Tag Archives: interview

Viosergy Rosa Interview Part 2

Part One

Ian: 2009 was one of the most enjoyable teams as a coach. It wasn’t just the talent, it was also the personality and the effort. The New York Nine tries to create a family type atmosphere; what was it about that team, out of the many you played on, that stands out to you? What specific things about the 2009 team make you really remember who we were, other than being left at the ballpark at TCU?

Vio: [laughs] What made that 2009 team, and I played in 2008, is everything was just so much fun and everyone bought into the team. We had a 16 year old catcher who was a fantastic defender who bought into his job. Everybody did their job, and we had really good pitching, we had one of the best pitching staffs including current Los Angeles Dodgers Area Scout, Josh Herzenberg. He’s the man. The year before, we had a squad with 8 pro guys and everyone getting scholarships, but when I was at the 2009 tryout and the guys who were there, I thought we had no chance compared to them. But we kept on playing the games we just kept on getting better and better. We had great leadership, we hit when we needed to, we pitched when we had to, we were all into the game cheering each other and we all had each others backs. It was a great team, in a family atmosphere. I still stay in contact with guys from that team, we were tight knit group. Shoutout to Dave Perlleshi. Obviously there were times we messed up; we were young. One of the main things, I think, is we were always ready to play. We always competed against the top teams and we would leave it all out on the field.

Ian: June 2010 comes and it’s the MLB draft, and you’re waiting patiently as the rounds start ticking by. Tell us how that went.

Vio: My transfer process in college was stressful and the draft was eight times that. You have people telling you all sorts of stuff and that you’re going to get popped in a certain round. But, before that, the draft process was awesome, if not surreal. I’ve been cut or put on the practice squad from more than one team, so to think about from where I came from and the fact that I was going to all these pre draft showcases was pretty cool. And hard work combined with a little bit of luck for everything to click at the right moment.

Ian: Well, you hit a bunch of home runs down there in Texas, 22, including playoffs?

Vio: Yeah.

Ian: So you’re going to predraft showcases and people are starting to take notice.

Vio: Yeah, a lot of people were surprised, especially the New York players. People were saying, “man, that’s Vio?” It was great to be noticed, but it was stressful. People were telling me I was going to be drafted a lot higher than I thought I was and then that didn’t happen. The good thing is I got drafted and got drafted by a good team willing to work with a guy who got drafted in the 28th round. I don’t think anything can really prepare you for that experience. And then I thought wow, I’m getting ready to sign a pro contract. Back in high school or earlier, when I used to tell people I was going to be a pro ballplayer, they would laugh. Even a teacher laughed at me and said, ‘how would you sign a pro contract? You can’t even make your high school team.” That’s one of the things that I always carried with me in practice when the practice was done and I had blisters on my hand. I had to keep going. That’s what fueled my fire. And even though I was drafted in the 28th round, I knew with hard work I would be somebody and make it to the big leagues.

Ian: You sign a pro contract, where was your first stop and how would you describe your first season of pro ball.

Vio: I signed and made it to West Palm Beach and it was beautiful. I didn’t know what to expect but it took me two weeks for it to sink in that this is professional baseball, and I didn’t have homework to do. All I have to worry about is baseball and it felt like summer was year round. My first game I went 1-4 with an RBI and made around 3 mistakes. I attempted to steal a bag for some reason and tried to stretch a single and was thrown out. I was a bit amped up that first game and I got benched for a game for those mistakes. My 2nd game of the season I went 2 or 3-4 and one of them was a home run. Earlier in the game, I messed up a sign and went to steal 2nd and got thrown out and then hit a home run. The coach was pretty happy about that. But I was young and I did not feel comfortable, so I’d go in and work with the hitting coaches. I’ve never been guy to have much movement in my swing but the coach had me hit with a leg kick. It wasn’t comfortable but you learn to be a good company guy and follow what you’re told for the most part. The 2nd year I went and did it my way and I was the best hitter in Extended Spring Training. As I’m getting ready to get sent out, I go 0-4 and I don’t play the next few days. After that I tried to hit home runs every single time to try and win the job. That didn’t work and I hit .200.

