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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
EV: Thank you Leland, and I'd like to say
what a great job you're doing, keep it up.