Saturday, December 29, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Off-season Check In with LHP Will Stewart

Will Stewart, image- Jay Floyd
Lefty starter Will Stewart had a break out season in 2018 as a member of the Class A BlueClaws.  En route to an All-Star campaign the Alabama native posted an 8-1 record with a 2.06 ERA a .218 batting average against as well as a 7.1 K/9 mark.  He also recorded two complete game shutouts in 20 games.

The Phillies' 20th round draft choice from 2015 reached an innings limit (113 2/3) set by the team and was kept back from pitching in the post-season, in which the BlueClaws fell short, losing in the finals to Lexington.

Last week I talked with Stewart, 21, about his 2018 season, missing the playoffs, how he's spending the off-season mentoring young pitchers and plenty more.  Read ahead for that complete interview.



-How do you feel now, in hindsight, about your 2018 season?

I'm still over the moon about it, but you're always told to keep a short-term memory, so I am over the moon about it, but I've put it on the back burner, to get back into the swing of things and get back to being better than I was last year.

-At the time, it's a big season for Lakewood, as the team reached the Sally League finals, and you're a huge part of that, helping to lead the pitching staff and the team's charge toward first and second half titles, but you reach a team imposed innings limit and were kept from pitching in the playoffs.  So as successful as you were you don't get to compete in the post-season.  Does that stick with you?  Is that still a disappointment to not be able to go forth with the team and try to win that league title?

I mean, you know, as a player you always think maybe I could have helped out a little more and I could have done something different and all this other stuff, but honestly it was the organization's decision.  They put my career and my future ahead of winning a few more games and I appreciate it.  But the competitor in me wanted to be out there and wanted to be the guy that could help my team and be the guy that could come in and maybe save the day or maybe put us in a better position so that we could have won, or something like that.  But, I mean, you've kind of just got to drop it.  You've got to move on from it.  You can't let it eat you up.  

I think the big thing for me was that, yeah I didn't get to pitch in the playoffs, but I got to experience it.  I got to be there for my teammates and got to be more of a leader, not on the field, but in the dugout.  Trying to consult with people, see how they were doing, see if I could help in any way like if there was a way that I could help you pitch to a batter or something like that.  So, I mean I took the positive out of everything and I was really proud of myself for that.  But, yeah I wish I could have been in there pitching, of course.

-It's good to make the best of it and help out behind the scenes too, so that's excellent.  It's been a few months.  The post-season wrapped up in September. Obviously, you guys are together every day for over six months.  Are you in touch with many of the guys since the season wrapped up?

Yeah, I do.  We talk every now and again, but everyone has their own training program, their own lives going on.  And people are out here getting engaged, getting married, getting all different kinds of stuff.  I mean, there's a bunch of different stuff going on, but we try to stay in touch as much as possible.  You know, we are human.  There are times we don't talk for a little while, but I actually attended strength camp (hosted by the Phillies in Florida) and I got to see a bunch of the guys from my team, so that was good.  I got to reconnect with them for two weeks and then we all went home and we all obviously wish each other happy holidays and stay in touch for the most part.

-Okay, cool.  I did want to ask about the sessions the Phillies host and you mentioned the strength camp.  Share some thoughts on how that goes and what you take out of it.

It was cool.  I think the biggest part of it wasn't going down there for the strength camp, it was getting back in tune with the baseball life.  Because you leave the season, and you basically come back to the real world and it's not playing baseball everyday, you're not on a bus, you're not surrounded by your people, so you kind of decompress just a little bit from season to off-season and I got the call to come down to strength camp and it gave me a chance to get back into a baseball frame of mind, which was really cool.  And obviously we all worked out, we got our strength up and we did some yoga and cool stuff and it was fun.  And it was a good experience.  I think the biggest thing for me was I got to go hang out with my guys again, which was really cool.

-How's the yoga?  Do they bring in a special instructor?  Is it one of the regular strength and conditioning guys on staff that will coach you through it?  How does it go down and then how do you feel it can be beneficial for you?

Yeah, they bring in a special person for our yoga thing.  It does work.  I love yoga.  I think it works really, really well.  Everyone always says you need to stay loose and stay flexible and being a pitcher there's no one position that benefits more from being loose and flexible than pitching.  I mean, you've gotta be loose.  You can't go in and be tight.  And I think it prevents injury a lot too, so I love it.  It feels good.  I mean, it hurts during, but afterward you're all loose and stuff.  So, yeah, I think it's a great thing that they introduced into our organization and I'm thankful for it.  Some organizations don't get to do that.  The Phillies really set us up nice. 

-When we talked initially to set up the interview, you mentioned something about work.  What are you up to?