The beginning of my 3rd year I felt like I was about to get released because I felt like no one was talking to me and everybody stood away from me. I was pretty scared. I didn’t know my journey was over, but I knew I had a lot of fight in me and I told myself if I don’t get released, I know I will perform well and never look back. I had met a great hitting guy in the offseason named Rich, who was in another organization the year before and I guess he saw something and wanted to work with me. The first thing he said to me was, “you’re a big leaguer, if you don’t believe it, nobody else will. Do you believe it?” I said “yeah, absolutely” and we got to work. After one day of starting to work with him I hit 2 homers in a game. We continued working, specifically on keeping my hands inside the ball. He wasn’t too mechanical but he was all about getting ready to hit the baseball and know the strike zone. I really learned a lot about the strike zone that year, which helped me out and I ended up having a great year there.

Ian: The Marlins stick with you and you go out to Jupiter in High A and have a great year.

Vio: It was a great year in Jupiter and I know you don’t want me to use the word, disappointed, but I was disappointed when I didn’t make the Florida State League All Star Game. I felt like I deserved to be there as much as the next guy. But things happen for a reason and I knew I had to improve my game and things were already started to click with things the hitting coordinator Jeff Pentland was working on with me but I started to do really well. I wanted to show myself I was one of the better players in this league. I was going pretty strong and I was focused on what I needed to do. So, I was playing every day until we got to Port Charlotte and the Manager benched me. I didn’t do anything wrong and I went into the clubhouse and thought, ‘why am I getting benched tonight, I didn’t do anything wrong, I don’t think’ He told me after the game I should pack my bags because I’m going to AA the next day. He congratulated me and told me to keep doing my thing. At the time Jacksonville was in first place and they threw me into the fire. I’m thinking I’m going to be on the bench or hitting 8th or 9th but they had me in the 5th spot. The first game in AA I hit 3 balls hard and go 1-4 and that’s when the coach moved me to the four hole. I just tried not do too much and do my job. I learned that everything is easier and my body works better when I’m relaxed and not tense.

Ian: It worked out OK, you guys won the AA championship series. You had a fairly decent championship series, a little MVP award.

Vio: Yeah, in addition to the Champion Series MVP, I ended up winning the milb.com Organization All Star and the Post Season All Star for the Florida State League.

Ian: Here we are, hours away from leaving for big league camp. Is there anything you can recall about your New York Nine experience that you’d want to share with others or with New York area players who are trying to figure out what to do?

Vio: Absolutely. My first year with New York Nine, I was absolutely horrible. I didn’t even know why you played me. There were a lot of guys better than me, but you kept me in the 5th or 6th spot all year. Even the 2nd year when I first started I wasn’t as good but you had me in the 3 spot. I remember thinking the 1st year, ‘man, this is a boatload of games’ and I was extremely tired. It felt like we played every day and we practically did play every day. At the time I thought I was wasting my summer; I hadn’t even gone to the beach once! It was all baseball and I ended up learning a lot. The 2nd year was a lot easier and both years helped the adjustment process to pro ball because I already had experience in playing every single day. The meetings also helped because coach didn’t speak to us like any other coach, you spoke to us like a pro coach. You were brutally honest. The New York Nine had a professional baseball atmosphere. We saw the same group of guys every day and we would stay in many different Econo Lodges throughout the Country. [laughs]

Ian: Only the finest in Econo Lodges, though. [both laugh]

Vio: Exactly. In Pro Ball we stay in Econo Lodges and Motel 6 Inns, which might be a step down. All that stuff prepares you for pro ball, maybe you think it sucks at the time, but then when I got to pro ball I saw where you were coming from and why you did the things you did. I thought I was wasting my summer, but that’s what baseball is, playing every day. You prepared me for this. We had, after every game, meetings, and we’d go through the game plan, seeing where we went wrong, and see where we needed to improve. All of that stuff was exactly the same when I got to Rookie ball, except we had a day off… in Rookie ball.

Ian: You’ll be happy to know that we don’t stay at Econo Lodges and we have a scheduled day off every week.

Vio: Come on coach, you’re going soft now.

Ian: In my old age, I’m getting nicer. And the traffic is really bad on Fridays.

