Putting the Stars on the Spot

Minor League Baseball

15. MILB Interview: Jeremy Rodriguez (Eugene Emeralds)

Greeting: Welcome fans back to On The Hot Seat. Today I had the chance to  have San Diego Padres prospect Jeremy Rodriguez on for a interview. Growing up in Burbank California, Rodriguez grew up watching and idolizing Ivan Rodriguez. Jumping into his High School career Jeremy has won lots of prestigious awards in High School and right after his 4 years in High School his dream became reality when he was drafted by the San Diego Padres and currently Jeremy is playing catcher down in A ball and hopes to work his ways to the major leagues as soon as he can please enjoy the interview with Jeremy Rodriguez.

Justin Godsey: How do you stay connected with your fans ?

Jeremy Rodriguez: I stay connected with my fans by using Facebook and Twitter and also if they like to write me letters I’ll write back to them.

Justin Godsey: How did you did you get into playing baseball ?

Jeremy Rodriguez: I was 2 years old and I went to picture day at Dodger Stadium and when Tommy Lasorda saw me he told my dad that I should play baseball because I have big hands. So since then my dad trained me to play baseball. My dad played baseball in Cuba so he knew enough to get me started.

Justin Godsey: Growing up what team and player did you grow up watching and what player did you grow up admiring ?

Jeremy Rodriguez: I was a huge Yankee fan growing up because I really liked Mickey Mantle. I loved watching Ivan Rodriguez play and I tried to copy a lot of what he did and how he controlled the game.

Justin Godsey: Tell us about your High School Baseball career ?

Jeremy Rodriguez: My High School career was great; I did really well each year. I went to Crespi High School and Earned recognition on the “California Region Other Top Players” list as part of the 2008 Rawlings/Perfect Game Preseason California Region All-High School Senior Team…named MaxPreps Catcher of the Year in 2008…2008 Perfect Game USA No. 447 ranked player in the nation…team MVP…earned first team All-Mission League, first team All-CIF Division III Southern Section and first team all-state honors in 2007 and 2008 while playing catcher and third base for Crespi High School…also earned the 2007 Mission League MVP award and his team’s MVP honors…named Perfect Game USA’s 2007 No. 4 ranked catcher in California, No. 34 ranked catcher in the nation and the No. 363 ranked player in the nation.

Justin Godsey: Tell us about your College Recruitment to St. Bakersfield?

Jeremy Rodriguez: My College Recruitment was crazy, I was committed first to the University of San Diego and things didn’t work out so I talked to Coach Kernen at Cal State Bakersfield and he told me that there is a spot for me, but I would have to earn my spot which was fine with me because all I needed was an opportunity to show what I got and I got that. It was the best decision I made and I’m glad Coach Kernen gave me that shot. I’m a big believer in things happen for a reason and God lead me in the right path.

Justin Godsey: Tells what was going through your mind when you stepped up to the plate for the 1st time as a member of the St. Bakersfield baseball team ?

Jeremy Rodriguez: I was nervous my first at bat and all I was thinking is get that fast ball to hit and don’t miss. I flew out to short but after that at bat I was fine and got three hits after and had a really good weekend.

Justin Godsey: What is the environment like at the Baseball stadium in St. Bakersfield ?

Jeremy Rodriguez: The environment is great, you have great fans that support you every game and they always have your back. Bakersfield fans are great and they really love their baseball team.

Justin Godsey: How has the coaches prepare yourself for the next leap in your baseball career to the majors. What mechanics did you learn from the coaches?

Jeremy Rodriguez: The coaches at Bakersfield really prepared me for my next step. Coach kernen told me as a freshman that I’m going to call my own game and run the defense. I handled the pitching staff and took control out on the field. I was pretty much another coach. Coach Kernen didn’t know a lot about coaching so he brought coach Mike Mayne who is the father of former big league catcher Brent Mayne. Coach Maybe really worked with me and the other catchers to get me ready for the season and the next step. Coach Mayne is now apart of the coaching staff at Cal State Bakersfield. Coach Jody Robinson really helped me by making sure I got all the reps I could hitting and making sure I was doing everything the right way. All the coaches in Bakersfield really prepare their players mentally for the next level and they know exactly what there talking about.

Justin Godsey: You were drafted by the San Diego Padres last year, where were you when they called you and what are you initial thoughts ?

Jeremy Rodriguez: I was in my living room with my father and my roommate just listening and when I got my name called my dad jumped on me and my roommate was calling all of his buddies. They were very excited for me. When I got my name called I just got flashbacks of when I first started playing and all the hard work I put in and it was a relief for me because I knew all the hard work finally paid off. All I could do is thank God for this opportunity.