Yeah!  I do pitching lessons.  I have a group of guys that I go and help.  I run it out of this building that one of my really good friends owns and they let me have a spot and I do that.  It's really cool because we always talk about giving back to the community and I don't think there's any greater gift than giving kids the hope that one day they can do exactly what I'm doing.  And going out and teaching the kids-- you know, baseball is a great sport and this is what it takes to get there.  Not everything that someone tells you is true.  If someone tells you that you can't make it, well I'm a prime example of that you can because I came from a very small town just like most of the kids I train, who were told, "You come from a small town.  There's no way you're going to be able to get there."  So to be that little voice in the background that gets to tell them, "Yes, you can.", and I get to help them on their journey to hopefully making this their job one day is worth more than any amount of money that they give me.  So, it's awesome!

-That's terrific.  That's good to hear.  Do you have anything lined up like a vacation or anything like that before you go back to baseball?

Yeah!  My family, we take New Year's Eve vacations every year.  Last year we did New York City, which was ridiculous and incredible.  And this year, we're going to Savannah, Georgia to have that more laid back, just go and have fun type thing as opposed to the hustle and bustle of New York City.  So, I'm excited about that.

-What were some of your favorite things about New York when you visited up there?

The people.  I love the people up there.  They're so different and they're so unique.  The food's amazing, obviously.  And then just being in a city that's so much more bigger than anything I've ever seen was crazy.  I love New York City.  I feel like I could live there one day.

-Were the people similar enough to those you encountered in New Jersey this season with Lakewood?

I mean, yes and no.  There are definitely some very unique people in New Jersey.  I will not take that away from them.  But in New York, there's just so many of them.  There's just so many people that-- there's literally millions of people in that city and if you walk down the street in New Jersey, there's plenty of room, but if you walk down the street in New York and you're bumping up against each other, so it's a lot different.

-I want to ask you about your off-season routine also.  At what point do you pick up a baseball and truly try to start knocking the rust off?

Actually, right now.  I'm on my way to one of my training facilities that I get to use and I'm actually on my way to get started on it now.  We're full force ahead to get ready for March.

-Is that something you've been ramping up toward or is today a genuine first session?

Yeah, I've been ramping up toward it for about four weeks now.  I had an extra month off than everyone because I didn't pitch in September, so I had all of September, all of October and most of November off and probably about a month ago I started to get really deep into it.

-There have been some staffing changes in the Phillies' developmental levels.  Josh Bonifay takes over as director or player development.  Chris Truby earns a promotion to field coordinator.  When those changes are made, is there any communication toward the players or would you expect maybe more of an opportunity to have it addressed or someone introduced once players head back to Clearwater in the spring?

You know, sometimes I feel like some guys are more in the know than others, but I don't know.  It's weird, because I was around when we brought in the new front office and we got our new G.M. and that was more of a "we'll see you in spring training" and everyone reads the headlines, everyone knows.  But it's more of a you go in with an open mind and say, "Hey, you're the guy!  So, let's see how this goes."  Everyone's really excited to see where Mr. Bonifay goes with it and see how this all works and we all love Truby.  He's a great coach, great mentor, great at everything he does, so we're excited.  It's more of a wait till spring training thing.  I don't really know. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Frosty Phillies Favorites: 2018 Christmas Player Survey

Season's greetings!  Everybody loves the holidays and, of course, baseball players are no exception. Every year at Christmas time, I survey a group of Phillies prospects about what they get excited for during the holiday season.

Players taking part in this year's ninth annual player survey include the 2018 Paul Owens Award winner OF Austin Listi, slugging first base  prospect Darick Hall, Class A All-Stars (CI/OF) Jake Scheiner and (SP) Will Stewart, Triple-A reliever Tyler Gilbert and short-season rookie level backstop Logan O'Hoppe.  Additionally, taking part is Double-A Reading Fightin Phils broadcaster Mike Ventola.

Questions and answers listing each individual’s holly jolly holiday favorites are listed below…

-What is your favorite Xmas movie or TV special?

Austin Listi: For the longest time my favorite Christmas movie has been The Santa Claus 2. However, I love just snuggling up on the couch with my wife and crushing Hallmark's Countdown to Christmas. They play Christmas movies all day everyday until Christmas is over.

Darick Hall: A Christmas Story is my favorite Christmas movie.

Jake Scheiner: I got to say Elf. I love Will Ferrell. It's always on TV around Christmas time and I watch it every year. I've seen it so many times, but it doesn't get old.

Tyler Gilbert: The Polar Express is my go-to!

Logan O'Hoppe: Christmas Vacation's up there for sure. And The Polar Express is always one that I watched when I was younger.

Will Stewart: We watch all the Claymation ones at my house. My mom loves those. We always watch The Grinch. We love The Grinch at my house.

Mike Ventola: This is tough, but I'm going to go with A Charlie Brown Christmas. Linus nails the true meaning of Christmas 3/4's of the way through the movie and for me that gives it the edge over my honorable mentions listed. Honorable Mentions: It's a Wonderful Life and The Year Without a Santa Claus.