Vio: We played against a lot of the elite teams and we competed with them and coach always expected the best out of us. Even after we’d win games, if we didn’t play up to our talent level, he’d still chew us out. The reason why you’re playing is to get a W, even if you get a W and you’re not doing things the right way, he’d still point out the little things that other coaches wouldn’t see. It didn’t make sense, but when I got to pro ball, it was the same thing.

Even in college at Odessa, we didn’t play every day, but there were always lots of meetings and going through the game plans and where we didn’t execute. The New York Nine prepared me for that. I hated being in those meetings, and believe me, I wanted to go home or get to the Econo Lodge to order some Dominos pizza. But those meetings, I can’t thank you enough, because meetings in pro ball aren’t as long as the ones after New York Nine games, but it made the transition to college and pro ball a lot easier. It wasn’t a huge jump for me, like it was for a lot of my other peers.

Ian: You’ve mentioned to me that you’ve come across players who remembered you from the New York Nine from all across the country. Do you have any interesting stories that you can share?

Vio: Absolutely. Sometimes they don’t really remember me, but they remember the team and their face lights up talking about that team, and it goes to show how special those teams were and how special the organization is. One of the first guys to reach out to me was a Cleveland Indians first rounder who went to Texas A&M. He started asking about every single player and what they were doing now, he just went down the list. This was while we were playing a game and he’s at first base! He loved playing against the New York Nine because the Nine was hungry, they wanted it and it was a different atmosphere and mentality playing against the Nine. I think that started from the coach and the players embraced it. We were always ready to play anybody. People would remember me as the skinny first baseman with a lot of class. It’s good to still go back to that and former New York Nine player, Dave Perlleshi and I talk about it all the time about how professional that team was and how you guys prepared us, it was amazing.

Ian: I want to take this opportunity to tell you that we as an organization could not be more proud of not only your accomplishments, but who you are and how you carry yourself. You are a fantastic ambassador for the New York Nine and New York baseball players as a whole and for guys who set out to accomplish what they want to do even if the road isn’t so easy. Its been such an honor and a pleasure to watch you mature and learn and grow, then go out and accomplish everything you’ve accomplished. And knowing you like I know you, I know you have put in all the work required to go every step of the way and you’ve earned every bit of where you are and what’s going to happen.

Vio: Thanks coach.

Viosergy Rosa Interview

This is part 1 of a 2 part interview with Miami Marlins 1B prospect, Viosergy Rosa.

Ian Millman: We are here with New York Nine alum and Miami Marlins prospect, Viosergy Rosa, the day before he shows up to spring training. Being just hours away from your first big league spring training, what does that feel like?

Viosergy Rosa: I’m not really thinking of anything, just going out there and doing my thing…[pause] That’s all I got for you coach. [both laugh] No, no, I’m just messing with you. I’m excited, it’s something I’ve been waiting for my whole life and it’s great to get an opportunity like this. It is also a bit surreal, but I feel I’ve worked very hard for this and it’s a huge step to where I want to go for my career.

Ian: Could you tell us about your high school and college experience and how that motivated and shaped the ballplayer you’ve become?

Vio: I ended up going to George Washington High School, the same High School Manny Ramirez went to, and to play for the legendary Coach Mandl and his program. over there in Washington Heights. During junior year, I went to the Dominican Republic and I was training twice a day. In the morning from 6-12 and then around 4 or 5 o’clock we went back to practice. I got a lot better doing those months and I had a couple Dominican pro teams interested in me when I finished High School. When I went back to George Washington, I was going to graduate early to see if I could go back to the Dominican and sign a pro contract. Mike Antonio’s father talked to me and wanted me to try out for the baseball team, I had been cut three times which you already know coach, because there was nothing to lose. I was invited to play for a team called College Select. I wound up doing very well on the College Select team and I made the High School team my Senior year. I say we had a pretty good year, we won the championship. That’s how I got hooked up with the New York Nine, you saw me play and thought I was pretty good.