Justin Godsey: This past year you played for the Eugene Emeralds how well do you think your 1st year went ?

Jeremy Rodriguez: I thought my first year went well, I thought I could’ve done better at the plate, but I was learning so much and I felt that I got smarter and better as a ball player all around.

Justin Godsey: What do you think needs to be improved on your part in 2012 ?

Jeremy Rodriguez: I think I need to be more aggressive at the plate and when I get my pitch to hit don’t miss it. I need to prepare myself a little bit better when I’m on deck. I also need to be in better shape for a long season. If I keep my confidence up and know that if I trust in God and trust in my abilities then I’ll be fine.

Justin Godsey: What are we to expect form you in 2012?

Jeremy Rodriguez: You should expect me to be in the best shape that I’ve ever been in and a guy that takes control of the game behind the plate. A guy that’s aggressive at the plate but also knows when to take his walks. A leader and also a guy that people love to watch.


12. MILB Interview: Graham Taylor (Jacksonville Suns, Miami Marlins)

Greeting: Welcome back to On The Hot Seat, Today I had the opportunity to interview Miami Marlins prospect Graham Taylor. Taylor is currently playing at the Double-A level of the Marlins organization he plays for the Jacksonville Suns. Graham started playing baseball when his dad introduced him to the sport when he was a young kid and since then he has played baseball all through out his childhood, playing through High School, College and now even in the Pro Leagues. Please enjoy the interview Graham Taylor please follow Graham on Twitter at @GrahamTaylor34.

Justin Godsey: Tell us how you stay connected with your fellow fans ?

Graham Taylor: In order to stay connected with my fans I do my best to sign autographs before and after every game as well sign all cards that are sent to me via throughout the year.  I do my best to answer all questions that they might have as well as make appearances at camps and what not.

Justin Godsey: Growing up in Kentukey what Major League Club and Player did you grow up wanting to play for and be ?

Graham Taylor: My favorite team growing up was the Cincinnati Reds. Living within 10 minutes of the ball park I went to as many games as possible growing up as long as they didn’t conflict with my baseball schedule.  I loved watching Ken Griffey Jr play for the Mariners and when he was trade to the Reds I was especially excited to get the opportunity to watch hime play in person.

Justin Godsey: Who introduced you to the sport of Baseball ?

Graham Taylor: I would have to say that my Dad introduced me to baseball at a young age.  My Dad wasn’t a big baseball fan but he said that I always showed interest in the game even at a young age.  So he signed me up for tee ball when I was 5.

Justin Godsey: Tell us about your High School Baseball Career ?

Graham Taylor: I made the Dixie Heights High School baseball team as an 8th grader and went on to have a very successful career. I was all state both my junior and senior years leading our team 3 district championships and 1 regional championship in 2001 which hadn’t happened since 1991.  My number has since been retired at Dixie Heights and a banner hangs from the outfield fence with my name and number on it.

Justin Godsey: Tell us about your College Baseball career ?

Graham Taylor: I  was recruited by a number of schools including Miami University, University of Kentucky, University of Cincinnati, Indiana university, West Virginia University as well as others.  I always dreamed of playing for the UK since I grew a huge UK fan but once I started visiting schools I fell in love with Miami University and decided it was the right place for me.  As a freshman at Miami I started of as a reliever for the first few games and quickly moved into the rotation as the Saturday started for conference play.  That year was ver successful, I was name a Freshman All-American as well as 2nd Team All-MAC.  Miami awarded me with the teams Pitcher of the year as well as Rookie of the year.  My career at Miami only got better from there, I went on the Cape Cod baseball league for 2 consecutive summers where I did well and also to help lead our Miami team to both MAC regular season and tournament champions in 2005.  I finished my career at Miami holding a few conference records including career innings pitched and by getting drafted by the Florida Marlins in the 10th round.

Justin Godsey: In 2006 your dreams came true when the Florida Marlins drafted you tell us about the phone call and how excited were you to join the Marlins ?

Graham Taylor: When I got drafted I was sitting at home with my Mom watching the draft live on the internet when my name popped up on the screen.  We both jumped up in joy and I immediately called my Dad who was out of town for work.  Everyone was thrilled and then about 10 minutes late Matt Anderson (the Marlins scout who drafted me) called to give me the news as well and to start negotiating a contract.

Justin Godsey: When you 1st arrived to a Marlins minor league team what team was it that you reported and tell us about your time with the squad ?