-What is your favorite Christmas song?

Listi: It might have to be Mariah Carey “All I Want For Christmas is You."

Hall: "Oh, Holy Night" is my favorite. (He really likes Sister Hazel's version)

Scheiner: I like all the songs, all those are great and get me in the holiday spirit.

Gilbert: Let's see. I mean, you put on Frank Sinatra or Micheal Buble's Christmas playlist and I'll get it going. Yeah, anything by them.

O'Hoppe: My cousin Anthony and I would always like to sing "Happy Holidays" (by Andy Williams). It was just something that we always did from a young age, so that's the only song that would stick out.

Stewart: The Grinch song, the one about the Grinch, I love that song! It's amazing. I love that one. It's my favorite movie too, so it's phenomenal.

Ventola: My all-time favorite Christmas song is Lou Monte's Dominick the Donkey. It's my favorite Christmas song because of its fun-filled melody. Plus, Lou Monte is legendary in the Italian-American communities!

-What is your favorite thing to eat around the holidays and who makes it?

Listi: I can’t say I have one favorite meal. I love to eat so I just crush it all.

Hall: My grandma consistently makes some of the best desserts during this time of year! I always have to watch how much I'm eating when I see her (laughs). She makes a lot of red velvet cakes, homemade rice krispie treats, toll house pan cookies and pies. Her apple pie is my favorite food to eat during Christmas!

Gilbert: Just the mashed potatoes and gravy. You know. That's pretty common, but my parents make that pretty well, so I get excited for that. Nothing like it.

Ventola: My all-time favorite thing to eat are my mother's Christmas Cookies. If I said anything else, I wouldn't be allowed back home to visit (laughs)!

-Does your family have any traditions that are a big deal?

Listi: We are all Christians, so celebrating Christmas means celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ!  Without him there is nothing. Something else we do is meet up at the family ranch. We hunt and spend quality time in God’s great outdoors. It doesn’t get better.

Hall: One of the big traditions we usually do but have slightly got away from is huge family Christmas's! We usually have all of the family I have I Colorado, Arizona and Texas come down and stay at my great grandparents house and celebrate Christmas together. We would usually have about 18 people in the house. It was very cluttered but was so much fun the catch up and see everyone!

Scheiner: We do a little bit of everything. There are some really nice houses in Santa Rosa, California and there's some really good light shows, so we always go drive by and check out the lights. This year, we're going to Lake Tahoe, so we're going to have Christmas in the snow, which will be fun. I would say just being around family, hearing Christmas music, I actually love the snow and Christmas trees, so I look forward to that and we do play a lot of games. We always play Monopoly and I do not lose in Monopoly. So (my family's) not looking forward to that, but I am.

O'Hoppe: We do. There's a couple, actually. My cousins they have a huge Christmas party every year. My uncle has two-to-three hundred people at their house every year. So, that's a big highlight of the year. We'll spend the weekend there. And that's a good time. More important than that, my cousins, we celebrate "Christmas Adam", so it's the day before Christmas Eve, because Adam came before Eve, so that's where the name comes from. We'll spend-- people will pop in and out all night, but I'll be there from probably eight (o'clock) till probably four in the morning. My family, we're big into food, so we'll cook all night into the next day. That's definitely, for me, the highlight of the year, for sure.

Stewart: My dad's from Louisiana, he's Cajun, so he does the whole Creole thing, he uses all types of Cajun and stuff like that, so my dad has this book that it's The Cajun Night Before Christmas and he reads it to us and it's got Santa Claus with 12 alligators and he's on the roof in the swamp and he reads it to us in his Creole voice and stuff like that. It's been a tradition since I was four.

-Is there a standout Christmas gift from childhood that is the most memorable for you?

Listi: I can’t say there is just one gift that is above all. I loved all my gifts. With that being said, I remember waking up one Christmas and I had a brand new basketball goal for the driveway that was absolutely awesome. I also got a BB gun one Christmas that made me excited as well. My brother Michael and I would have wars in the backyard all the time.

Hall: My uncle last gave me a .243 Remington 700 rifle for Christmas and I still have it until this day. I love it and I will eventually pass it on to my son one day. Very special gift!

Scheiner: I've had a lot of good gifts over the years. Probably baseball stuff. My whole neighborhood was full of kids, so we would all run outside after we opened our presents and play and I would just say getting a really nice baseball glove.

Gilbert: I was about eight or nine years old when I got a baseball glove. It was definitely memorable.

Stewart: My parents did it big for Christmas every year. It was a big time thing, so there was a few...we got a trampoline one year, which was amazing. We got a pool one year. So, they put in a pool that year, that was cool! I think the best one though, it's not some big, fancy gift, but my mom my senior year of high school, my mom got me a necklace that had a baseball pendant on it with a gold chain and she gave it to me. And I don't think I've taken it off since that Christmas. I think the only time I take it off is if I'm going through airport security. I wear it during my games. If you look at any pictures of me on the mound, it's on!

