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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