Then the collegiate process was extremely stressful for me and my family. I only played one year in High School and for a school to pick me up after only one year was pretty hard. Not only that but I didn’t have any offers and it wasn’t until August that George Wallace Community College called. I wanted to go to a warmer climate school. It helped that Mackey Sasser was a big league guy, and I wound up signing to go to George Wallace. It was definitely a culture shock and the first time I met Mackey, conversation went something like this: ‘What positions do you play?’ ‘outfield and first base’ ‘can you hit?’ ‘you’re going to have be the judge of that.’ ‘You can’t hit because you don’t have any confidence.’

So he put me on the B team, which was the practice squad. I was nowhere near the starter because he didn’t think I was good enough. I just quietly continued working on my game. We were starting our first game, an exhibition against a team and I wasn’t supposed to play, I wasn’t on the lineup card. The first baseman had to go do something in class for his eligibility and a minute before the game starts he had to leave and I was the only guy at that position left so he put me in the lineup. He didn’t even bother to switch the names, so I was hitting 4th. First AB I hit a home run. 2nd AB I hit another home run. 3rd AB I hit another home run. 4th AB I hit a double off the wall and after that he never took me out of the 4th spot and off the A team.

Unfortunately at George Wallace, I wouldn’t say I had lost all the love for the game, but i didn’t have the same passion for the game. I was only going to play baseball at the collegiate level so it could pave my way for a scholarship. Luckily I got good advice from Youman Wilder when he told me I should go back and play for the New York Nine that summer since I had a year of eligibility left. While I was playing there, even though I was one of the older guys, I wasn’t one of the better guys. My bat was inconsistent. Then Jean Carlos Rodriguez, who was drafted in the 10th by the Phillies, was working with me on how to hit a changeup and getting through the baseball instead of cutting off. That helped me out a lot, especially with off-speed pitches, and then I took off from there and had a really good year.

Ian: The summer season was winding down and I recall you felt there were a lot of positive experiences at George Wallace but that wasn’t where you wanted to be for your 2nd year. There were some decisions that you and your family had to make in a short period of time. Where did you wind up going and how do you feel about that decision, baseball wise?

Vio: Wallace wasn’t the best all around experience for me personally, it helped do a lot of things but I knew it wasn’t what was best for me. Fernando Frias was one of my teammates with the New York Nine and George Washington and he wanted me to go to school in Iowa where the coach could get almost a full scholarship. So I verbally committed to go and I continued to play with the Nine. I consider myself a quiet guy, until I get to know you, but I would show up late to games and was always quiet. The coaches didn’t like that but it wasn’t until when we were driving back from Albany in the white Expedition when you and I were able to have a long one on one conversation that helped me out a lot. You started asking me what I wanted to do for my future and I said I was going to Iowa. Now Coach was the one who helped out getting me to George Wallace and obviously felt bad about how it wasn’t ideal for me because I know how you take care of each and every one of us, and felt you could help make my situation better by me going to Odessa College. But I had already verbally committed, and my father raised me to be a man of my word and you even told me that you never suggest a man backs out of his promise to someone. However on that car ride, you laid out the pros and cons and I knew I had to go to Odessa. One of the things you said was, ‘if you go hit .500 in Iowa, you had a great year and you can go to another school. If you go to Texas in that conference and hit .350 with what else you do, you’ll get drafted. I understand you gave him your word, but his life still goes on whether you go there or not, and so does yours and your family’s, and mine, but you still have to live with you.’ I needed to go with what was best for me but it wasn’t the easiest thing for me to do. But in the end I decided to go to Odessa College. I’m glad I did and I had a great experience at Odessa College. I actually never thanked you, coach, for sending me there, I guess now would be a good time to do it and for the great advice. [Both Laugh]

Part 2

Interview With CJ Riefenhauser

Ian Millman: We’re here with CJ Riefenhauser, Mahopac High School graduate, New York Nine alum and current Tampa Bay Ray farmhand. We appreciate you taking the time with us today.

CJ Riefenhauser: Appreciate you having me.

Ian: Take us back to High School in New York, what was your experience like and how do you think it prepared you for what you were looking to do down the road?

CJ: At Mahopac High School, every coach I had from Freshman to Senior year was always teaching the basics, having fun and getting after it. I learned from there with summer ball when I played against some of the best kids around the area and then traveling going to North Carolina and South Carolina and playing against some of the best High School kids in the country. It’s fun getting around and seeing what’s out there and seeing where you stand.