Ventola: As a family we used to go to Walt Disney World every year during the summer growing up. I remember when my parents took my siblings and I during Christmas the very first time. It was a lot of fun!

-Do you or your family have a Phillies ornament on your Christmas tree?

Scheiner: You know what, I might have to surprise them with one this year. I do not.

Gilbert: A little mini Phillies flag! They've got that.

O'Hoppe: Our family friends have gotten us one, so there is this year.

Stewart: No, we do not! We have so many Alabama ones, it's ridiculous. We have LSU. Pretty sure we have a Dallas Cowboys one. My dad's a Cowboys fan.

-Do you recall finding out the real deal about Santa and is there a story that goes with it?

Listi: I really have no idea when I found out the deal about Santa. I wish I could remember but my brother Michael told me he remembers when my dad told him and thinks I was there with him. He’s four and half years older than me...so I must have been pretty young.

Hall: I was never a believer in Santa. I always grew up celebrating Christmas knowing that it was the birth of God's greatest gifts to the world, Jesus Christ!

Gilbert: I caught my dad eating (Santa's) cookies late night once, when I woke up, and I was kind of confused, you know? I asked him the next day, "What were you doing? Those weren't for you!" And he told me, "I think you were dreaming, son." That's when I kind of thought, "I don't know if he's real anymore."

O'Hoppe: There's a little story. My dad blew it for me. It wasn't a big thing. We were just in the back yard one day and that came up and then he told me the sad truth. That was when I was maybe 11.

Stewart: Oh, yeah. My dad was always the type of guy that said, "If you ask me a question, I'm going to tell you the truth." So, I was about ten years old, I walked into my parents' room and it was probably a month and a half before Christmas and I looked at my dad and I said, "Hey, so is the big guy real?" And he was like, "Do you want me to answer that?" And I said, "Yeah! What's up? Is he real? Does he have all these reindeer and stuff? 'Cause I stayed up plenty of nights and I ain't never seen him." And he said, "Yeah, buddy. No. He's not real." So I was crushed for like a month.

Ventola: What do you mean real deal about Santa Claus? Is everything okay? I hope he'll still make it to my place on Christmas Eve night. I'm hopeful for a few gifts this year.


Previous editions of this survey include answers from Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford, Dylan Cozens, Adam Haseley, Scott Kingery and loads of others.  

 Those editions of this holiday survey can be viewed at the following links- 2017 survey, 2016 survey, 2015 survey, 2014 survey, 2013 edition, 2012 edition, 2011 edition and 2010 edition.
 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Off-season Check In with OF Austin Listi

Austin Listi, image- Jay Floyd
This year outfielder Austin Listi stood out as the Phillies' organization's most outstanding offensive prospect, getting honored by the organization as their Paul Owens Award winner.

In the 2018 regular season, Listi split time with Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading.  In 123 total games in 2018, the Dallas Baptist product tallied a .312 average with 18 home runs and 84 RBI.  He did all of that in his first full season in the professional ranks, after the Phillies made him their 17th round draft choice last year.

Defensively, Listi played left field, third base and first base, though primarily he spent his time in right field during the season.

In the autumn months, Listi continued his development, seeing action in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.  In 22 games for the Scorpions, the 25-year-old tallied a .250 batting average with two doubles, a triple and seven RBI.

This week I heard from Listi who offered some comments on his off-season, winning the Paul Owens Award and more.  Read ahead for that interview.


-Related to your off-season, how are you keeping busy away from the sport? 

I took two weeks off after I got home from the Arizona Fall League and just played a little golf did a little hunting and caught up on family time. Now I’m working out and enjoying family time.
-What sort of workout routine are you doing?  Is there anything you are working on strength or that sort of thing? 


Strength is always something I want to improve. 

-What facility do you use or do you plan to use to execute your workouts this off-season?  Are there any other pro players that you work with?

I train my speed and agility at Armed Sports and I do my weights at my high school.

-I know before the big league season was over, you got to attend a game at Citizens Bank Park and get honored for the Paul Owens Award.  Can you share some thoughts on that experience and the lasting feelings or memories you took from that night?

It was an incredible experience. The way the Phillies took care of my family was very special. That will be a memory my family and I will cherish forever.

-Does that Paul Owens honor impact your mentality at all?  For example, does the goal of becoming a big leaguer seem more like a reality after getting that award?

I wouldn’t say it really changes my mentality at all. I am still going to work as hard as I can to be the best that I can be. I have never lacked the confidence in my ability, so to be chosen for this award, it was humbling and an honor. I wouldn’t say it gave me anymore confidence than I already had. 

