The chance to play in the major leagues is a dream that only becomes a reality for few. From the early days of smacking inside the infield home runs off a tee to the moments that make heroes in those late inning high school games – these players have encountered it all. Yet there is one stop on the road to the majors that most players don’t have the honor of experiencing – playing ball at legendary Fenway Park.
On Saturday July 10th, 2010 the Lowell Spinners will play a home game away from home at 4 Yawkey Way in Boston MA (aka Fenway Park). Be apart of this great opportunity to watch the players of tomorrow play “today” at Fenway.
Tickets and information
Minor League Doubleheader:
Game 1 — 12:05 p.m. ET • Single-A Short Season affiliates •
Lowell Spinners (BOS) vs. Jamestown Jammers (FLA)
Game 2 — After end of Game 1 • Single-A Advanced affiliates •
Salem Sox (BOS) vs. Potomac Nationals (WAS)
Drew Dominguez was one of the more unheralded players to take the field for the Spinners this season, coming out of division three Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Dominguez quickly became a fan favorite, not only because he grew up in nearby Braintree, Massachusetts, but also because of his passion for the game and his cheerful interactions with Spinner fans. Drew was the first Wesleyan baseball player to appear in a professional game in 44 years. Drew sat down to talk with the Spinners Blog before the end of the season to discuss his time in Lowell this far, his long-term goals, and share some interesting facts.
You were signed as a non-drafted free agent, was there any teams that showed interest during the draft and can you walk us through how you ended up signing with the Red Sox?
The Sox were the only team that I had any contact with, they were actually at a Trinity game scouting (Jeremiah) Bayer and I had a great game against them so Ray Fagnant got in touch with me. I had agreed to go to Europe to play ball, I was really interested in it for the ability to travel and see all of Europe since they only play 3-4 games a week. I was scheduled to go over to Europe on a Monday and the call from the Sox came the Friday before, so I cancelled my plans with Europe and they were excited for me, and were really supportive.
What was your most memorable college experience?
Making the playoffs this past season, recently the program hasn’t been that good. I hadn’t been in the playoffs since I started playing at Wesleyan, and I think this year was the first year we had made it since 1999. We just snuck in, we needed a win and another team to lose and it happened to work out for us.
I hear you played some other sports during college, tell us about your non-baseball career?
Sure, I was senior captain of the football team, I played free safety and returned kicks. I was actually recruited by Wesleyan for football. I loved playing both sports, made a ton of friends on both teams.
You have a passion for the law, do you have any plans to study law in the future?
I majored in government with the assumption that I would be going to law school. I still intend on going to law school and will be taking the LSAT’s before the end of 2009. Once I am done with my baseball career, I’ll apply to law schools and see what happens. I want to stay around the game, so this experience here is great for me. I really have visions on becoming an agent or a front office executive one day. Being here in Lowell is only going to help me reach that dream, of course I’d love to make it as a player but I am realistic.
Growing up so close to Boston, how was is it playing for the organization that you grew up following so closely?
It’s unbelievable, absolutely a dream come true to step out on the field for the Red Sox franchise. I have family at almost every game pulling for me, I would have never in my wildest dreams thought that it would have been possible, but here I am and I just love every day I get to be a part of what goes on here in Lowell.
Who was your favorite player growing up?
I admired a lot of players growing up, and I am a huge fan of the game. A current player that I really thing goes out and plays the game right is Dustin Pedroia. Back in the day, I was a huge Nomar fan, I know he got a tough rap towards the end of his stay here, but he was such a dynamic force earlier in his career.
What is something about Drew Dominguez most people don’t know?
I played basketball in high school, I was a two-guard in high school and I didn’t play in college. I love basketball just didn’t have the height to go anywhere with it.
Chez Angeloni was an unheralded un-drafted free agent who signed with the Red Sox immediately following the 2009 draft. Working as a starter for division III Johns Hopkins University, he compiled an 18-7 career record while winning the Most Outstanding Player award for the 2008 Division III College World Series. In the first game of the series, Angeloni threw a complete game eight strikeout performance to hand Trinity its lone loss of the season. Chez split his 2009 professional season between the GCL Red Sox and the Lowell Spinners, becoming a key member of the Lowell bullpen during their playoff run. Angeloni took some to answer some questions with the Spinners Blog.
You were signed as an un-drafted free agent, can you tell us what the process was like in signing with the Red Sox, and was there any interest in you by any teams during the draft?
It was pretty sweet, I got a phone call one day that they had a spot open in Fort Myers. I was like seriously, I’m going to play for the Red Sox? I just flew down there, got my stuff together and got started. In terms of interest before the draft, there wasn’t a whole lot, a few times took some looks, I didn’t know what to expect. In the end, this is a dream come true, it’s better than I could have imagined.
You were a starter at John’s Hopkins, but this season you have come out of the Spinners bullpen, which role do you prefer?
I prefer starting because I have done it my entire baseball career before getting here. However, I just want to do whatever it is that helps the team win and gets me innings. If that means that I am in the bullpen, then that’s where I will be and work my hardest at.
Can you tell us a bit about the pitches you feature?
