The White Sox organized a conference call featuring Kannapolis All-Stars Eddy Alvarez and Brett Austin, and Birmingham All-Star Joey DeMichele. FutureSox was one of the blogs invited, and ended up being the only one in attendance. Here are the highlights.
On being named an All-Star: "It's an absolute honor. I've put in a lot of hard work after the games to catch up as much as I can. The fact that I was named an All-Star representing the Kannapolis Intimidators has been a true honor."
On Olympic experience helping his baseball career: "It was definitely an experience. An Olympic athlete, dealing with the media is just part of the job. I'm definitely capable of splitting up the two worlds. Never allowing it to distract me from what my job is on the field. It was a definitely tough few years training for the games and mentally I've been able to carry it over to this sport. No one warned me how much of a grind this was. I'm just taking it day-by-day."
On training techniques incorporated from speedskating: "Skating is very lower body dominant. I rely on that, especially in my swing. I rely a lot on my lower half to produce any possible pop out of my 5'9" body. Definitely skating has built a lower base for me I was able to incorporate into my baseball career. A sense of balance and agility. Training wise, definitely not wearing tights and going around sharp turns for extended periods of time, so I can't say I incorporate that."
On interacting with kids: "It's just a sense of being an inspiration for them. I take extreme pride in that because I want to be a good influence in that, whatever they may want to pursue and want to succeed in life, so motivation is what I'm shooting for. Whenever I get the chance I take the time and talk with them, make them laugh a little bit. I like to play rock-paper-scissors, that's my go-to. I try to let them win, but I sneak a few wins there. I'm a little under .500"
On his defense: "I've been caught by surprise by how much this game takes a toll mentally on a player. I've definitely made way too many errors for what I believe my ability is on the defensive side because coming into my baseball career that's what I relied on, all through high school and college. Being away from the game has sped a lot of things up for me and I'm taking a lot more time with my defense. I'm doing extra reps out on the field, just to kind of get back to what I felt like. It's going to take a little time, but I have to take it day by day. It's not fun mentally to make an error and then have to continue playing. I always feel like I let the team down. Thankfully I have the support of coaches and the guidance to move on, so hopefully the second half I turn it around and put things in working order and string up some better plays and not mental errors."
On being named an All-Star: "Pretty much like Eddy said. It's a true honor, definitely something I had my sights on earlier this year, to make the team. To be able to do that, it feels so good to be able to represent the Kannapolis Intimidators as well. It's truly an honor."
On keeping up with Carlos Rodon: "We actually haven't talked recently. We catch up every now and then, I know he's probably pretty busy up there doing what he's doing. He's been doing pretty well."
On his hustle: "It's definitely something I take pride in. It's just respect for the game, playing hard. Running balls out, basically just trying to help your team win is the biggest thing. You can definitely say that's an attribute of mine."
On his career progression: "I think I'm right where I need to be. I had the opportunity to sign out of high school, turned that down. A lot of reasons that went into it. The three years at NC State I felt helped me tremendously both physically and mentally growing up. The biggest thing with me is that I could catch those three years - getting those extra reps, catching good arms. It definitely prepared me for where I'm at now."
On interacting with kids: "I was in their shoes when I went to baseball games growing up. I can definitely tell they look up to these players and it means the world to them just to get an autograph. Good or bad game I try to make my way out and sign autographs for the kids."
On improving at mental side of the game: "25 games in high school, then you get to college and it doubles to 50-60 games, now in pro-ball it's every day for six months so (college) helped. When it comes down to it, taking it day by day, you can't get too up with the ups, too down with the downs. Honestly the biggest thing is you need to do is develop a routine to carry your body through it. Definitely get a lot of sleep, take it day-by-day. It's a mental grind."
On family coming to his games: "They're there just about every weekend. Anytime they can come down from getting off work, but it's nice. I tell people this all the time, I didn't realize we had three teams in North Carolina, so after the fact it's pretty neat."
On areas he can improve: "To be honest, every part of my game needs improvement. I need to stick to an approach, buy into it and trust it. I've really been working on that, definitely need to get better at hitting. Me and the hitting coach have been talking about the mental side of that. Defensively; receiving, calling the game, taking control of the game to control the staff a little bit. Trying to figure out their strengths and weaknesses, definitely their personalities."
On improving at AA: "Last year I got promoted towards the end and I really struggled offensively. I knew going into this year I needed to make some serious changes offensively to be a productive player at this level. I focused on those things this offseason and it's helped me put up some numbers and be productive and help this team win. I'm just really grateful to be a part of this team and this organization."
"Each year you learn a lot, you reflect on what you did well at and what you want to improve on. Certainly I had a lot to reflect on with the numbers I put up after the promotion. I made some changes with my swing, with the way I approach the game and it's working out but there are adjustments day-to-day. I'm not going to sit here and tell you 'well this is what I need to do for the rest of my career.' I need to continue to learn and improve to be a productive player because that's what the best players do but I concentrate on just putting the ball in play and making good hard contact."
On being named an All-Star in the Southern League: " It's a great honor. I know how great this league is day in and day out seeing the players each game, it seems every week there's a new player that we played against that gets called up to the big leagues. I think if you've made it to this league and you're a productive player and you do well it kind of proves a point that you can fill in at the big league level and maybe be an every day guy up there because of the level of competition in this league alone. That being said it's an honor to be recognized as an All-Star and I'm excited. It's not just me but with my teammates - Tim Anderson, Jacob May and Frankie (Montas) - we're all excited to be recognized as some of the best players in this league."
On Spring Training being close to his hometown of Phoenix and his college town of Tempe, AZ: "It's great. Most of the guys have to travel for Spring Training and spend a month away from their family and friends. For me it's just a 20 minute drive down the road. It's great, I go home to a home-cooked meal. I get to hangout with my family, spend extra time. Spring Training in Arizona is a great time of the year. There's a lot of people there. Everyone's excited about their seasons and for me Arizona has been home my whole life so it's been a great perk for me to have it at home for an extra month and a half."
***Frankie Montas was also scheduled to come on the call, but was not able to make it. Questions for him have been submitted via email, and we will publish when we get his responses. Thanks to the White Sox for organizing this!
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