-I know you're a family guy and a parent.  What's the best thing about the off-season for you?

Being with my wife and boy.

-Do you have any sort of big plans or vacations lined up with them?

No vacations or anything.  Beauty in simply spending time with the loved ones, man.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Phillies Off-Season League Notes, 12/19/18

Throughout the off-season months, this site will offer a roundup of how many Phillies prospects and players are performing around the world in fall and winter leagues.

Read ahead for the lowdown on various leagues.

Trevor Bettencourt, image- Jay Floyd
Puerto Rico/Roberto Clemente League-

Trevor Bettencourt and Bailey Falter have wrapped up their efforts abroad, returning home to enjoy the holidays.  Both hurlers performed exceptionally for their club, the Indios.  Bettencourt, 24, posted a 1-0 record with a 1.42 ERA while striking out 12 and walking three in 12 2/3 innings over nine relief appearances.  The right-hander was a 25th round pick in 2016.  Falter, a lefty, sported a 2-0 record with a 0.42 ERA in five starts for the Indios.  The 21-year-old was a 5th round draft selection by the Phillies in 2015.

Also in PR, 1b/3b Damek Tomscha, 27, is batting .301 with five doubles and three RBI in 23 games.  Tomscha has been batting leadoff for his Santurce team.  The righty hitting Tomscha was a17th round pick in 2014. On the same club, LF Jan Hernandez is batting .295 with a home run and nine RBI in 24 games.  The 23-year-old was the Phils' 3rd round draft pick in 2013 and was an All-Star at the Double-A level last year.

Dominican Republic-

SS Malquin Canelo is batting .256 with a double, two RBI and five stolen bases in 19 games with the Toros.  The 24-year-old righty hitter posted a .251/.306/.366 line at Double-A Reading this year.

Phillies' right-handed Hector Neris has appeared in two games for the Toros.  He's notched a save and has surrendered an earned run in 1 2/3 innings while striking out one and allowing zero walks.  Neris had a 5.10 ERA in 53 big league appearances this year.  

Right-handed pitcher Ranfi Casimiro has looked sharp for his team the Aguilas.  In 11 outings (two starts) the 29-year-old was not recorded a decision, but sports a 1.86 ERA and has notched 19 strike outs and walked eight in 19 1/3 innings.

Venezuela-

Righty Luis Cedeno has posted a 1-0 record with a 2.93 ERA and a .274 BAA in 15 appearances for the Aguilas.  The 24-year-old appeared in 16 games with Lakewood this year.

Lefty Aris Abdallah has posted a 6.75 ERA in six games for the Tigres. The 22-year-old posted a 2-5 record with a 4.28 ERA and a .283 batting average against for the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters this year.

In 11 combined appearances with two teams, Alexis Rivero has a 6.39 ERA.  With Zulia, he surrendered nine earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, but with Lara, Rivero has held the opposition scoreless in eight innings.  The righty pitched at three levels of the Phillies minor league system this year.

Catcher Gregori Rivero is batting .238 with a double and an RBI in nine games with Zulia.  The 22-year-old switch-hitter posted a .217 average while smacking three homers and driving in 21 runs in 48 games for Class A Lakewood this year.

Australia-

Tyler Fallwell has not been scored upon and has notched three saves in 10 appearances for Melbourne.  He has struck out 17 and walked one in 14 innings.  The 23-year-old was signed by the Phils out of Indy ball this year and pitched in 12 regular season games with the Class A BlueClaws.

Lefty pitcher Nick Fanti through five starts with Sydney has a 1-2 record with a 4.50 ERA.  He has struck out 23 batters and walked 10 in 22 innings.  This year, Fanti missed time due to a back injury, but posted a 3-3 record with a 7.22 ERA through six starts for Class A Advanced Clearwater.  The Long Island native was a 31st round pick by the Phillies in 2015. 

Rixon Taylor-Wingrove is 1-for-3 with Sydney.  The 18-year-old first baseman sported a .241/.310/.342 slash line in 23 games with the GCL West team this year.

Kyle Glogoski, a 19-year-old New Zealand native, has a 1-1 record with a 1.37 ERA over four starts with the Tuatara.  Glogoski had a great campaign this year for the Phils' Gulf Coast League West team, sporting a 4-0 record, a 2.31 ERA and a 10.8 K/9 mark in 10 games (eight starts).

Second baseman Curtis Mead sports a .169 average with a double and an RBI in 19 games for Adelaide.  In two games with the GCL Phillies West team this year, the 18-year-old righty hitter went 1-for-6.

Switch-hitting backstop Mitchell Edwards is batting .296 with a pair of homers and nine RBI in 20 games for Adelaide.  The 19-year-old slashed .250/.308/.417 in 16 games with the GCL East team this year.