Graham Taylor: I first reported to our Marlins spring training complex in Jupiter as well as the other draft picks to receive physicals and to sign contracts.  From there I flew to Jamestown, NY to play for the Jamestown Jammers.  Jamestown was a very small town and I was thrilled to be there.  It was interesting at first be adapting to the pro ball life style of being on the road alot and having a game almost every day but once I got use to it everything felt right.  I started playing well and felt comfortable. That season a set a Jamestown record of consecutive innings pitched with out a walk.  (40 2\3 innings, i think) and was named Jamestown Pitcher of the Year.

Justin Godsey: Lets jump a few years into your career in 2009 you are a member of the Jacksonville Sun Baseball Team how has the staff help you prepare for your 1st major league apperance in 2009 ?

Graham Taylor: In 2008 and 2009 I was very blessed to be with Manager Brandon Hyde and Pitching coach Reid Corneilus.  They both were extremely professional and did a great job helping prepare everyone for the next level.  Being a able to work with Reid one on one those two seasons were great he taught me the ins and outs of pitching and what I needed to do to be successfull.  My first Two years of pro ball I was under the instruction of John Duffy who was excellent as well.  With out those two helping me through out the way I dont think I would have been able to excel as much as i did.

Justin Godsey: You were called up to the Majors from AA ball how excited were to jump from AA to the Bigs ?

Graham Taylor: Being called up in 2009 was very exciting.  I was in Birmingham, AL playing when after a game Reid called me into the office with Hyde and the gave me the news that I would be flying out in the morning heading to Miami to face the Phillies.  I was shocked.  Everything I had been working towards my whole life had finally paid off and my dream of being a big leaguer had come true.

Justin Godsey: You debuted against the Philadelphia Phillies how nervous were you to pitch against such a power house of a team ?

Graham Taylor: I was very nervous leading up to the game knowing how good the Phillies were and just for the fact that it was my debut.  But as the game started the nerves went away.  I’m not sure how I controlled them but I think it was just the fact of being on the field and pitching (doing something that I had been doing my whole life which was able to calm me down).

Justin Godsey: In your debut what player really tested your pitching mechanics ?

Graham Taylor: I was my own worst enemy in my debut.  Not one player tested my mechanics.  I had been working on some mechanical issues before I got called up.  When I got called up I was focused on trying to be mechanically correct instead of enjoying the moment and competing like I had always done which is probably the main reason to why I wasnt very successful in my first start.

Justin Godsey: After your time in the majors you spent 2010 and 2011 in the minors and you are currently in AA ball what are you currently working on to take your talents back up to the major league ?

Graham Taylor: I missed all of the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery.  I complained of pain late in the 2009 season but was told that it was a minor strain in my elbow and time off would heal it.  When I returned to spring training in 2010 I still had pain and was finally allowed to get an MRI revealing a tear in my UCL and thus requiring surgery.  I came back from Tommy John in late April of 2011 and battled throughout the whole year trying to regain everything I had lost with a year in rehab.  I had some very poor outings as well as some very successful ones.  2011 was a rebuilding year for me I was learning how to pitch again and making strides to regain form from 2009.

Justin Godsey: What are we to expect from you in 2012 ?

Graham Taylor: 2012 is going to be a promising year for me.  My arm feels great and very strong.  Im very excited to return to camp this spring and begin competing.  Hopefully I’ll be able to reprove my worth and have a successful season.

10. MILB Interview: Ryan Tatusko (Harrisburg Senators, Washington Nationals)

Greeting: Welcome back to On The Hot Seat, today I had the opprotunity to interview former Texas Rangers player and current Washington Nationals prospect Ryan Tatusko. Ryan 1st broke into his professional baseball career when he was drafted by the Texas Rangers back in 2007. After pitching in the Rangers minor league he was traded to the Washington Nationals for infielder Christian Guzman. Please follow Ryan’s journey to the majors as he writes his own blog please click the link to view his site (Website) and follow him on Twitter at @ryantatusko.

Justin Godsey: How do stay connected with your fellow fans ?

Ryan Tatusko: I stay connected with fans through various social media outlets. I like get on twitter and interact as much as I can, that’s my favorite platform since its quick and easy but I will also get on Facebook although I don’t do that as much as twitter. I also have a small passion project where I write a blog at http://www.ryantatusko.wordpress.com where I detail things about day to day minor league life and what it’s like for the players behind closed doors, I really enjoy writing this because it seems the more I write, then the more questions people ask and it just keeps fueling me to keep writing.

Justin Godsey: Tell us how you got into playing baseball ?

