I figured I'd post this here:
Chris Hatfield: Since you’ve come up to Triple-A, you’ve mostly been able to keep it going. Some guys, when they come to Triple-A, they start pressing. Was it ever a concern for you to make sure you didn’t start pressing now that you’re so close to the majors? If it was or wasn’t a concern, was there any way you made sure you avoided that?
: Well, the last couple games I haven’t felt good at the plate and the results really haven’t been there. A few times, especially in the early at-bats in a game, I’ve gotten down on myself or gotten angry that I swung at a certain pitch, or got out of my approach. But as the games have gone on, I’ve reminded myself that what has made me not only successful but also happy playing baseball is the joy of being out here and playing this beautiful game, and whether or not I get a hit or whether or not I swing at a ball over my head or crush a ball, it’s still the same game and it’s still a lot of fun. It’s very important for me to keep that perspective, whether I’m struggling or whether I’m playing well.
CH: You’re now at the top of the minor league ladder, and you’ve had the ups and downs that come with being a "top prospect". How would you describe that experience of being a quote, "top prospect"?
LA: I don’t think I’ve ever really relished it. I’m starting to accept that, that it’s a label that just gets put on people and that’s the label that’s fallen on me. I’ve really rejected it for a long time, but when you reject something, you suffer. I’ve just kind of accepted it. I’m not super-stoked about it. It’s not fair to a lot of players who get overlooked because of age or size or whatever, like (Daniel) Nava – he’s literally had to hit .350 to get a look, you know? Some guys don’t have to do that to get noticed. To me it’s a little bit unfair, but that’s the way it is.
CH: How much attention do you pay to what’s going on in Boston, especially now that you’re one level away?
LA: There are guys who pay way more attention to it than I do. I have a lot of energy invested in what I’m doing right here, and not a whole lot left over to pay attention to what’s happening somewhere else.
CH: In preparing to interview you, I couldn’t find an interview that didn’t have a token music question. You’ve kind of become the music prospect, although it’s not like you’re the only guy interested in music – you’ve mentioned that Nava plays guitar and there are certainly other guys in Boston as well. Why do you think that label’s fallen on you, and what are your thoughts on it?
LA: (Laughs) I don’t know – I get the hippie, California kid who swings from tree branches label. I guess people just like to label things. You know it’s funny, some of my circle of friends back home, and some of my siblings and their friends, when I’m with them, I’m the most mainstream person in the place. In other situations, I feel really radical and a little bit out there. I think your surroundings kind of define you, that’s what I’m learning. So it’s been interesting – I’m the same person, but if you put me in two different places, I’m either this conservative, normal guy, or this weird cat from the west coast.
CH: You’ve mentioned trying not to press, trying not to think about what’s happened in past plate appearances, but when you’re at the plate, what’s going through your head? Are you a "see ball, hit ball" guy, or are you more cerebral?
LA: When I’m going well, yeah (I’m a see ball, hit ball guy). When I’m going well, I’m just getting the foot down early and just letting it ride. I try to do my thing getting in early work and even in BP, that’s what I’ve been really good at this year. I can really pinpoint that when I’m not going well is when I have a lot going on in my head. And I’m a thinker, I think a lot, that’s just the way my brain works. But when I think a lot, that’s when I get out of my approach and don’t take swings I want to take and swing at pitches I don’t want to swing at. I’ve really got to focus in on just focusing on maybe one thought, "get that foot down early", or, "see the ball", or something where it’s not really mechanical.
CH: If you could go back to the summer of 2006 and talk to yourself, having just graduated high school and been drafted by the Red Sox
, is there anything that you would tell yourself?
LA: Don’t buy the Fender Strat(ocaster). That probably would be one of them. You want more baseball-wise?
CH: Not necessarily.