Colombia-

Catcher Jorge Alfaro posted a .279 with three doubles, two triples and three home runs in 19 games for the Toros.  Alfaro, 25, posted a .262 average with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 108 games with the Phillies this year.    

PhoulBallz Interview: Off-season Check In with 1b Darick Hall

Darick Hall (left) & Tyler Fallwell, photo courtesy of Darick Hall
Darick Hall continued his ascent toward the big leagues in 2018, flashing plenty of power and achieving success at two levels in the process.  The 23-year-old lefty-handed batter tore through the Class A Advanced Florida State League before earning a promotion to the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils.

In 128 combined games this year, the Phillies 14th round draft selection from 2016 tallied a .244 batting average with 26 home runs and 87 RBI.  

Following the regular season, Hall participated in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.  In 18 games there with the Scorpions, the six-foot-four 234-pounder sported a .238 average with four home runs and 12 RBI.  

This week I talked with the slugging first baseman about his successful year, the time spent in the AFL, his workout routine and more.  Read ahead for that full interview.

-What did you take out of your 2018 campaign?  Any key lessons or things to focus on moving forward?

2018 was an amazing year. So many good memories and new experiences on the field! One of the key elements I took away from this year was how to have unwavering confidence in myself and (my) ability. Baseball is a hard game and is especially hard if you don't have full confidence in yourself at all times. I had a few rough patches this year that I was able to come out of. I learned a lot about myself through these times. Moving into the off-season development, I am working hard on being able to refine my approach at the plate. 

-What are some of your favorite memories from the 2018 season?

Some of my favorite memories from this year came early in the year. The High-A Clearwater was a great group of guys and the dynamic of that team was incredible! We always had fun. I believe we started the season 1-10 and I still remember Shawn Williams, our manager, just telling us to keep playing hard and have fun through it all. Not too long after, we started winning a lot of games and eventually worked to a winning record. The lesson I learned is that there's not always a problem when things aren't going your way as long as you keep going about it the right way and working hard it will even out. It absolutely did!

-How do you feel the Arizona Fall League benefited your progress and are there any big lessons your took from your time there?

The fall league was a wonderful experience. We had a great group and an awesome coaching staff! The talent in that league was surreal. I really enjoyed picking the brains or the staff and players from other organizations. Pete Alonzo was one of my favorite guys to talk to about hitting. He's got his swing well figured out and it's fun to watch.  I picked up on a swing key during my time in the fall league. It helped with my timing. It really has to do with the timing of my load in the the swing. I've been building on it during this off-season.

-What can you share about your workout routine right now? Or are you still enjoying some down time?

With the fall league cutting into the off-season I really had to hit the ground running. I took about two weeks off afterwards and then started back in. Right now my focus is on getting my body back into baseball shape.


Duce and Hall, photo- courtesy of Darick Hall
-What facility are you using/will you use to get your work in and are there any other pro players of former players that you are working with?

I've been working out with my best friend Matt Duce. He was drafted in the 9th round by the Cardinals this year. We played together at DBU, grew up playing little league and high school baseball together as well. On the days we work out we go back to my house hit in the cage and throw. Hunting season is in full swing right now as well so on our of days we mix in time to go look for deer. There is also a fishing tournament coming up that I am looking forward to! 

-Aside from baseball related work, how are you spending your time this off-season?

When I'm not working out or hitting I'm most likely on my bass boat or hunting! Those are my two favorite things to do when it's not baseball season. I fish bass tournaments throughout the off-season. My source of income really relies on how well I can do during those tournaments!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Off-season Check In with Jake Scheiner

Jake Scheiner, image- Jay Floyd
Jake Scheiner is a prospect that really made a name for himself last season.  The 23-year-old was a 4th round draft selection in 2017 and became an All-Star in his first full season in the minors.

In 122 games for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws last year, the righty batting University of Houston product posted a .296 average with 13 home runs, 67 RBI and 10 stolen bases while manning several positions on defense. 

Scheiner played second base and third base fresh out of the draft in 2017, but added left field and first base to his repertoire during the regular season this year.

Last week I talked with Jake about his thoughts on his first complete professional campaign, giving the catcher position a whirl in the Florida Instructional League this off-season, how he's preparing for next year and plenty more.  Read ahead for my interview with him.

-In hindsight, what are your thoughts on your 2018 season?  What were the best parts for you?

Well, you know, coming up (to full-season A level) it was a lot of the same guys (I played with) in short-season (short-season Williamsport) from the 2017 draft and I thought we, overall, had a great year and we exceeded our expectations.  We played really well as a team and I thought we bonded a lot, which is good going forward in the minor leagues, going forward with the same group of guys.  But, yeah I was really impressed with what people accomplished individually and team wise.

Individually, I felt like I got my feet wet in there and I got my name out there.  I had a good season.  Trying out more positions defensively.  I had a good year at the plate and I'm looking to improve and elevate my game even more.