I throw a sinker, a cut fastball, a slider, a changeup and a four-seam fastball.
Your team at John’s Hopkins had a lot of success, including making it to the college world series, what was your most memorable moment in college?
Two years ago in the CWS we faced Trinity, which is interesting because I am played with a few of those guys here in Lowell (DiBenedetto, Killeen, Bayer). Unfortunately, we ended up losing to Trinity but it was a great experience that I am sure will help me down the line in similar playoff type of situations.
Even though you spent a short time in Lowell this season, what stood out to you most about playing here?
This is a great place to play, everybody is happy to be here, the fans are just amazing. The personnel that works with us here on a day to day basis is just world class, they really put us in the best position to be better each and every day.
If you could attribute your success to one thing what would it be?
My success comes when I throw strike one. Getting ahead of the hitter is probably the most important way to be successful as a pitcher. Another thing that makes me successful is getting my sinker down in the zone and inducing ground balls. When I can do both things, I am going to have a good day.
You were named most outstanding player of the college world series in 2008, how did you feel about that honor?
At first I didn’t want to think about it since we had lost the World Series, winning as a team is much better than any award I could be given. I was disappointed, but after some time I realized what a great honor it was and I was very happy to have received it. I think it really served as a motivational tool for me to make it back to the CWS this year.
What is something about Chez Angeloni that most people don’t know?
I’ve got some serious hops, I can dunk a basketball no problem.
Welcome to our latest installment of Road to the Show with Spinners outfielder Wilfred Pichardo. Pichardo has had a breakout season in 2009, hitting .302 and setting the Spinners single season record for stolen bases with 32. Pichardo was named the NY-Penn League Player of the Week for the week August 17-24, 2009. Wilfred has served primarily as the Spinners leadoff hitter this season, after playing briefly in Lowell last season before a hamstring injury ended his season.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a sixteen year old in 2006, Pichardo showed prowess in all parts of his game, including his defense, as he continues the transition from second base to centerfield. Wilfred took some time to answer a few questions for the Spinners blog with the assistance of Hitting Coach Luis Lopez to translate.
You originally played second base, now you have transitioned to center field, how has the transition gone for you and what position do you feel more natural at?
I feel more comfortable playing the outfield. It hasn’t been easy to transition from playing second base to playing centerfield there are a lot of differences between the two positions. I have really dedicated myself to working hard to learn the outfield the best I can.
You’ve had a lot of success here in Lowell in 2009, what if anything would you attribute this success to?
I have been very happy with my success this season; a big part of it is separating from a lot of things that had distracted me in the past. I feel I have matured and broken away from some things that were holding me back, it really gives me a new perspective. I always want to get better and even though this season has been successful for me, I feel like I have a long road ahead of me and I know that I have to work hard every day to become the player I know I can be. The use of my speed has been something that has helped me not only in taking bases, but legging out base hits and being able to play quality defense.
Speaking of base stealing, you have had a lot of success stealing bases this season, what approach do you take when you are looking to steal a base?
The most important thing is to read the pitcher, I like to study the pitcher’s motion toward the plate and get a feel for when is the best time to take off. I find the key to stealing bases is getting a good jump; this comes from reading the pitcher and figuring out the best moment to take off. When you are trying to steal bases you have to be confident, have no fear. If you believe in your speed and you put in the work reading pitchers, you can steal bases pretty naturally.
You were named NY-Penn League player of the week for the week of August 17-24th, how did you feel about this honor?
I was excited when I first heard about it, I’m not a guy who goes out seeking awards, I just like to go out and play hard. The award is really a testament to my teammates and my coaches helping me become a better player. I am surrounded by so many great guys here and this is their award just as much as it is mine. The award means a lot to me because it means that my hard work is paying off and that I am making a statement with my play on the field.
What was the signing process like with the Red Sox?
I spent a little over ten days back in 2006 working out for the Red Sox in their Dominican Academy. I played in front of a bunch of scouts and it was really just “lights-out”, they told me the loved what I could do and wanted to get me signed. It was a fairly smooth process after that and I have just moved through the system ever since, just working hard wherever I go.
How has the transition been from the D.R. to America?
I am still adjusting and it’s a constant work in progress. The biggest things are the language barrier and the difference in cultures. I haven’t been here in America that long and already I feel like I am doing well in acclimating myself as much as I can to the culture and also learning English the best that I can. Just like I work to improve my game, I have to work to learn English and the culture of America.
What moment during this season has been the most memorable and why?
There was a game this season where we played Oneonta on August 23rd. We scored a lot of runs and I feel like I really acted to set the pace for that game by getting on base and distracting the pitcher on the base paths (Pichardo went 2-3 with 2 BB’s and a stolen base). I did what I needed to do to help the team, I scored quite a few runs that day and that’s a big part of my game, getting on base, scoring runs, that’s what helps the team win.
What are your goals for the rest of this season and the future?
Just keep working hard, finish this season strong and work hard every day. I really don’t want to look to far ahead because I know there’s a lot of work that has to be done to bring my game to the next level. Anything I can do to help the team I find myself on win and anything I can do to improve myself are goals that I constantly have.