LA: Maybe take a flight from Hungary to Turkey instead of taking the train? Although, we saw some cool stuff on the train.… Probably the main thing would be just to enjoy the present moment, because we get into these patterns, really, as Americans and as a global people as well, where we say "I’ve got to do well in middle school to get into a good high school," then "I’ve got to do well in high school to get into a good college," then "I’ve got to do well in college to get a good job," and "I’ve got to get a great job to support my family and make lots of money," and then "oh my god I’m so stressed," and then "I’m 60 years old and didn’t get to do all these things I wanted to do." So I always tell myself, and I think I’ve done an alright job with this, do the things that you want to do, see the things that you want to see, live the life you want to live, and not get too far into the future and have fun. When I’m most unhappy or stressed out or anxious is when I’m thinking about what my life’s going to be like in 20 years, and how I’m going to get to that point, instead of just enjoying this trip that we’re on.
CH: I guess that leads into the next thing I wanted to ask you. You work as a professional baseball player. That’s your profession. What do you consider the best and worst part of being a professional baseball player?
LA: Well the best part is that you get to play baseball for a profession. That’s an obvious answer. The worst part is that it’s tough socially. When I see my brothers and sister, and I see the community around them, and I go to their house and they have all these people coming over, all these friends from different walks of life just coming over and hanging out, it can be lonely at times not having that. I’m living in a spot by myself for the time being, and I don’t have an arena outside of baseball to just go hang out. And to create a community vibe, you have to be somewhere for a while. I’m here for what, four months? Really it’s two months, since you’re here for a week at a time and then you leave again. And you start making some friends, and then it’s all over. It’s a really transient lifestyle, kind of nomadic. That’s another cool thing is that you get to see a lot of beautiful places and travel and meet new people, but sometimes you just want to go somewhere and have a nice conversation.
CH: As a player who presumably will be playing in Boston in the near future, you’re not going to be lacking in attention. Is that something you think about – that once you’re there, you’re no longer really anonymous? You look at Darnell McDonald
, he gets a game-winning hit on his first day, and suddenly he’s no longer anonymous. Is that something you think about?
LA: Yeah, it’s crazy. It sounds kind of nice right now, because if someone recognizes you and strikes up a conversation, it’s kind of an easy icebreaker. You can start a conversation and from there go different directions. But also, I’m sure it’s kind of obnoxious to walk down the street and just get harassed when you don’t feel like it, but I’m at a point right now where I’m really open to talking to folks, not necessarily about baseball, but about life, what their story is.
CH: We ask this in all of our interviews. Being in the system since ’06, you’ve played with a lot of guys. What teammate that you’re playing with now or in the past has impressed you the most? I guess we’ll go with on the field or whether that’s in another way, just in general.
LA: There’s two guys that have really helped me develop as a person. And I really cherish my friendships with a lot of these guys. But two people that I have the deepest connections with and the deepest friendships are Ryan Kalish
and Reid Engel
, who’s not playing anymore. Both those guys are a huge part of my whole gig.
CH: (Note: This interview was done prior to Ryan Kalish’s promotion from Portland) Now that you’re not with Kalish, when you’ve got a teammate that’s in the organization, how much do you follow what he’s doing, and then when you have a guy like Reid where he gets cut, what’s it like to have a friend go through that?
LA: Yeah it sucks. With Reid, I think in another organization he’d be playing every day, just getting cut at the end of spring, teams don’t have spots open. He wasn’t really open to playing indy ball, but I think he’s going to eventually get back into baseball somewhere. I don’t think people realize how talented he is. He was in the top five fastest guys in the organization – he had the top 30(-yard dash) time in spring training. He’s a good outfielder, could run some balls down, but he had some shoulder stuff bothering him. And he was a great teammate, always pulling for you. But it’s funny, both of us are terrible at keeping in touch in the offseason, but since he got released, we’ve talked way more than we ever did during the offseason. Obviously, during the season we always lived together and hung out, but I was talking to him yesterday, we were talking about the World Cup since we’re both soccer fans. Though he likes (Cristiano) Ronaldo, so he loses some points for that.
With Ryan, I was never really into looking at stats or things like that, but I’ve been following him. When I was there, he was hitting what, .230 or .240, but one of the hardest .230s or .240s I’ve ever seen, just crushing balls at people. He’s pretty consistent with his approach and how he plays the game. You can’t help but just be energized by watching him play. So he comes in and makes his team better even if he’s not swinging the bat well. Even if he’s playing terrible defensively and offensively, he’s going to make you better just by being in the dugout and in the clubhouse, which is a huge attribute.