Ryan Tatusko: I’ve played baseball since I was a little kid, my dad was always my coach and I just always loved playing. I played some basketball as a kid too as do all other youth’s in Indiana but baseball was my true passion and I just loved playing it. No matter how many hours I spent on the diamond, I always wanted more and I have been incredibly blessed to still have that fire inside of today.

Justin Godsey: Growing up in Indiana what Major League Baseball Club and player did you grow up wanting to be on and wanting to be ?

Ryan Tatusko: Well growing up in Indiana is hard because we really don’t have any professional baseball teams here so whenever I would travel to my great grandfathers house in NW Indiana as a kid he would always have the Cubs game on TV but on Mute, he couldn’t stand announcer’s voices so he would watch it in silence. But every time I would come over he would have it on so I remember watching Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, Dunston, Dawson, Girardi, and Maddux to name a few every day on TV so I just grew up watching them. The on thing that sticks in my mind to this day was watching Nolan pitch on highlights of sportscenter and I remember watching it over and over again and just thinking “wow, that guy has it all” “I want to be just like him” so although I grew up a cubs fan I always emulated Nolan Ryan in my backyard.

Justin Godsey: Tell us about your High School Baseball Career ?

Ryan Tatusko: My high school career was spent at Noblesville High School in Noblesville, IN. I played 4 years of varisty baseball under coach Dennis Kas and I loved every minute of it. Besides my father he was the coach that started to instill hard work in us. He would often say “Sometimes we just do things because they are hard” and I remember thinking WHY? but growing up I understand now, that it was just a test to see how far you were willing to push yourself to be where you wanted to be. I didn’t pitch much my freshman year but I did get my first career win my freshman year in my first career start when our “senior stud” blew out his elbow warming up pre-game so that is kind of how I got my foot in the door. I played a summer with the Indiana bulls travel team, and that is where most of the recruiting started for me. I got a few general questionnaires from some pro teams as a senior, but it wasn’t anything serious. The game I remember most vividly was pitching against Brownsburg High School in the top of the 6th inning. I remember throwing a fastball and feeling like someone just ran up and punched me straight in the back of my elbow which was immediately followed by an intense burning sensation. I remember just grabbing my elbow and walking off the mound and telling out trainer “I need to go to the hospital right now” and sure enough my mother took me that night and the resulting MRI showed a 100% complete tear of my Ulnar Collateral Ligament which required Tommy John surgery the following week.

Justin Godsey: Tell us about your recurting process to Indiana State ?

Ryan Tatusko: The recruiting process is a lot of fun, you get to go on 5 official visits where the school can take you to dinner or lunch and/or a sporting event on their dime and you also get an excused absence from school which every high school student loves. I really liked what Indiana St stood for in their program, and what they were trying to accomplish and they just got done being ranked in the top-25 the previous year so that was enticing for me as well.

Justin Godsey: Tell us about your tenure at Indiana St. ?

Ryan Tatusko: I knew that I was going sit out my true freshman year due to my surgery but I was able too compete and ultimately win the friday night starting job my sophomore year. There were always teams ranked in the Top-25 in the conference so I was always being put up to the challenge. Teams like Creighton, Evansville, Missouri St, and Wichita St were strong every year so there were always scouts coming and watching you play. I was a weekend starter all three years I was there, and I really enjoyed the staff and coaches there they truly helped me develop and mature on the mound and help me get drafted.

Justin Godsey: In 2007 your dream became a reality you were drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft tell us about the phone call you got from the Rangers front office ?

Ryan Tatusko: It was a blessing, I had a small feeling I was going to get drafted but I had no idea where. The phone call came from Derrick Lee the area scout for the Texas Rangers and he congratulated me and let me know he was going to be by my house for me to sign the contract. My family and I were both elated, but I also knew that this is when the true test of my skills were going to happen and no matter how hard I thought I worked before I was going to have to work that much harder now!

Justin Godsey: In 2009 you nearly threw a No-Hitter tell us about the game

Ryan Tatusko: I wrote a blog article about it on my blog, but to give a quick recap it was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done as a professional. A lot of people say “oh, I didn’t know I had it?” but in all honesty I knew. Where we were playing at in Modesto against the Rockies there is a massive scoreboard in left field so whenever a pop fly or ground ball would go in that direction you couldn’t help but see it so I knew what was going on. They did eventually get a hit off me with 1 out in the 9th inning on a 2-1 fastball, but Steve Bueschele (my manager at the time) allowed me to finish the game. Just to be able to say I took one for that long in a professional baseball game against professional hitters is still an accomplishment in my book, and I still have that ball (haha).