Stay tuned for further Road to the Show interviews coming soon!
Welcome to our most recent Road to the Show interview with Spinners 1B/OF Drew Hedman. Hedman was drafted in the 50th and final round of the 2009 MLB Draft out of Division III Pomona College. He dominated competition this year, hitting 24 home runs, batting .489 and posting a .569 OBP. Hedman has had a successful first professional season thus far in Lowell and hit .320 in August. Drew sat down with the Spinners blog to answer a few questions.
You were picked in the 50th and final round of the 2009 MLB Draft, what was draft day like for you and what was the level of interest in you before the draft by the Red Sox and other teams?
There was definitely some interest both from the Red Sox and other teams; I probably talked to 15 different teams in all so I figured I’d be picked up by someone. Draft day was pretty stressful really, I obviously had to wait until the 50th round, everything I heard was for sure I would be taken on the second day, but that didn’t happen. I had to wait until the third day it was a stressful process but I was happy to hear my name called and especially by a franchise like the Red Sox.
You dominated at Pomona this season, hitting 24 home runs; can you describe your time at Pomona and talk about your favorite college moment?
My time at Pomona was great; it’s a division three small school, a different baseball experience than most big time programs. This year we were ranked the number one team in D3 for quite awhile. We had a great team; I have a lot of great memories. My favorite moment was either my sophomore year when we won our league for the first time in a while or this year when we flew up to Oregon for regionals; really seeing the team come together was something I will never forget.
Would you say Power is a big part of your game?
Not necessarily, I feel like its something that just happens. A lot of the home runs I hit I think were line drives that I hit well that just cleared the fence. As you can tell by my numbers here it’s been a lot of doubles, no home runs as of yet. It’s nice to get extra base hits; I’m not focused on hitting home runs. I feel like if I hit the ball well then the home runs will come, I consider myself more of a gap to gap line drive hitter.
You have played the outfield as well as first base this season, which position do you feel suits you better and why?
Right now I still feel more comfortable at first, that’s where I played most of my college career. I’m starting to feel more comfortable in the outfield; my first game out there was a bit different. You have different angles; it’s a long way away from home plate. I’m a good first baseman and a good outfielder, whatever helps the team and gets me in the lineup is where I’ll play.
Describe how it was to play in your first professional game here in Lowell compared to what you were accustomed to in college and high school.
It was great, opening night there was 5,000 people here. My first at bat I got hit in the ribs, I was jogging down to first thinking wow welcome to professional baseball Drew. I’ve had a great time here, at Pomona I was playing in front of like 50 people, half of which being students the other half being family. I just make sure to have fun every step of the way.
You have had a hot month of August, is there any reason for your recent success?
I think it’s just the process of getting acclimated to professional ball, getting used to playing every day, finding what works well for you. Recently I have started getting into a groove, getting consistent at bats and playing time. You get into a rhythm and I think this month I’ve started to find that groove.
What are your goals for the future?
Just to get better every day as a player. I want people to say “hey this guy was picked in the 50th round and he made it to the show”. Obviously making it to Fenway would be my long term goal, for now just making strides in my game and just moving along the ladder.
What is something about Drew Hedman that most people don’t know?
I studied in Spain for four months during college so I lived there for awhile; another thing is I like to play the piano, that’s something I’m sure people would never guess.
What teammate has impressed you most this season and why?
There are a lot of good players here, obviously Ryan Westmoreland stands out. He is really impressive, I feel bad for him just getting hurt like he did the other day, but he has had a great first season. Everyday he’s very consistent in his approach, he gets the job done day in and day out and that’s what it’s all about.
What is your most memorable moment from the season?
I would say opening night, realizing that it’s not college ball anymore and this is what I’m being paid to do. I remember coming into the clubhouse seeing all the guys who played here who are in the majors, and realizing that you are now on the same path that they once were, just truly amazing to realize that.
Just because the Spinners season is coming to a close, doesn’t mean you’ve seen the last of the Road to the Show series, stay tuned for interviews with Wilfed Pichardo, Drew Dominguez, Chez Angeloni, Alex Wilson and Jordan Flasher.
Welcome to our latest installment of Road to the Show, with Spinners starter Drake Britton. Britton was drafted in the 23rd round of the 2007 Amateur Draft by the Boston Red Sox after sliding down draft boards due to a strong commitment to Texas A+M. Britton eventually signed for a sizeable bonus for a late round pick and began his career in Lowell last season. Drake’s season was cut short by injury and eventual Tommy John surgery.
After a lengthy rehab, Britton made four appearances in the GCL before making his way back to Lowell this past Wednesday. Britton is a highly regard prospect, being a southpaw who’s fastball reaches the upper nineties, a 12-6 curve and a changeup. Drake took some time to answer some questions for the Spinners Blog.
Drake, you started your career in Lowell last season, talk about how this season compares to last season?
Last season, I was really unsure about my delivery and I hurt my arm August 3rd of last year. I had a year to get everything back on track pitching wise, so I feel like I came back a lot stronger this year than I was last year. It was hard knowing you weren’t a hundred percent and having to battle that as well as hitters the entire season.