Ian: You took an interesting college route. You started out at Iona and went down south to Chipola Junior College in Florida. What was your story and what advice do you have for current New York amateur ballplayers as far as pursuing schools or in their college hunt.

Don’t instance, origine du mot viagra miglior sito generico possibile questo link acquistare per donne. Un’anomalia del processo sildenafil precio colombiano che riguarda il 06 della popolazione degli stati.

CJ: Easy, don’t go for biggest scholarship sometimes. I think the biggest thing is go to a school with an open mind, go in with the mindset, if you never played baseball a day in your life would you like it there? The first step is to like where you’re at. And obviously for the ballplayers you have to look at yourself in the mirror and be very realistic. Sometimes your dream school may not be the best spot for you. Kids get drafted from division 1, 2 or 3 and obviously junior college and if you’re good enough they will find you. Go somewhere where you’re comfortable, where you’re going to play. Not playing, would be a miserable and very long college experience. In addition to going somewhere you like, and somewhere you’re going to play, you need to be dedicated and work very very hard.

Ian: As far as your development, there was constant improvement from your High School to College career and beyond. What did you do to continue your development and get the radar gun to continue to creep up and put yourself in a position to get an opportunity from a Major League team.

CJ: It really started my freshman year of college playing against kids a little older than me. I could see myself playing at the next level and that’s when I learned to, and was able to limit all the distractions and took baseball really seriously. I focused on school and baseball, that’s it. Hard work does pay off and a little bit of luck never hurt.

Ian: What was your major and career choice should baseball have not gotten you drafted or beyond.

CJ: I was studying to be a Phys Ed major. I thought being a Phys Ed teacher is a nice life and I thought if I couldn’t play the game, I would like to be around it and I definitely see myself coaching in the future and helping out. I just love the game and always try to be around it.

Ian: So you finish up at Chipola and draft day comes and you get called in the 20th round by the Tampa Bay Rays, what’s going through your mind?

CJ: It was frustrating because I was promised a lot. You hear from the scouts who say, ‘you’ll be drafted 8-12 no later than the 15th.’ A couple teams called me on day 2 and I filled out questionnaires and took tests for 29 out of 30 teams but I was drafted later than I was told from teams and scouts. At the time I was committed to play baseball at Elon. Actually, that day I decided I was going to go to Elon and I was finishing up a Summer class at Chipola in order to play baseball there. But I went home after summer school and talked it through with my family and decided there might not be another shot and you never know what’s going to happen, every pitch might be your last. So I decided to start my career, give it my all and see what happens.

Ian: So you signed and touched down with what team?

CJ: Princeton. Princeton, West Virginia. It was a culture shock, it wasn’t New York, you know? It was short season baseball and I am happy to be playing AAA ball now.

Ian: [laughs] It’s not exactly living the dream right away. How does short season ball work?

CJ: It’s a shock, a culture shock. I didn’t know much going into pro ball besides there’s AA, AAA and the big leagues, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Princeton, West Virginia was rookie ball and a long road ahead. It actually scared me at first, I thought I was going to be in the Minors forever because I heard about the Rays reputation of not promoting guys quickly and it just seemed like it would be forever to reach my goal of pitching in the big leagues.

Ian: What is the most important thing you’ve learned in the last couple of years in the minor leagues and how have you been able to put it to use as you’ve climbed the ladder.

CJ: How important the basics and little things are, like pitchers fielding practice and not trying to overthrow. It’s all the stuff that you hear all the time when you’re a kid. I can’t tell you how important it is, especially in the upper levels as you go up and you don’t do them as much as you did in the lower levels or college or high school and how much of a factor it turns out to be. It saves you runs and helps you out in the long run.

Ian: So it brings us to 2014, you’re having a solid season in Durham, being used late in ballgames to get important outs. Then it happens, every kid’s dream, how does the call go?