Justin Godsey: Tell us your transition from the Texas Rangers to the Washinton Nationals ?

Ryan Tatusko: The transition was a very easy one, the Nationals and the players made Tanner Roark and myself feel very welcome as soon as we get our proverbial foot in the door. The only thing that was different was that I have to hit now, which is fun and a whole new challenge in itself. I think last year being my first full year with the organization I tried to be more than who I was and it hurt me across the board with my numbers, this year I am feeling more confident and calm and cannot wait for spring training to start.

Justin Godsey: Where do you clock at right now ?

Ryan Tatusko: In my starts I am 90-94 but in my relief appearances I have been up to 96-97 at times.

Justin Godsey: Name all our top pitches ?

Ryan Tatusko: I throw a 4-seam fastball that has natural cut and sink to it, a slider and circle change.

Justin Godsey: What Advice can you give to HS/College Pitchers wanting to come to the Major Leagues ?

Ryan Tatusko: WORK! WORK! WORK! and when your dead exhausted and don’t want to do anymore go at it again! What kids have to realize is that watching TV or playing themselves on MLB: The Show won’t get ’em there. There are only a very very very select few of people who are incredibly blessed with so much talent that it doesn’t matter but for the rest of us its the hard work you put in that will ultimately show. You watch a lot of guys on TV and they might not be the best athletes or be the smoothest doing things but I can almost guarantee they are some of the hardest workers and that’s what it takes to put you on top.

Justin Godsey: What are we to expect from you in 2012 ?

Ryan Tatusko: I have goals and expectations from myself, I tried to do too much last year and tried to be a pitcher I wasn’t and I tried to do too much. I learned a lot down in Venezuela, working with pitching coaches and the rest of the staff down there that I am ready for 2012. I expect a lot more out of myself this year, but the biggest thing I want to be is to be more poised and composed in whatever situation I’m given.

— Personal Questions —

Justin Godsey: What is on your Ipod ?

Ryan Tatusko: I like a lot of country and 90s rock but there is a little Rap and HipHop thrown in there.

Justin Godsey: Do you play the MLB Video Games? If so do you have yourself created as the best player pitcher in the game ?

Ryan Tatusko:  I don’t I am one of the most horrible video game players known to man!

Justin Godsey: Favorite Pre-Game Meal?

Ryan Tatusko:  I love Chicken Parmesan

9. MILB Interview: Fidel Pena (Missoula Osprey, Arizona D-Backs)

Greetings: Welcome back to On The Hot Seat, Today we have Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Fidel Pena On The Hot Seat. Pena currently plays in the Missoula Osprey which is the Arizona Diamondbacks Rookie Affiliate League team. Please enjoy the short interview I had with Fidel Pena. Follow On The Hot Seat on Twitter and Facebook.

Justin Godsey: How do you stay connected with fellow fans ?

Fidel Pena: well actually have never talked to a missoulas fan other than during the season.

Justin Godsey: How did you get into playing baseball ?

Fidel Pena: well im dominican and you this is what we do here its all about playing baseball some kids even quit school so they can dedicate more time to baseball.

Justin Godsey: Who introduced you into playing baseball ?

Fidel Pena: My dad did, he has always been a baseball men so he has a little league and i started playing since i was 2.

Justin Godsey: What baseball player did you grow up inspiring ?

Fidel Pena: well i played short stop and second base so my inspiration was Alex Rodriguez.

Justin Godsey: In 2010 the Osprey found interest in you and signed you to your 1st ever Pro Baseball Contract give us your reaction to making it to professional baseball league ?

Fidel Pena: You know its an amazing feeling bcause it was always my dream to get signed and be able to play  in front of thousands of fans.

Justin Godsey: Tell us what was going through your mind when you 1st appeared for the Osprey ?

Fidel Pena: WOW, the first time I stepped in the plate for our fans all I had I in my mind was positive thoughts I knew it was my time to show what I got.

Justin Godsey: Tell us about your style of play ?

Fidel Pena: well my style of play is just that guy that always husles and always try to pick up his teammates when they make errors and i consider myself a team player.

Justin Godsey: What is the hardest thing about being a catcher ?

Fidel Pena: I think the hardest thing about being a catcher is that we get more tired than everybody else out there our job never stops its pitch after pitch theres no time out.

Justin Godsey: What are we to expect from you and the Osprey in 2012?

Fidel Pena: I actually have plans and hopes of moving up next year but if ever go back to Missoula im sure ill give them my best out there.