When I had my surgery, they told me it was a gradual tear of my ulnar collateral ligament that was created over two or three years. I remember feeling it just give out on me when I was throwing a pitch in that game on August 3rd of last year. I knew right away that it was going to be awhile until I was back on the mound.
You were drafted in 2007, what was draft day like for you and the process leading up to your signing?
Draft day was out of sync for me, I really didn’t know what to expect or where I was going to end up. I tried not to put a lot of thought into it and I was just hoping for the best. The Red Sox called me on the second day, telling me they picked me and wanting to get me in the fold. The Sox wanted to see me pitch some more before signing me so I had to pitch all throughout the summer; it wasn’t a done deal after the draft at all. I was very excited it was the Red Sox who drafted me; I had to go through a long process of meetings and negotiations to get my deal finally wrapped up.
Do you have anything special you do to prepare for a game?
I like to pray before every inning it’s just something I like to do to mentally prepare myself to take the mound.
You were drafted out of Tomball High in Texas, how was it playing in Tomball?
I loved Tomball, I got called up to varsity when I was a sophomore, I played three years on varsity and we had a great team every year. I really enjoyed my time there, just playing with a bunch of great kids and having a great time playing baseball. I did play some football freshman year but I think I was a backup defensive lineman so nothing special, baseball was where I was focused.
You were committed to Texas A+M before signing with the Red Sox, was that hard to pass up?
It was, I went to a couple of games out there and I loved the surroundings, the fans, it was a tough choice to turn it down. I wanted to play pro ball earlier than I thought after seeing the situation I was going to be getting myself into with the Red Sox. Just seeing the success they have had with development of young players over the years and knowing they would take good care of me went a long way toward my decision to sign.
Has the surgery affected you at all, how do you feel you have come back from it?
I have felt no ill effects from the surgery, I feel stronger than ever, which is completely opposite from last year. In 2008, I never really felt I was at my best. Even though nobody ever likes to have surgery or be injured, I feel like it was a great thing for me to have the surgery, because I am pitching better than I ever have right now.
Growing up who were your favorite team and player?
I didn’t really have a favorite team; I loved Ken Griffey Jr., so I am happy to see him back with the Mariners where he belongs.
What goals do you have for this season and the future?
This season I just want to stay healthy and keep my arm strong. I want to work hard in the off-season and come back to spring training looking to take my game to the next level.
What is your most memorable baseball experience?
The one moment that sticks out to me most came in my junior year when I pitched against Cy Fair High School (Cypress, TX). They beat me the first part of the year, and we had to beat them to make the playoffs. That first time facing them I got absolutely hammered, then that game we needed to win, I absolutely shut them down so it was amazing being able to come through like that for my team.
What is something about you that most people don’t know?
I am a huge entourage fan, other than that I’m just an ordinary easy going guy.
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
Welcome to the latest edition of Road to the Show, with one of the top prospects thus far from the Red Sox 2009 draft, Alex Hassan.
Alex Hassan originally hails from the Boston area, and is now the everyday right fielder for your Lowell Spinners. He joined the team later than most, making his professional debut August 1 after signing a contract to forego his senior season at Duke. Scouted as both a position player and relief pitcher in college, he has seen action only in the outfield thus far in Lowell.
Hassan has waisted no time in establishing himself as one of the more potent bats in the Spinners’ lineup. Through twelve games, Alex has batted .383 to go along with an impressive .408 OBP and .855 OPS. All three of these stats would place him near the league lead in the NYPL if he had enough at-bats to qualify. Recently, Hassan took some time out of his busy schedule to sit down and answer a few questions for the blog.
Playing high school baseball at B.C. High makes you the prototypical ‘native son’ considering your place in professional baseball now. Growing up so close to Boston, you must have been exposed to the Red Sox from quite a young age. How does it feel now to now be playing for the Red Sox franchise?
Between living in Milton and going to school in Dorchester, I definitely was always around the city. It’s really neat now getting to play for the Red Sox organization, especially after growing up as big of a Sox fan as I was. It’s just something that I’m really fortunate to be able to do. I honestly couldn’t be happier with the place I’m at right now.
Speaking of B.C. High, you must have had some incredible times there. Not only did you win Massachusetts Louisville Slugger Player of the Year honors in 2006, but you also won team state championships in both AAU and Legion play while excelling as a pitcher. If you had to pick one memory from those years, what would it be and why?
My favorite moments really came with the Legion Team Post 114, just because it was kids that I grew up with. Most of the kids were from Milton, so I knew a lot of them really well outside of the game, some were even my best friends. Being able to win a state title with those guys was something that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Those were definitely some of the best times I’ve ever had in baseball, even to this day.
The individual award was a nice pat on the back for all the hard work, but it didn’t mean as much to me. The team accomplishments will always hold a bigger place for me.
Your college recruitment process must have been interesting considering how much you had to offer. How did you navigate through all this and eventually find your way to Duke?
The decision about where I’d play on the field was a big thing for me in my college search. I wanted to make sure I had the opportunity to give both pitching and the outfield a try before figuring it out. At first I was recruited more as a pitcher. Then once the scouts came, they’d see me hit a few times in practice and eventually I got interest for both positions.
