Tag Archives: Interview

Q&A With Philadelphia Phillies Prospect Jiwan James

By: Andrew Martin

Major league teams love athletic players because of the versatility and potential they possess. Jiwan James, a rising outfield prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies’ minor league system, fits that bill. He was taken out of high school in the 22nd round in the 2007 draft as a pitcher, although many believed that he was going to forego baseball altogether and play college football. James ended up signing with the Phillies, and in 2009 was converted to an outfielder.

James adapted to being a position player quickly, hitting .268 since the conversion. His most advanced tool at this point is his speed, as evidenced by the 33 stolen bases he had last year and the 31 he had this season. He is also considered a dominant defensive outfielder. James has never hit more than 5 home runs in any season during his career, but he has the size (6’4, 180) and athletic talent to do just about anything he wants on the baseball diamond.

With the aging Raul Ibanez set to become a free agent, it is possible that James could be fast-tracked to the majors. I recently exchanged emails with James, and hope that you enjoy learning a little more about this Phillies’ prospect.

How did you first become interested in baseball?
It was the first sport I played, at like age 5 I think.

How did you first find out that the Phillies were interested in you?
I really don’t remember. All of the questionnaires started coming in around the same time, during my senior year. I did talk to the Phillies more than anyone else leading up to the draft though, so that’s probably when I figured it would be them.

You dropped a little in the draft because most teams thought you were going to the University of Florida. What made you change your mind and sign?
The pros and cons of signing and not signing, sitting down with the family to talk about it, and the change in the (Florida) coaching staff.

Who was your favorite team and player growing up?
Yankees and Derek Jeter.

What is the attention and scrutiny like, being a top prospect for Philadelphia?
I really don’t pay too much attention to it. I’m more into having fun playing the game and enjoying my teammates first.

You were drafted as a pitcher… do you miss pitching?
Not at all. I’m having too much fun playing every day.

What has been your favorite moment in your professional playing career thus far?
Winning the South Atlantic League Championship last season. That was the most fun I’ve had yet playing baseball, from the start of the season until the end.

What is your thought process/mind set like right now as you get closer to the major leagues?
The closer I get, the harder I work.

Our Interview With San Francisco Giants Pitching Prospect Justin Fitzgerald

Since being selected in the 11th round of the 2008 draft out of UC Davis by his hometown San Francisco Giants, pitching prospect Justin Fitzgerald has climbed a level each season on the road to the big leagues. This year for the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels, the 6’5″ right hander is 8-6 with a 3.38ERA in 114.1 innings covering 22 starts. We hope you enjoy our Q&A with Justin Fitzgerald.

TPA: Growing up an hour north of the Bay Area in Santa Rosa were you a Giants fan or an A’s fan when you were younger? How often did you get to games? What were some of your best memories?
Justin Fitzgerald Growing up I was a huge Giants fan, going to games as early as the Candlestick Park days and watching the likes of Will Clark, Bill Swift, Rod Beck and Barry Bonds. One of the best memories I have was when JT Snow hit his walk off Home Run against the Mets in the playoffs at AT&T park. The crowd was so electric and louder than you could ever imagine. The only other time I have heard a place that loud was for Bonds 700th HR.

TPA: Tell us about your draft day experience. Where were you when you got the call?
Justin Fitzgerald I was making breakfast and my roommate was watching the computer. He yelled hey Fitz you just got drafted. I said by who? And he yelled back the Giants in the 11th Round. A very humbling and honoring experience.

TPA: What was it like getting to play a couple of hours from home last year in San Jose?
Justin Fitzgerald Playing in San Jose was like a dream, being able to play so close to home. My dad saw 17 of my 27 starts. I had constant friends and family coming to games. My sister went to San Jose State so I was able to grab lunch with her at times before heading to the field. It was by far the most fun I have ever had playing baseball. I was surrounded by family, we won a championship, and it happened right in my back yard of Northern California.

TPA: You’ve figured out a way to get better at each level despite facing more advanced hitters each step of the way. What adjustments have you made from Low-A to High-A to Double-A to keep a step ahead of the hitters.
Justin Fitzgerald It isn’t that I have made drastic adjustments, I have just figured out how to pitch my game better. I have Improved what I do well. My conditioning, repeatable mechanics, and making quality pitches down in the zone. Double-A hitters do lay off more pitches and they do take that off speed pitch in the dirt more often. Getting better depth on a pitch that finishes at the ankles than in the dirt becomes a better quality pitch. Pitching inside is the biggest thing when you move up. You have to establish the inner part of the plate for your sake and for the relievers sake when they come into the game late.

TPA: Talk about your mental preparation for taking the mound. What routine do you go through and what pitch thoughts do you have on the mound? How has your mental preparation evolved throughout your career?
Justin Fitzgerald Mental Preparation starts taking place the night before when I look over the hitters online see who is hot, where guys are hitting, etc. I go through my normal routine of 20 mins on the bike, hot tub and a stretch followed by going over hitters with the catchers and our pitching coach. Then on to the pre game routine of catch and bullpen session. Pitch thoughts are so fast on the mound. I usually have the next pitch that I want to throw in my head before the pitch I just threw gets back to me from the catcher. I always tell myself to control what I can control and just have fun. Baseball is a game and lots of guys get lost in that. My mental preparation has taken leeps and bounds over my career, always was stubborn in my younger age in college. To be where I am at now I have come a long way and still can improve.

