Welcome to our most recent Road to the Show interview with Spinners DH/OF Ryan Westmoreland. Westmoreland is one of the Red Sox top prospects, ranking sixth in the system, and putting together a solid offensive season in his first professional campaign. Westmoreland is tied for the team lead in home runs, leads the team with a .846 OPS and is second on the team with 28 RBI’s.
Westmoreland was drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 MLB Draft out of Portsmouth (RI) High School. He missed all of last season with a shoulder injury and just played his first game in the outfield last night after serving as the Spinners DH for the entire season. Westmoreland started his professional career by reaching base in his first 25 games and will be appearing in the NY-Penn League All Star game tomorrow in State College, PA. Ryan, growing up locally, has always had a life long dream of playing for the Red Sox. Westmoreland took some time to talk with the Spinners Blog.
How has your experience in Lowell been so far? What would you say are the best things about Lowell, the most memorable?
Everything’s been great, the fans are great here, I mean growing up in Red Sox nation is one thing, but seeing how the fans treat the players is amazing. No moment really sticks out but the most memorable experiences are the walk off wins we have, because it really brings our team together, and its obviously exciting baseball. Hopefully we can make the playoffs and get to experience all that brings along with it.
You came out of High School as a highly regarded player, you had scouts following you, what was it like to play under that spotlight? Did you ever feel the pressure?
I felt a little pressure the first few times the scouts came because it was a new experience, but after the third or fourth game, I just blocked it out. You just have to let your ability speak for itself on the field, and believing in yourself is ultimately what will help get you through any nervousness you ever experience on the field.
A lot of people have compared you to Rocco Baldelli, do you know Rocco and what do you think of the comparison to Rocco?
I’ve known Rocco since I was about twelve, I was the Rays bat boy in 2002 and I’ve known him ever since. He’s a great player and just an overall wonderful person. The comparisons to him are amazing, us both being from Rhode Island and him being where I want to eventually be, I am honored to even be talked about in the same breath as Rocco.
You also pitched in high school; did any teams show interest in drafting you as a pitcher? Do you enjoy pitching or playing the field more?
I don’t remember any professional teams looking at me as a pitcher, a lot of college teams did though. I like playing everyday, I got bored pitching every five days and not being able to get out there and play every single day.
You played in the Dominican Instructional League, what was that experience like?
It was a great experience; I got to see a whole new world, met a bunch of great guys, and picked up some Spanish. Being able to learn some Spanish, and be around a different culture was really useful now that I find myself in such a multicultural clubhouse such as ours.
You had shoulder surgery this past year, do you feel the surgery has set you back, do the Red Sox have you on their shoulder program?
I don’t really know if it set me back, I would have loved to play last year. I don’t feel like it really pushed me back from where I wanted to be though. As far as my shoulder, I am on a bunch of different strengthening programs and the Red Sox throwing program. I’m feeling good right now and look forward to being able to get time playing in the field.
Can you tell us a bit about what it was like to play in your first game here in Lowell and what it was like to collect your first homerun?
First game here in Lowell was amazing, I never played in front of more than like 50-100 people. I came out of the dugout and there was like 5,000 people. It was overwhelming at first; I had some butterflies my first at bat, but then I settled down. The home run was one of those pitches that come at you in slow motion. Before the pitch, I was hoping it would be inside, when he released it I saw it was inside and the ball looked big and I drove it out to right.
You grew up in Rhode Island, who was your favorite player growing up?
My favorite players were definitely Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez. I idolized Nomar, it was tough seeing him leave for Chicago, but great to see him get that ovation when he came back to Fenway with the A’s.
What is something about you that most people wouldn’t know?
I do a lot of things opposite from the way you would think. I play ping pong lefty but tennis lefty. In golf, I drive righty but putt lefty. I’m a big video game guy as well. I was into Call of Duty and Halo for a while and now I am into Tiger Woods and Madden, so I will definitely challenge you to a game.
You were going to play for Vanderbilt before signing with the Red Sox, how did you feel about playing for Vanderbilt, why did you decide to sign with the Red Sox instead of playing at Vanderbilt? Do you have any plans to get a college degree in the future?