A lot of programs told me that they wanted me for both, including my eventual choice Duke. Once I got there it was pretty much the same story. It went back and forth throughout my college career as to what I’ve been better at. But like I said, I think the right decision has ultimately been made here (focusing on outfield).
It came down to Duke, BC, and Notre Dame. I had those three schools finalized for a while. Once I actually visited Duke’s campus though, I knew immediately that was where I’d end up. It was clear to me at that point, and there was very little doubt.
Obviously then, Boston College was one of your final cuts when arriving at a choice for school. Did you ever feel any pressure, either internally or externally, to head down the street and play ball in Chestnut Hill for the hometown Eagles?
They recruited me just like any other school. One thing I wanted to avoid going into it was shutting out my other options just because I went to B.C. High. There’s definitely a connection there, but I really wanted to look around and evaluate each school for what it offered as a whole. Once I did that, it was clear to me that Duke was going to be it.
Your freshman season at Duke was quite a roller coaster. Playing in 54 games total, you saw action as an outfielder and a pitcher. Your statistics were not overwhelmingly impressive in either category, but you remained more than respectable in both roles. Did this workload hurt your performance at all down the stretch that season, or was it more of an adjustment to the college game overall?
Yeah, I think it took a toll on me physically more than anything. Being a starting pitcher and playing the outfield as a true freshman, it was tough. Looking back on the time, it was definitely something where I didn’t want to admit how much of a challenge it was for me.
Especially being a guy that young, I wasn’t as physically developed as most guys on the team.
I’m really fortunate that I was given that opportunity, even though I had my fair share of struggles that season. Everything I went through that year helped me become the player that I am now. Doing both allowed me to sort a lot of things out.
At this point in your college career, was there any indication as to which position you would choose as your long term best fit?
There actually was some talk in that off-season that I wouldn’t pitch as much the following year. I was probably heading for a reserve bullpen role, but then our closer got injured and everything changed. I stepped in for him, and it ended up being a lot easier on my body than starting. Even though I got used more often, the fewer innings helped keep me fresh to play in the field.
Can you expand at all on how closing helped you develop your entire game?
Closing was a pretty unique opportunity for me. I had the chance to really contribute to the team every game, even ones where I had gone 0 for 4 at the plate. When my offensive game wasn’t there, I would lean on closing as a way to stay positive. Normally, I’d play the field for the first 6 innings, then head out to the bullpen in some sort of double switch. Getting tired was never a problem. It served me in so many ways, I can only be grateful.
With the hardware to prove it (08 Rawlings Gold Glove Team), you are known amongst scouts as a very strong defensive outfielder. Even in your short time in Lowell, you already have multiple run-saving assists. Has your time spent on the mound helped you at all develop this dimension of your game?
I think, more than anything, it has helped me with my accuracy. For some reason, I feel like arm accuracy is always overlooked from a defensive standpoint. It doesn’t matter how hard you throw or how big your arm is if you can’t hit a target. Pitching has absolutely helped me develop those skills that I otherwise wouldn’t have developed.
On top of your duties at Duke, you also played for Orleans of the Cape Cod Baseball League in each of the last two summers. This past season, you were named to the League’s All Star Team after success in (no surprise) a multi-position role. How did your time in the Cape help you as a player, and how did it feel to be recognized in one of the nation’s truly elite settings?
That’s where I first started getting looked at as a pitcher, for the most part at least. I can honestly say that I probably learned more that first summer than I ever have playing any full season of baseball elsewhere. I had a number of failures, but I think that it made me a lot stronger mentally both as a person and a baseball player.
I made [the all-star team] as an outfielder. I expected the same thing going in this season that I had last summer there, so it was a little more comfortable with the playing time. Most of the staff was the same as it was from 2008, so I have to credit them with helping me along.
I knew the Red Sox were going out there to originally watch me as a pitcher, so I just went in with the expectations to close out every game I could and still get some at-bats in the outfield.
At some point along the way, you must have felt like picking one position would be best for your long term development. How were you able to put this aside and take on such demanding roles from nearly every team you’ve played on?
I always knew that id be better if I could just concentrate on one. At Duke though, they needed me to play both ways. It was something out of team need more than anything. Ideally I would have been able to focus on one and try and get better throughout my time there, but that’s just not the way it turned out. I’m really happy with how my career ended up, and it feels special to have played both spots for so long.
You have been extremely successful since arriving here in Lowell. Your numbers do more than speak for themselves, but tell us how you’ve stepped in to be so efficient in your first action as a professional?
I just think that the coaching staff and players here have really done a really god job of making me feel welcome. I can honestly say that the transition has been really easy for me just because of how comfortable I’ve felt from day one. There aren’t many places that would be so open, but I can’t say enough about this group of guys. I’ve felt like a part of the team ever since I walked through the door.
So, just to clarify, are there any plans to return as a pitcher at some point?
No, to my knowledge there really aren’t. Now I’ve just accepted the decision and I’m really excited to finally specialize. One of the final times they scouted me in the Cape, they came up and told me how I would be used. It was a little surprising that day, but I think their track record speaks for itself so I will not argue.