-Was there anything you would say was the biggest lesson from your 2018 season?

You know, it's a long season.  Definitely played over 150 games in one season, so taking (that) to the next season, I figured out a routine I do every day at the ballpark.  Whether it's getting my body right, or coming off a bus ride, you know just having a routine to get me ready for every day.  Offensively, defensively, or just my body.

-What are you up to during these down months?  Are you doing anything around the game, are you holding a job?  What are you doing to take up your time?

Right now I live with my girlfriend out in Houston, Texas.  We got to go on a vacation.  We went on a cruise together.  We had a good time.  It was good to relax and just spend some time with her and family, got back to California where I'm from and I'm going back there soon, but I've been working  out pretty much since the season ended.  Did stuff individually with a trainer.  Been training pretty hard, getting my body right and where I want to be.  Recently, I've been hitting and throwing and just starting to pick it up right now.  And worked on some things I need to work on getting ready to, hopefully, exceed some expectations.

-You mentioned working on some specific things there.  Are there points that you could share that have been focuses for you while you're working out?  Was it your body or something with your game?

Well, you could always work on your body.  I'm always going to be working to get stronger, get faster.  That's what I'm doing right now.  I'm doing a lot of speed stuff.  And I'm lifting weights.  You know, I'm doing good.  My body feels good.  And baseball wise I'd say there are a few things offensively at the plate I'd like to work on.  So, I'm going to work on that and getting comfortable playing all these positions in the field.  You know, I never played left (field) or first base and I've got to be ready to play second, or third, first, left, just taking reps everywhere and feel comfortable.

-How did the trial at the catching position go for you?

Right now, I would say my main focus is not catcher, but it is an option for the future and I am willing to play whatever position they see fitting.  I believe I did well and I learned a lot with (catching instructor) Ernie (Whitt), so we will see where that takes me.  

-How long do you put down the bat for between the end of the season and when you start to knock the rust off?

I swung a little bit in Instructs, which was October.  So, I took some of October off and most of November.  Then just lightly got back into it.  And before I got back in the cages I did a lot of research and looking at videos and hearing great hitters talks and getting some ideas that will help me.

-Was there anyone specific that you studied and what did you learn?

It wasn't specifically one player that I would study, but a lot of the great hitters in the big leagues today.  I like to hear about their approaches, whether it's cage work, game reps or mechanics.  I take bits and piece from numerous great hitters past and present to see what makes them great.

-That's excellent.  What facility do you work at and do you work with any other players?

Currently there are no other players.  But I work with a really good trainer, it's called Athletic Body Mechanics in Friendswood, Texas.  The guy's name is Allen.  He's been working a lot with me, trying to get me into a more baseball specific routine and he's had NFL players and he he's got some really good training.  I like what he's doing with my body and strength and speed.  

-There's been some news over the past week or so that Chris Truby gets promoted to the Phillies' minor league field coordinator, taking over the role previously held by Doug Mansolino.  I don't know how dialed in you are with staff news like that, but is that something you've heard, how do you hear about it and what are your thoughts there?

I actually saw it on Twitter.  But, I love Chris Truby.  He's a great guy, a great baseball guy.  Very knowledgeable in all aspects of the game.  I mean, he was our minor league infield coordinator, so he's just a really good baseball guy and I know he's gonna help us out a lot.  And a few guys I spoke to, we're all excited to have him in that position.

Friday, December 14, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Off-season check in with LHP Tyler Gilbert

Tyler Gilbert with Reading in 2018, image- Jay Floyd
Left-handed reliever Tyler Gilbert proved to be on of the biggest attention grabbers this year in the Phillies' system.  The 6th round pick from 2015 has steadily progress through the minor leagues and after reaching Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2018, he's perched a step away from the top level of the sport.

Last season, the 24-year-old tallied a 7-2 record with five saves, a 3.25 ERA, a .211 batting average against and a 9.0 K/ mark in 48 combined games with Double-A Reading the Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

This off-season, Gilbert spent time pitching in the Dominican Republic, notching a 2.45 ERA and a .214 BAA in 13 appearances.  In 7 1/3 innings for Licey, the six-foot-three 190-pound USC product struck out nine batters and walked three.

On Thursday, I talked with Gilbert about his time pitching in the DR, the Rule 5 draft, his goals for next year and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview.


-Thanks for taking some time.  I know you pitched internationally this off-season.  What can you share about that experience?

Yeah, I played in the Dominican Republic for a team called Licey.  I was down there for a little over a month and I had a good time.  They really take care of their players down there.  We got put up at a nice hotel.  Very nice.  A good experience.  It was cool seeing where a lot of the guys that I played with come from and grew up.  You know, it was an interesting experience and something that I'll never forget and I had a good time. 