I really respected the whole program, and it wasn’t easy to turn down playing for such a great program. At the same time, after getting drafted, I realized if I signed out of High School that it gave me my best chance to make it to the pros quickly. I knew once I was picked by the Red Sox that I wanted to sign and get started. Of course, being the Red Sox who drafted me helped make my decision a lot easier.
What was the process like when you were drafted and signed with the Red Sox?
I think it was a two day draft, the first few rounds the first day, the rest the second day. I had been hearing a bunch of different things from different teams, some said first round, some third, etc. It was a long day, and I was following the draft online, then a few minutes before their pick in the fifth round, the Red Sox called me to tell me they were taking me with the pick. I was super excited that it was them calling, it was my hometown team. After I got drafted, they wanted to see me play some more in the summer. The negotiations went up right to the wire. The day before the deadline we got it done after some lengthy negotiations.
You are a local player, did you ever dream of playing for the Red Sox and in Fenway Park, and what do you think of that possibility in the future?
I’ve always been a Red Sox fan, growing up in Rhode Island I always had a dream of playing in Fenway. I can’t wait until the day comes, but for now I am focused on staying grounded and doing my best wherever I find myself playing.
What Goals do you have for this season and for the future?
The main goal is to help this team win; we will see where that takes me as well as the team. I really just want to get my feet wet professionally and show what I can do on and off the field.
If you could give young players one tip what would it be?
The biggest thing is it’s what you do during practice that makes you the player you are. If you go out and dog it during practice, you might get away with it for awhile, but down the line when everyone starts getting better, your going to be exposed for not putting in the work during practice. What you do in practice is just as, if not more important than what you do during the game.
Ryan, you’ve had a lot of success at the plate this season, you lead the team with six homeruns, OPS, and OBP, what do you attribute your success to at the plate?
I think it’s really about going out everyday and sticking to the same routine. Working with (hitting coach) Luis Lopez, and staying consistent. Luis stresses going up to the plate with the same plan, instead of changing your plan every at bat, remembering what you’re trying to accomplish and sticking with that plan.
A lot of people are interested in seeing you play the field, what is the timetable for you playing the outfield and how would you describe your play in the field?
Mid to late August I should be out in the field full time. I would characterize my play in the field as consistent. I don’t do anything too flashy; I just go out and try to make all the plays in a consistent manner.
I have to ask you about the trade rumors that circled around you near the trade deadline, how did you feel about the rumors? Did you have any contact with the Red Sox regarding the trade rumors? How would you have reacted had you actually been traded?
I didn’t really hear anything directly. I hear it initially on ESPN, and then the next day I had a ton of text messages from people asking what was going on. It’s not like I wouldn’t go to another organization, I love the Red Sox, I wouldn’t necessarily want to leave, but that’s the business of baseball. If I did get traded, it just means I’m playing for another organization; I’d go out and work hard just like I did here.
What teammate here has impressed you the most?
Derrik Gibson, he goes out every night and gives 100 percent no matter what. He’s fun to watch, unbelievably fast, a great player, a great hitter, just an all around five tool guy. He’s going to be something special. He’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.
A number of players have told us that you are a leading force in the clubhouse, do you find yourself as a leader amongst the team and how do you go about being a leader?
I wouldn’t call myself a vocal leader. I’m not a rah-rah guy, I lead by example. I won’t get in someone’s face for something they did. I just go out and play the game right, and hope everyone follows my lead.
You appeared in a Futures at Fenway commercial, talk a bit about that whole experience.
I haven’t seen the commercial yet. I’ve gotten a lot of messages, people laughing, and making fun of me. I went to Framingham, and there was a birthday party going on, they had the whole scene set up where I had to go bash a piñata, with a bunch of young kids. It was fun for sure. It was weird wearing a Sea Dogs jersey, but very interesting seeing how long it took to shoot what eventually turns out to be a 15 second commercial. I loved doing it for sure.
Check back later this week for our Road to the Show feature with Alex Wilson