Check back early next week for our next installment featuring Ryan Westmoreland!
Derrik Gibson was the Red Sox fourth pick (2nd round, 77th overall) in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. Gibson started last season with the GCL Red Sox before making a cameo in Lowell. He was twice named the Delaware High School Player of the Year and three times the All-State performer at Seaford Senior High School. Gibson was also named a 2008 Baseball America First-Team High School All-American after hitting .636 with five homers and 29 RBIs.
In addition to being a star at the plate, Gibson also won fifteen games as a pitcher over his last two high school seasons. Gibson is known for his speed, being deemed the fastest base runner in the Red Sox organization by Baseball America. In Lowell this season, Gibson got off to a hot start, hitting .471 in June; he slumped in July, but has hit .381 so far in August and leads the Spinners with 20 stolen bases. Derrik took some time to talk with the Spinners Blog.
You got off to a great start, hitting .471 in June, what would you attribute your early success to?
I would have to say my success came from just working with some coaches to refine my swing and just my approach. I told myself to stay middle of the field, go gap to gap. If you stay in the middle of the field it’s the biggest part of the field, you’ll have success with balls over the plate, you won’t pull off of the ball. That’s what I try to tell my self, stay middle of the field, go gap to gap, and I’ll be alright.
After your hot start, you’ve had some struggles, is there anything you can attribute this to?
Going off of what I said before, I got away from my approach that I used in the beginning of the season. I was trying to pull balls over the plate, its one of those things being younger you get away from things that have made you successful and you feel invincible. You start thinking to yourself, I’ve been doing great, and I’ll be able to do this. That’s how it happened with me, I thought I could just rip the ball and I found out real quick I couldn’t do that. Once I figured it out, I’ve gotten back to the approach that made me successful and I can see a difference. The results may not be there all the time, but I can be happy with my at bats and the counts that I am able to work. I think I am getting back to where I was in June with my at bats recently.
This is your second go around here in Lowell, what are your goals for this season? What part of your game are you working on the most?
Compared to last year, things have slowed down for me. Last year everything seemed like it was a thousand miles an hour, I didn’t focus and slow it down. Now I feel comfortable with the setting and playing in front of people. The thing that Coach Disarcina preaches the most is slowing things down and I think I’ve done a good job of that so far. In terms of goals we all just want to win this division and play consistent baseball and success will take care of itself.
Which teammate has impressed you the most this season?
Ryan Westmoreland has definitely impressed me a ton. He’s just been unbelievable; he’s super consistent I haven’t seen him throw too many at bats away. He drives the ball gap to gap with as much power as I’ve seen or played with. You name it he’s doing it right now. The best part is he’s a good clubhouse guy too he keeps it loose and fun and everybody loves him.
You currently are leading the team in steals, is speed a big part of your game? Do you see yourself as a top of the order table setter?
Getting on base is always my goal, just being able to disrupt what the pitcher is doing and set the tone of the game. Speed is definitely a big part of my game; if I don’t take bases then I’m just limiting myself. The one or two spot in the order is where I am comfortable. I think leading off the game you set the tone. In that first inning if you get on and score it takes a lot of pressure off your pitcher and your defense. I like being that guy that just tries to disrupt things for the opposing pitcher. I take it as a challenge.
You were a pitcher in High School and put up some impressive numbers, did you ever see yourself playing professionally as a pitcher?
I don’t know if I would call myself a pitcher or a thrower, I didn’t really see myself continuing with pitching in the pros. I wanted to play everyday and teams saw that as well. There were pros and cons to pitching. You set the tone for the game; you have the ball in your hand every pitch. You basically are the director of the game out on the mound. It’s great if you have a good game, not so great if you have a bad game. I really just had that itch to play everyday. I liked it, I enjoyed it, but I enjoy playing short or second more, even though I think there are more pros than cons to pitching.
You were drafted by the Red Sox in the second round in 2008, were you expecting to go to the Red Sox? What are your impressions of the organization so far?
It was honestly one of those things where you go into it just hoping for the best. I had no idea what team was going to take me. I just woke up draft day with an open mind and watched the draft with my family. When I did get that call it was an unbelievable experience it took me awhile to get off of cloud nine. I think one of the biggest things for me on draft day was seeing some of the guys that I played with get taken like Casey Kelly, who got taken before me in the first round.
Playing with Casey was special, we actually played together at USA baseball tryouts, he played short and I played second. It’s ironic that we ended up in the same organization and played together down here in Lowell.
Do the Red Sox have any specific goals for you this season and this offseason?
They didn’t give me anything specific, but their big thing was having a full season under my belt. Fielding wise my goals are to learn both second and short to the point where I am comfortable. Hitting wise I would have to say just staying with my approach and not getting away from what I do best. Overall, I think the Red Sox just want me to be athletic and do what I’ve been doing so far this year. I try to go at the game 110 percent and give it my all.
You’ve mainly played short during your time here in Lowell, do you see yourself as a shortstop or can you see yourself moving to a different position?