CJ: No better feeling. My manager called me at midnight after a game in Norfolk, Virginia. He got a text at dinner with his whole family saying I’m getting called up. I was sitting in the hotel room watching something, I can’t remember and when he told me, his whole family is screaming in the phone congratulating me. I was just speechless, I had no emotions and I didn’t know what to do. I called my parents and that’s when it hit me. Then the next day I have to wake up early, but I barely got any sleep because I was staring at the ceiling all night thinking. They flew me first class on a flight to Florida and I’m looking around and thinking ‘this is the life.’ Everything is taken care of for you, you have a driver taking your suitcase and you don’t pick up your bag from when you land until you get to the field. It’s a pretty unbelievable feeling.

Ian: So you get to meet your new Manager, Joe Maddon and the crew. Do they have any words of wisdom for first time rookies who are definitely going to see some action and against your hometown team, the New York Yankees?

CJ: Yeah, the first couple of games was vs the Yankees. I thank the whole entire team for that experience because they are great guys. The best advice I got was just keep your head down, because the game is faster at every level. At every level you go the game speeds up on you and you don’t want the game to speed up on you. You want to stay in the game because when your head drifts off and you start thinking about being in the Major Leagues, that’s when you get in trouble. That was the biggest thing for me, just staying in the whole game and not trying to look up in the stands and soak it in, I could do that after I pitched or after the game.

Ian: Did you find yourself peeking up and locating your parents? Or were you able to keep it to yourself until you met them in the tunnel.

CJ: Nah, after I got [Alfonso] Soriano to ground out, walking off the field I was looking for them. I knew what section they were in and that was pretty cool, just walking off the field and giving them a little head nod, that was pretty awesome.

Ian: As our first official New York Nine alum to reach the bigs, we couldn’t be prouder. It’s fantastic to see your dream come true and all the work you put in happen right there on the TV screen. And if I’m not mistaken you were opposite another New York guy, Dellin Betances, and for me personally with my background with both of your gentlemen, it was beyond a highlight for me and I thank you for putting me in a position to sit at home and take that in. So you get your two outings and then get hurt quickly in your return to Durham.

CJ: The first time going back to back all year was in the big leagues and I come back to Durham and pitch in, I think, 2 games. It was one of those things where I’m warming up real quick to get into a situation where I have to face the guy on deck or the guy in the hole and I’m trying to warm up real fast, so I kind of blame myself for that one. I wasn’t properly warmed up and that’s your job, to take care of yourself and to make sure you’re at the best of your ability to go in that night. I got called on quick and didn’t warm up like I usually do and that cost me a good amount of time on the DL, which is never fun. Probably the most boring 3 weeks of my career.

Ian: Is there anything you can remember from your experience with the Nine or any suggestions for New York area athletes from a baseball perspective for things they should be looking to do for themselves to improve their opportunities to play this game.

CJ: I definitely couldn’t have done it without the whole New York Nine organization. You guys played the best competition, which makes you better prepared and just better. It also helps you look yourself in the mirror and see where you fit in. For me, I got hit around, I had a good game and a bad game, and the New York Nine always taught me something after every single game.

Ian: We appreciate you as an ambassador for us and not just for where you’ve made it but how you’ve conducted yourself. As we’ve always said, nothing in life is going to come easy and you’ve found a way to be consistent and remain focused and do your job to the best of your abilities. So what lies ahead for you, CJ?

CJ: Hopefully finish up the season strong here and if my name happens to get called up in September that would be great, but if not, I’ll go home in the offseason and get ready for the 2015 season. That’s how it is, a grind every single day.

Ian: Absolutely. I personally thank you for your time and how you represent yourself, your family and our organization every time you take the field. And as we’ve spoken about, I hope to see you back home with us during the offseason coaching and passing on your knowledge to the kids. Thanks, CJ!

CJ: Thanks, Ian.

Interview With TJ Rivera

New York Nine President, Ian Millman, interviewed New York Mets prospect, TJ Rivera, who is currently leading the Florida State League in batting average, during Spring Training:

Ian Millman: Let’s start from the beginning, what’s the biggest transition you had to make as a player from high school to college, what do you feel were the major differences that you ultimately needed to prepare yourself for and what advice and suggestions to you have for people making their plans

TJ Rivera: The things that helped me the most was being prepared every day, having a plan and being organized, especially going into college where you’re working on your grades and keeping those where they need to be. Playing hard every day and doing everything 100% and giving everything I have to give no matter where, on the field or in the classroom. Which is something I wasn’t very good at, but I learned as I got older to take that stuff seriously because you never know what’s going to happen, especially with injuries. Baseball is not going to be around all my life so you just never know.

