Is this thing on? We’ll find out soon enough as today is the day we launch a comprehensive look into the upcoming season of Indianapolis Indians baseball. I am both nervous and excited to have this forum. Over the next 7 months we are going to take you on a journey through the International League. You will be with me every step of the way from Opening Night vs. Toledo to the final game of the year September 7th at Louisville.
Over the past couple of days I’ve struggled with how to open the website. I thought about opening with a summary of what to expect this year and then leave you with a tease for an upcoming post. I’ve decided to nix that idea. I think you’ll figure out after a few stops that you’ll need to add me to your favorites list. So let’s go ahead and get started with a little piece creatively call “Exchanging Emails.”
In 2008 Neil Walker took home the Indians team MVP award. The Pittsburgh native was the Pirates first round pick in 2004 out of Pine-Richland High School. He moved from behind the plate to third base in spring training 2007. Last year was his first full season at Triple A and he was added to the forty-man roster this offseason.
Q: I just received the Pirates release on you and 25 others signing one-year deals. Can you tell us how this works? Similar to Manny Ramirez balking at 45 mil or so and going from there?
Ha-ha well for me since I am a first year forty man roster guy, I have received a slight raise from the normal salary of those in the minor leagues not on the roster. Once you are placed on the 40 man roster, the salary goes up, and if you were to be placed on the major league roster, you automatically make the major league minimum.
Q: I know staying in Pittsburgh and getting rest was a big plus this offseason. I’m not saying the ‘Burgh isn’t a vacation destination, but did you take any memorable trips this winter?
I do love being in Pittsburgh and as crazy as it sounds I enjoy the seasons, even winter. I did a few trips this off-season, and the most memorable was a trip to Boston. I had never been there and stayed downtown. The rich history and great structures there are incredible. There are a ton of places to see, you can easily walk everywhere, and hearing the Boston accent is always pretty amusing. I definitely recommend a trip for anyone who has never gone.
Q: I’m reading this spring that Andrew McCutcheon is stronger. How big does Pocket Hercules look after packing 10 lbs of muscle on top of muscle? Is he catching up to Pearce?
Well apparently Andrew has put on 30 pounds of muscle the past two years coming into camp. At this rate he will be 5’11, 250 pounds in two years, ha-ha. No, Andrew came into camp in terrific shape as always, and I think he is definitely going to take his game to a new level this year. It’s so much fun to play with a guy as talented as he is, because of his ability to do so much. He can run, he can hit for power, hit for average, bunt, throw, he is definitely what they call a five tool talent and I hope to have the chance to play with him for many years to come. But if he keeps putting on pounds and pounds of muscle he might be trying out in camp with the Colts at Linebacker soon, ha-ha.
Q: What stands out to you when you see 133games/.242avg/16HR/80RBI/.280OBP/694OPS/19 errors?
It is definitely a mixed feeling when you look at my numbers on paper. If you asked me what kind of year I had, not including numbers, I would have told you I had a very productive year, and I truly believe I did. I think I dug myself such a big hole early on in the year that it made me press for a lot of the season. Instead of focusing on hitting the ball hard and having a good approach, I tend to think when things were going bad that I needed to get 4 hits in a game just to get my batting average back. I have learned through a year like that, from an average standpoint, that it is best to take it one day a time and stay focused on having good at-bats and playing as hard as you can. From a defensive standpoint I finally got myself to a place where I could relax and let my natural ability take over. All the mechanical and placement things have come and passed and now I can trust myself to be in the right position and just play. Overall, I definitely learned a lot from last year, and hope to build upon it in all categories this season. Outside of the average, those numbers look pretty good to me.
Q: What stand out to me are the games played and 19 errors. Your defensive growth from ’07 to ’08 was remarkable. I see where Jamie Dixon was at Spring Training for a day. Anyone else of note who has stopped by? What would you say to Mike Tomlin or Santonio Holmes if they dropped by?
If Tomlin or Santonio stopped by I would absolutely congratulate them on a tremendous year. I would ask Tomlin for any kind of advice on being a competitor, because he is such an upbeat guy. I’d probably ask Santonio what was going through his mind when the ball was in the air on the game-winning touchdown catch. No-one else of note has come to visit camp yet, usually Dick Vitale stops by at some point so I’m hoping to meet him.
Q: What did you wear to the Super Bowl? Tell me again what the last 3 minutes were like again? Never a doubt right?
I wore a Hines Ward jersey to the game, my usual for a Sunday Steelers game. Hines is always the hardest worker on the field, some call him dirty, I call him tough, but no-one can question his effort. I had the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl and throughout the whole game I felt there was no chance we were going to lose, until I saw Larry Fitzgerald sprinting to a TD. I think I was still in shock while the Steelers were driving down in the final minutes, but had no doubt Big Ben could bring home number 6 for the city of Pittsburgh. Just another day at work for the Steelers.
SOLID! How is that for an opening entry? Thanks to Neil for sitting though the emails during spring training. I’m glad he’s getting some work at third. We all know the numbers games that Neil faces, but I’m wishing him all the best.