Right now I would say short is where I am most comfortable. Everything feels natural to me there. You throw to first base and you’re moving that way, on double plays you’re throwing that way, it’s just all natural movement. Second base feels a little awkward to me right now because it’s not like short, you don’t have that natural movement toward first. Short is not the easiest position to play, but its where I see myself eventually settling down.
Growing up who were your favorite team and player?
Being from Delaware, it would have to be the Orioles. I was probably the biggest Cal Ripken fan. Ever since I was little my parents would tell me Cal Ripken does this, Cal does that, and if he did it I did it. I loved watching him on a daily basis, the consecutive game streak was awesome, but just the way he played the game, he gave it his all. I definitely have a new found appreciation for Cal now that I play every day. When we’re about 40 games in, during a long road stretch, and your body aches or you are just fatigued, it takes a lot to give it your all. Cal went out there and did that for his entire career. It’s amazing how he played that many games in a row and played as hard as he did.
You had a commitment to UNC before signing with the Red Sox, was it a hard decision to make to pass up UNC?
Coach Fox and the whole program were very good to me. It’s hard when you build that relationship for about six months and then you have to tell them your going to sign and that you have to walk away from everything that you’ve built up over time. It’s such a great program and with them making the college world series, having a great staff, a new stadium, all that tradition, it was really hard. I really am happy with the decision I made though, I couldn’t envision a better organization to play for than Boston.
What is your most memorable moment in baseball and why?
Playing in front of these fans here is the best thing I can think of. The appreciation they have for us, it’s amazing that the Spinners have such a long sell out streak. They don’t call this Red Sox Nation for nothing; these fans love baseball and root for you no matter what. The players really appreciate it when you can play in front of fans that are so passionate and really pull hard for you.
Check back Thursday for our next installment with rookie sensation Alex Hassan
Michael Bugary is a left-handed relief pitcher who made his professional debut earlier this year in Lowell. Coming from the University of California, the Red Sox drafted Bugary in the 15th round of June’s Player Draft. His delivery allows him to deceive hitters, evidenced by his impressive strikeout numbers (12 K’s in 8.2 innings). Bugary is one of the lesser known products of the recent draft, and the Spinners Blog took some time to correct this with our recent interview.
After reading your bio, I understand that you were born very local in Boston, MA. You currently live in Salinas, CA and played your high school ball in Monterrey. At what age did your family leave New England, and were you here long enough to establish yourself as a Red Sox fan?
I was actually born in Leominster, not Boston. But a lot of people on the West Coast didn’t know where that was, so over time it kind of just turned into Boston because that was an easier answer. My parents and I were only there for a year or two because they were moving around in the military.
I can’t remember much of a connection [to the Sox] at all because I was so young. We moved out to California after that, and I spent basically my entire childhood out there. Not to disappoint, but I was naturally raised as a fan of West Coast teams such as the Angels and the A’s.
You had a very successful high school career in California, excelling as a two-way player. In your junior season you batted .659 with 15 homeruns, prompting scouts to rank you the #8 1B prospect in the entire country entering your senior year. Your offensive numbers regressed a little bit that season (.518 BA, 6 HRs), but you ended up throwing three no-hitters on the mound. Was this a conscious switch on your part to focus more on pitching, or was it based on team necessity and what your coaches wanted?
Coming into my junior year, no one really knew who I was. Teams weren’t preparing their game plans around me, so I was really able to shine as a hitter. My senior year was a different story, though. A lot of pitchers refused to throw me strikes, so that’s where you see the dip in power.
I drew a lot of walks, but the national attention definitely caused teams to work around me rather than through me like they did the year before. I guess it was just a coincidence that my pitching became so much more refined that season. It’s not like I focused on the mound any more than I had in the past.
What moment during your High School career would you say sticks out as the most memorable?
The no-hitter I had in the playoffs was really big for me. We won the state title that year, and it was especially rewarding after the up-and-down season that we had. It was really cool to enjoy a moment like that with all my buddies on the team.
With an impressive track record at both positions, you must have had a number of different options during the recruiting process. Was Cal one of the programs that offered you a chance to play both ways, or were you satisfied to be used as a pitcher only?
Yeah, that was a big thing for me during the whole process. A lot of schools wanted me to come in and specialize, giving up one or the other. Arizona State wanted me as strictly a hitter, and a lot of other schools had offers on the table to only pitch. I was a bigger hitting recruit coming out of high school I’d say, but I wanted to pitch as well so Cal was a natural choice once they gave me that option. Pac-10 baseball is always great, and the quality education just put it over the top.
Once you arrived in Berkeley, things didn’t necessarily take off right away. You appeared in eleven games as a freshman, taking home a loss in your only decision. After posting a 6.55 ERA in limited action, did you have to refocus your game at all and change your approach before coming back as a sophomore?
It was more of an adjustment to college life overall. In college, you’re all by yourself for the first time and there’s really no one there to help you. I battled a lot of injuries that season, missing the first twenty games of the year with arm problems. I actually came back and pitched well briefly, but it was a battle to stay healthy.
My knee started acting up towards the end of the season, and at that point I was still getting random at-bats as a 1B. There were some days when I didn’t know how I’d be used, so I think the toughest part was flipping that switch between pitching and hitting.