Ian: So you’re telling me I can’t resign then

TJ: [laughs]

Ian: When looking for colleges, what suggestions do you have for players as far as what they should focus on when choosing a college program?

TJ: To not do what I did. I was going with baseball decisions more than academics and did not choose schools that would help as much academically, and I think that was a mistake I made. Baseball is my passion growing up, all I knew was baseball and I kind of just took it wherever baseball would take me and I went with the schools where I could focus on baseball and I didn’t focus on academics, like what I wanted to study, and that was one thing I wish I had a little more focus on was what I wanted to study and what I wanted to do with my future if baseball didn’t work out. I think that’s the most important thing and if you can get a scholarship to somewhere that has a strong program that you want to study that would be awesome for kids going from high school to college.

Ian: So is it fair to say that people should go to the best academic institution they can and if they are good enough at baseball someone will find them?

TJ: Right, my main focus would be something I want to study, something I enjoy doing so if baseball doesn’t work, then I had something to fall back on. And then if you can make baseball your career and you got a good education, that’s awesome.

Ian: And what was your major at Troy State?

TJ: Criminal Justice

Ian: When did you focus on the academics and thinking about your back up plan if baseball didn’t work out?

TJ: As I got older in college that’s when I actually started focusing on academics. It was almost my senior year when I really started focusing on having a back up plan. I should have started from freshman year or even in high school. I should have been thinking a little more about if baseball doesn’t work out, what am I going to do and what am I going to study? I want to study something that’s going to make me happy and something I enjoy doing. I think that’s something a lot of guys should think about, especially when they look at colleges. You shouldn’t forget about the baseball if you love baseball and that’s your passion, but it’s also about getting a good education even if you’re not comfortable doing that.

Ian: Absolutely, let’s go back to High School for a minute. How important was summer baseball for you during your high school career and what were some of things you took from summer baseball?

TJ: I think it was one of the most important aspects of my pre college career because it helped me get my name out there. Between the tournaments we played where people saw me, along with the connections you and the coaches had it really helped me get my name out. Not only that, but it helped me grow as a person because I was meeting different kinds of people, and I had to learn to interact with all different kinds of personalities. It helped me out for when I got to college and pro baseball, where we have to interact and play as a team with people from different areas and different backgrounds.

Ian: As far as your summer organization, the New York Nine, what are some things you recall about your experiences there or highlights of playing with the Nine that you’d like to share with people?

TJ: We were like a family, we had a really good relation between the guys and I enjoyed it greatly. You and the coaches were awesome. You and the coaches always helped me out with everything. It was on a personal level, it wasn’t just going to play baseball, it was about baseball and family. No matter what you guys kept in touch and always worried about personal or family issues, so it was really good chemistry when you feel like the coaches have your back not only on the field but personally, too. When you go out and play summer ball and take trips to the tournaments you want to be comfortable and that’s what the New York Nine excelled at. I had an awesome time on those trips and playing good baseball with and against good competition. I mean, you couldn’t ask for anything better, for sure.
Ian: So fair to say even at this point you still hold a special place for the New York Nine?

TJ: Oh yeah, for sure. I always will. You guys got me out there, put my name out there and got me into a college where I could go start my baseball and academic career.

Ian: Absolutely, and we appreciate you, you know? Keeping up with the players is important to us with the New York Nine. Let’s talk about after college for a second. You were offered a shot, The draft goes by in your junior and senior years, and you don’t get drafted. What goes through your mind when college ends and draft has come and gone?

TJ: My whole college career flashed by so quick and I thought too many times that baseball was going to be my career no matter what and I think that might have been a disadvantage for me and screwed up some things for me. I thought no matter what baseball was something I was going to do and then next thing I know I don’t get drafted or signed and it was a bit disappointing but I’ve always had that mentality where when something knocks me down, I’m always going to get up and come back harder. That’s how I go about my business, no matter what I do. So it was kind of disappointing, for sure, not hearing my name called and you play with guys who you think you are better than and you put up better numbers than and it just doesn’t happen. It is certainly disappointing but at the same time you can’t give up, you have to keep fighting and roll with it.