TPA: You had a chance to pitch against Bryce Harper when Harrisburg came to town a couple weeks ago. What did you think of the kid?
Justin Fitzgerald Harper is an impressive talent. He has a good eye at the plate and good pitch recognition skills. The most impressive thing you see out of him is his poise dealing with all the taunting from fans and the media scrutiny. I know at 18 I wouldn’t of been able to go through what he is going through at such a high level.

TPA: Who has been the most influential person to you thus far in the Giants organization? What’s been the best guidance or advice they have given you?
Justin Fitzgerald There are a lot of influential people in Giants organization. They are tremendous when it comes to bringing around players from the past and having them share their knowledge. You never forget Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Gaylord Perry, Lon Simmons, Will Clark all sitting on a panel and just talking baseball. But, the most influential that stands out is Lee Smith by simply saying “someone is always watching you, whether it be the Giants personnel or another team” That really stuck with me because it made me want to go out every time on the mound and compete my tail off for my teammates, for my career, and for my advancement.

TPA: What’s been your best memory so far as a pro, both from something on the field, as well as something crazy you have had happen while in the minor leagues.
Justin Fitzgerald Best memory as a Pro was winning the California League Championship last year. The craziest thing that’s happened to me on the field was throwing ball 4 of an intentional BB halfway up the back screen when I was at Short-A Salem Keizer.

TPA: What led you to join the world of Twitter? What’s the experience been like so far? You can follow Justin on Twitter @JFitzgerald31.
Justin Fitzgerald Twitter gives me a wealth of knowledge from countless places at the touch of my iphone. It’s nice to not have to open up a newspaper to find out whats going on in the world. I have enjoyed my experience so far. It’s been cool to follow your buddies on here and interact with others.

Our Interview With Colorado Rockies Top Prospect Nolan Arenado

Since being drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the second round of the 2009 draft out of El Toro High School in California, all Nolan Arenado has done is hit. The 20 year old is a career .307 and is currently blistering the California League to a tune of a .310 average with 24 Doubles, 1 Triple, 11 Home Runs, and 74 RBI’s as a member of the Modesto Nuts. Among the most impressive stats from Arenado’s career thus far is that he’s struck out in just 108 of his 924 career at-bats, a rate of just over 11 percent. Equally as impressive is that over 37 percent of his hits go for extra bases. Arenado played in the 2011 Futures Game and did what he does best, hitting a double off Royals pitching prospect Kelvin Herrera. We hope you enjoy our Q&A with Nolan Arenado.

TPA: What was it like being around all of the best prospects in baseball at the Futures Game?
Nolan Arenado: It was a blast. It felt so good being around players you hear and read about, and some of them I know personally, like my high school classmate Austin Romine of the Yankees.

TPA: What were some of the things you will take with you from the Futures Game experience?
Nolan Arenado: We were treated so well. All of the attention on us was nice. Playing for such a big crowd was awesome and Chase Field is a great ballpark. It was an honor representing the Rockies. You never know if an opportunity like this will come up again, so I just tried to enjoy every minute.

TPA: After a slow start to the season offensively in 2011, you’ve been one of the hottest bats in the minors over the last month or so. What adjustments did you make to help lead to your recent success?
Nolan Arenado: I did start out slow but I didn’t panic. I made some small tweaks to my swing. I have since tried to stay consistent with what I’m doing at the plate.

TPA: What type of approach and swing thought do you take with you to the plate?
Nolan Arenado: I want to drive the ball. I look for a fastball to hit. I try to do what the situation dictates, and not try to do too much.

TPA: You did a bunch of Perfect Game events when you were in high school, describe that experience, and how seeing the some of the best prep pitching in the country at the time helped prepare you for pro ball?
Nolan Arenado: Perfect Game was a good experience. The more I did them, the more confidence I got. You definitely improve when you play against better competition.

TPA: What’s been your biggest challenge thus far in your pro career?
Nolan Arenado: It is a long season. So, staying consistent in my hitting is a challenge at times.

TPA: Being from Southern California what has it been like getting to play some of your road games this year in cities close to home?
Nolan Arenado: That’s one of the best parts. I’ve been lucky to have my family and friends come out and watch me play. Their support means a lot.

TPA: What has been your best memory so far as a pro?
Nolan Arenado: I am going to have to say the Futures Game so far. I had extended family come out as well, and it was great seeing them. On the field, meeting and talking to pro players was unforgettable. Also, another highlight was working out with Tulo this past winter.

Check out the clips below to see some of what Arenado experienced while at the Futures Games

Batting Practice

Arenado’s Double In The Game

Arenado’s Fan Fest Interview with MLB.com

Another Futures Game Interview With MLB.com