Speaking of your knee injury, it forced you to sit out the entire 2007 season after getting it scoped. At what point did this occur, and how did you initially react to being sidelined for an extended period of time?
It was more of a ground and pound injury than one certain moment, so I can’t really point to any particular game as the cause of it. I felt it even going back to high school, meaning it had to have been some form of overwork. I decided to get it taken care of during that summer because I couldn’t deal with having doubts about it anymore.
The recovery was actually a lot longer than we had intended, and I was having problems doing simple things like shuffling and sliding. That’s when I decided, after two years of limited action, to give up hitting altogether.
2007 ended up being a redshirt year for you, as time was necessary to recover from both right knee surgery, and left shoulder tendonitis. Although you surely had to be at the team facilities for rehab, was this time away from the game good for your long term development in any way? More specifically, did it change how you approached pitching mentally?
The time off absolutely helped me in more ways than one. It was hard, and I faced a lot of adversity along the way. And although it was definitely tough, I was humbled in a way that I never thought possible. I’m glad everything went down the way it did, because I realized what I missed about the game. Even just being around the guys, you take that for granted when you’re healthy. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change the way anything went down.
Coming back as a sophomore in 2008, you were limited to only four appearances with only one start. Although you had an impressive ERA of 1.59, the injuries must have played a role in the team employing you so little. At this point in time, were the procedures taking away form your effectiveness in terms of velocity and control on the mound? Or was it simply a matter of having to wait until the end of the year to get completely healthy?
My problems were just as much mental as they were physical that year. Nearly all of them stemmed from the injuries, but it was mostly my mind at this point. I wasn’t mentally prepared to go out there and pitch after missing so much time. The injuries set me back so far, so I just needed some time to get comfortable on the mound.
That’s where summer ball came into play. I went out to Indiana to play in the C.I.C.L. (Central Illinois Collegiate League), and it ended up being a huge confidence boost. They let me start ten games, so I finished pitching just over 50 innings. That summer really helped me get back in my groove, especially after nearly two years off.
Finally, in 2009, you became a true workhorse by leading the team with 28 appearances. You even started one game, and took home a save in another. Although your ERA was a tad lofty at 4.74, you exhibited tremendous potential by striking out 69 batters in just 49.1 IP. Do you think these impressive strikeout totals were the driving force in generating your buzz as a professional prospect?
There was actually a lot going on for me that season. The first half of the year I was doing really well, putting all my pitches together and dominating. But then there were a few injuries in our bullpen. Our closer went down, and then our main middle reliever got injured too. We were even down a starter at one point.
I ended up taking all three roles on at some point, and it was really hard to adjust. I’ll admit that fatigue started to wear on me. It’s especially hard to prepare when you’re not sure how you’ll be used on any given day. The team started struggling towards the end of the year, making it even tougher to pitch with the negative atmosphere in the locker room. My walks began to rise, which was my main problem. I’m confident, though, that my struggles were more a reflection of the situation than my ability.
In June, the Red Sox selected you in the 15th round (#468 overall) of the Amateur Player Draft. With one year of eligibility remaining at Cal, you chose instead to sign a professional contract and leave school to pursue your dream. Did you know right from the get-go that you’d forego your senior year, or were there some scenarios where you would have returned to Berkeley?
Coming off my sophomore season, I wasn’t really expecting to get drafted because I had only pitched six or seven innings. Then I had that good summer in Indiana, and my potential carried over into the fall. That’s when all the buzz started with scouts.
I took a step back to look at it, and realized that I didn’t have much schooling left. My redshirt year basically made me a senior with junior eligibility, so only a few more credits were needed to graduate. I saw that I had a narrow window, and since I was already at school for four years I took it. Once I heard it was the Sox who drafted me, it was a sure thing.
Really, the only thing keeping me from graduating now is my thesis paper. Once I get that done, I’ll be ready to walk. Writing 35 to 40 pages won’t be easy though, so I hope my travels here in baseball inspire me at some point. I’m not going to write it until I find something that I’m passionate about.
Now that you’ve been here in Lowell for over a month, you must be adjusting to the professional game in your own ways. With good results on the mound thus far (2.08 ERA, 13.4 K/9), can you tell us how you’ve been able to come in and be so effective whenever called upon?
A lot of my success here can be attributed to the preparation I went through in college. I’m finally used to being a reliever, after struggling as a starter at Cal. Some things didn’t work out, but I’m not worried about that anymore.
This is a great environment out here [in Lowell]. We’re treated well, and I know exactly when I’m going to pitch. That’s the biggest thing for me, just being prepared to take the ball. There are a lot of externalities that come with that, so it’s a constant adjustment. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the staff.
Finally, we have to ask what your plans are for the off-season. You’ll finish up in Lowell at some point in September, and you must have something in mind for the winter months. Do you plan on returning home to California for more sunny weather, or will you head down to Florida for more professional instruction?
I’m honestly not sure yet. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to go to the Instructional Leagues, but that’s not up to me. If not, I’ll head back to California and train just as hard as I always have. By the time spring training rolls around, I want to be a better pitcher.
Check back Monday for our next installment with Derrik Gibson!