Ian: The Mets sign you and you get an opportunity to play because they have some injuries and they are going to give you a brief opportunity to go in and fill some spots. And here we are 3 years later, Florida State League all star appearances, Mets minor league shortstop of the year in 2012 and still out there in the big picture you’re not one of the top 20 guys. How does that play into your mindset entering spring training this year and beyond?

TJ: It’s tough. Sometimes you think they don’t believe in you. But, honestly, when I got my opportunity from the Mets, I just knew I wasn’t going to look back and was going to give all I had. And I knew I wasn’t going to be a prospect and I knew I wasn’t going to be a big time name with all the money or be in the top prospect articles but I just knew that once they gave me an opportunity I wasn’t going to give it up. I was going to give it everything I had day in and day out. That’s what I’ve been doing, I have been blessed to get an opportunity and hopefully it works out for me in the end.

Ian: How do you prepare to be consistent every single day to the point where you’ve got teammates who are highly regarded in the organization who say that you’re the most professional, consistent player they have ever played with. How do you prepare for that grind every single day?

TJ: One thing I learned playing pro ball and I didn’t have much of it in college was the mental game. I had heard about it all the time and never really paid attention to it. I always thought the physical part of the game was most important because that’s what we were doing. We were going out and busting our butt physically playing every day. But the one thing that really turned my game around was the mental part. I like to stay positive, this game is a game of failure, you know that, everybody says it. It’s a grind, especially in pro ball because you’re playing day in and day out and you’re traveling and have late nights. You might not be feeling good that day but it comes down to, if you want it that bad you’re going to have to go out and perform and give it your all. That’s the kind of mentality that I go through everything with. I go up there every day and say, this guy is not better than me, I know you might throw 96 and you might be a first round draft pick and you might have 4 plus pitches but you’re not going to beat me and that’s the mentality I go out there every day no matter who I’m facing, who I’m playing with or who I’m competing with. They might be a better athlete, faster than me, stronger, have more money, but in my mind you’re not better than me, you’re not going to beat me that day. So that’s the mentality I go through every day with. Obviously it gets away from you at times, but it’s also about how fast you can get back into that mentality and be confident and play like you’re the best player out there at all times no matter what. I don’t mean by being cocky, pimping balls or showing off, but having that consistent thought process that you’re not going to beat me today. I think that really helped my game out, and especially in pro ball. I was always confident and confident in my abilities, but I never really practiced the mental part of the game until I was signed.

Ian: If there is still one weakness to your game that you had to work on right now, not that we’d give away any secrets to the opposition, but what’s the one thing you feel you could still be better at?

TJ: Controlling my strike zone is one thing, I’ve always been an aggressive hitter because I like to put the ball in play and try to put the ball in play hard at all times but as I get older and there’s better pitching, I start coming out my zone sometimes on low and away pitches when I could wait for a better pitch. But honestly, I think I could work on everything. I think there are ways to get better no matter what. Every offseason I try to get stronger, I try to get faster, I try to get more flexible and I just try to just come in better than the year before. And no matter how good or bad I did the year before I’m still going to work harder. So to answer your question, there’s still a lot of things I need to work on, I know I do, but I also just try to simplify the game as much as possible.
Ian: Last question, what parting words do you have specifically for New York Nine players or players looking to play for the New York Nine or the organization itself?

TJ: If you want to play somewhere where you’re going to be comfortable in the organization, where you’re going to be seen, where the people around you, the coach, the staff, the people you meet that are actually going to care for you, then it’s the place you want to play. And I believe that’s where everybody wants to play. Everybody wants to be comfortable, everybody wants to have fun, but at the same time get better, work hard and learn some things, but at the same time get seen by colleges and pro scouts. So if you want to do things like that and also have a good time and meet great people and play for people who are going to care for you then New York Nine is the place to be.

Ian: Thanks, TJ. Good luck in the upcoming season.