The level of baseball down there is incredibly good and so it was kind of cool to pitch against some old big leaguers, ex-big leaguers, current big leaguers and everything.  It was an all around good experience and I speak highly about guys now going down there and I had a good time, so I want to promote, for anyone that wants to go down there to do it, you know, 'cause it's a tough decision to go down there, but it's definitely worth it. 

-Were there any memorable opposing encounters that you had against some of those names down there?

No, nothing stood out, 'cause I was a lefty specialist and I would come in for one guy.  But what did stand out to me and what was a cool experience was having Hanley Ramirez be our four-hole hitter and getting to meet him.  And he's a really nice guy so it was cool rubbing elbows with him and being in the same clubhouse with him. 


-What do you think are some of the differences between the game there and the game here?

The thing that I noticed down there is that the whole stadium is so incredibly into the game, from the first pitch to the last pitch.  You notice when we play our rival down there, the Aguilas, whether it was a ground ball out or a fly ball out, when we were on defense, the whole stadium would erupt like it's game seven of the World Series.  And everybody was just so involved down there with baseball.  It was pretty cool to play in that kind of environment.  So, that was a bit different than the States.  It was a crazy amount of energy down there. 

-You talked about playing in an area where some of your teammates grew up, was there anyone on your team that kind of helped you adjust to the different culture or surroundings when you got down there?

Yeah, I had a bunch of good teammates, but the guy that was my locker neighbor, Emmanuel Burriss, he's got a ring with the San Francisco Giants, and he's a guy that I grew up watching him, so it was pretty cool to play on the same field with a guy that I grew up watching.

He gave me a lot of good tips.  He said have fun down there, it's an experience of a lifetime.  You'll see how into it all the fans are and how the whole island itself revolves around baseball.  He said try to take as much as you can in and don't get scared by the rice and beans down there.

-(Laughing) How was the food down there?  Did you enjoy it or was it hard to adjust to?

It was good, I guess it's notorious that every import, or "gringo" is what we're called, gets sick at some point down there.  I thought it was inevitable, I was eating rice and beans and all kinds of meat down there, but I went down for about a week with pretty bad food sickness, but other than that it was great but, I think after that I kind of have a stronger stomach, you know?  Every white guy on my team, every gringo, we all went down at some point. 

-What is it?  Do they cook with different meat?

I think the bacteria down there is different.  They cook their meats in different types of grease and I don't know exactly what it is, but it was something that my stomach was not used to, so yeah, I don't know but every guy got it, so it wasn't just me.  

-I guess the company provides some sort of comfort.  How's the off-season going for you know?  How long do you put down the baseball for before you'll pick it back up again?

Yeah, so obviously my off-season's a little shorter now than it usually is, but I'll start throwing in the beginning of January, so it's coming up here.  And then yeah, it's going good.  Just trying to stay in shape like any other off-season.

-Sounds good.  I know the Rule 5 draft takes place today and it doesn't sound like there's any news related to your name, but is that something that you give any thought to as it approaches at the Winter Meetings?

Yeah, absolutely I mean I definitely think about it, 'cause I didn't get put on the 40-man (roster) this year, so the Rule 5 Draft could potentially could mean good things if I get picked up and get thrown in the big leagues next year, so I mean I'm just trying to focus on what I can control and that's working out and staying in shape.

-Yeah, that's understandable.  What's the workout routine like for you right now?  Do you have a facility you're using?  Are you working with any other players at this stage?

I'm going back and forth between like L.A. and Santa Cruz.  I have a little gym up here that I work at up here in Santa Cruz and then down in L.A., I'll go work out with some of the USC guys that I used to play with.  I'm up and down, I'm just trying to enjoy as much as I can.

-Excellent.  Do you have any big takeaways from your regular season last year that could help you in the long run?

Yeah, I was really happy with how it went.  I had never been promoted during a season before.  I has gone level to level each year, so I never had the chance to go through getting promoted, so that was exciting.  I was really happy with how to season went with the addition of my couple new pitches that I learned and it's been helping me complete my arsenal, so yeah I'm really happy with how this year went and I'm really hoping to have big things happen next year.

-Speaking of that, any thoughts about getting a big league spring training invitation?

Yeah, I talked to some of the Triple-A guys and they say it usually happens around New Year's, in the beginning of January.  I mean, that's my main goal right now, even though I can't control it, but that's something that I think I deserve and I believe in myself that I can compete in big league camp next year, so I really want that to happen.

-How about the rest of the off-season, do you have anything big planned before you head back to the diamond?

I have a little Hawaii trip planned.

-To me that doesn't sound little.  That's big!  Talk about it.  Who's going?

I'm going with my girlfriend and her family.  She's got some family out there, so I look forward to it every off-season.  It's cool to go from 30 degree weather to 80 degree weather.  It's cool for sure.