I'm glad I didn't have to play anywhere, because I know myself pretty well, and have a good idea on what I need to work on. I just started lifting and running with my trainer, two times a week during the month of November, to go along with some lifting and cardio on my own. Come the first of December, we lift and run three times a week, concentrating on a lot of explosive lifts, and explosive running. Other players that train with me are fellow ex-Bruins Troy Glaus (Angels), Pete Zamora (Phillies), Scott Seal (Rockies), and Eric Byrnes (Athletics). We work hard and also have a great time. 

As far as hitting, I hit a couple times a week throughout November and December, and start to get a little serious in January, where I like to hit around 4-5 times a week. The same pattern goes for throwing as well.
 
TRR: People have compared you to players such as Florida's Mark Kotsay and Milwaukee's Jeromy Burnitz because you are considered to be a solid all-around player with power who always hustles and has a strong and accurate throwing arm in the outfield. What do you think of comparisons like that and how would you describe yourself as a player?

EV: People are always looking to compare players to other players, and, when I am mentioned with those players, it's pretty exciting, but, on the same note, I don't want to be compared to anybody. I want to be known for Eric Valent, and the things that I can bring
to a ball club. 

TRR: At UCLA, you played with and against many other future major leaguers, played in a College World Series, and even became the Pac-10 conference's all-time leading home run hitter, ahead of Mark McGwire and former teammate Troy Glaus. Looking back, how did your years of college baseball help prepare you for pro ball?

EV: College was a great experience for me, especially at UCLA. Coach Gary Adams allowed us to go play the game, and we worked many things out on our own. He really gets players ready for professional baseball, and also makes sure you're getting it down in the classroom as well. At UCLA I was able to grow as a player, and more importantly, I matured greatly as a person. It was a great step to get me ready for professional baseball.  

TRR: Finally, what do you feel like you need to work on in 2001 in Triple-A (if you open the season in Scranton) before you reach Philadelphia and have new manager Larry Bowa write your name into the Phillies' major league lineup?

EV: I myself, would like to continue to play strong defense, and I run the bases well. I'd like to steal more bases though, and that's something I'm going to work on in Spring Training. I need to pay more attention to the situations when to steal, the counts, etc. You don't have to be super fast to grab a bag here and there, you just have to be keen on what's going on around you. 
 
As far as my hitting, I just want to be more consistent. My numbers have been there at the end of every year, but I don't want the big slumps where I go 1-20 say. I want to keep them around say 1-10 at the most. That just comes from experience, and I know the more at bats I get, I'll just keep getting better.
 
TRR: Well, thanks again for taking the time to answer a few questions, Eric, and Good Luck on much continued success.
 
EV: Thank you Leland, and I'd like to say what a great job you're doing, keep it up. 


 

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