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I talked with many of the Auburn Doubledays last week in Auburn, most of them have been professional baseball players for little more a month, they are still getting used to their new lifestyle and the professional game.

Most of the hitters have played in the Cape Cod league but there are still differences between an amateur summer league and a professional A ball league. The quality of opposition is one major difference, the hitters have to face a good pitcher every night, the pitchers face top of the order hitters from college. Most of the players have a wide-eyed "I can't believe I am here" look, but they are all unfailingly polite and willing to answer my questions.

The first player I met was Brian Hall the Jays tenth round draft choice from Stanford. He is enjoying his first taste of pro ball. "The pitchers throw much harder and have better stuff than college but you get much better when you play every day". Hall is leading the D'Days in home runs with six. I asked him about his power. "I had nine home runs in college this year but I did not expect to have to have five already out here. I set a goal to hit five this year so I guess I need to change the goal and adjust that, hopefully I can hit double digits". Hall sprays the ball and the home runs have come just by hitting the ball hard, he learned to hit the ball the other way this past year in school. Hall is playing second base for Auburn, a new position for him. "I played outfield in college, I was drafted as a shortstop out of high school and when I went to college I played left, centre, right, third and first base. I have never really played second, I am learning, it is an adjustment but it is a lot of fun". Shane Andrews went to the same high school as Brian and lives down the street and Brian has always wanted to follow in his footsteps.

Curtis Thigpen was a late arrival at Auburn as Texas made it to the college world series with Thigpen starring as one of their leading players. Curtis was also a half time player in 2002 when the Longhorns won the college world series. "Baseball is a team sport so winning the CWS was my greatest thrill in baseball. It is great to be a big part of things but it is a team sport so it was more fun in 2002".

For 2004 Texas had another strong catcher so Curtis played half of his games at first base. "Our best line-up was me at first and Taylor (Teagarden) behind the plate, coach and the two of us sat down and discussed it and I had some experience at first so that was the best". But Thigpen does not consider himself a typical catcher and is willing to play any position in the infield or outfield, whatever gets him to move up. That comment is not surprising when you hear that Craig Biggio is one of Curtis's favourite players and it is Biggio who he would like to model himself after. Thigpen was the Jays second round draft choice. I am not sure what I expected a catcher/firstbaseman to look like but Thigpen's comment about not being a typical catcher is true, he looks like an average sized ballplayer, 6 feet tall and not bulky, he could pass for an infielder. Thigpen downplays the adjustment to wooden bats "you just have to keep in mind it is baseball, just come out here and have fun and play the game like you know how".

Adam Lind was the Jays third round draft choice and thinks pro-ball is "awesome, it's a lot of fun, if you have a bad game you play another tomorrow". I had seen a report in DaBox that his college, Southern Alabama, was hard on their players. I asked him if that was true? "Our coach is very old-school, he played for Eddie Stanky. He was real mean although he says he has mellowed. If we lost two games in a row we would have to do circuits at seven in the morning on Sundays and play a game later that day. We would have to get up at four sometimes if we lost at home and run two miles for punishment". Adam acknowledged that Dennis Holmberg is a lot easier than his college coach.

Adam is another D'Day who is changing positions in the field. "This is my third position in two years, in my freshman year I played every game at first base, this past spring I played every game in right field, now I am in left field". I asked about the ex-major leaguers from Southern Alabama. "Lance Johnson lives in Mobile and comes to practice with us, he likes hanging around us, staying close to the game. Juan Pierre and Luis Gonzalez come back for the alumni game, Jon Leiber is from Mobile and he comes for a bullpen once a week in the winter. There are a lot of minor leaguers who come by as well, even hang out with us after practice, coach encourages them to come by". When I asked Adam if he followed any major leaguer he wanted to emulate when he was in high school his answer came quickly, Ken Griffey Jr. Adam's swing is a classic lefty, good looking swing. I did not get to see if he had the Griffey high finish to his home run swing, that will come in time.

Michael MacDonald has been the best starter on the Auburn staff so far. He has noticed "that he doesn't get away with as many pitches, leave one up in the zone and someone is going to hurt you". McDonald lives in Maine so he stayed close to home when he played with the Black Bears. The Jays have not asked him to work on anything in particular. MacDonald throws a fastball, curveball, slider and change-up. Michael, as a New Englander, used to watch Roger Clemens and also Greg Maddux to learn how to move the ball around.

Chip Cannon is a big guy, 6'5" and 215 pounds. I asked him about the incident where he ran into the fence to make a catch and knocked over the mascot at the same time. "My knee is still sore and tender but each day goes by it gets a little better and I had to sit out a few games when it was going well and now I am trying to get back into there everyday. I came from a hard nosed college, but maybe you have to play with your head up and learn where the fence is".

I asked what he had learned from going to school at the Citadel? "You have to have time management down good, you learn to balance things and learn what you have to do first." I had noticed in DaBox write-ups that Chip might want to be a Dentist. "I don't know where you got that from, yeah it's true, but I will wait until my finish my career in baseball". Chip is from the Southeast and has always enjoyed watching the Braves but "the Jays are my team now".

Learning is the theme for Ryan Klosterman, which fits a guy who has gone much further than scouts thought he would. Ryan says minor league ball is a "learning experience every day, try and go out and learn something new". Ryan admits to being more of a contact hitter than a power hitter but he does have three home runs. Hitting is tough because "every day you face somebody's number one, there is a lot of talent out here but is has been a lot of fun to come out here everyday and enjoy the opportunity". Vanderbilt had a good team this year, a lot of players got drafted, until Curtis and Kyle (Yates) put them out of their misery. Ryan has played with a major leaguer. "I was at Clemson my first two years of college and my teammate was Khalil Greene so I watched him a lot and tried to learn as much from that guy as I could". I asked him about his adjustment defensively to the wooden bats. "The first couple of games I didn't come get a few balls like I should, I kinda waited back on it, the ball didn't come off the bat as hard and they beat it out, but I learned a lot since then".

Casey Janssen took some time off and now he is "trying to get back in the flow, trying to command the zone, that is one of my strengths". Janssen throws fastball, curveball, change-up, slider and a cut fastball. Casey tries to command his fastball and use some of his off-speed pitches but saves some for later in the game, pitches they have not seen yet. Like many pitchers Casey is adjusting to throwing more inside. "In college you have more success away, the wood gives you more groundballs or flyballs, in college jam-jobs go out". Casey came into UCLA as a third baseman/pitcher and "as things moved along I moved over to first and pitched, then halfway through my junior year I just pitched. Being in there every day is my passion but one took priority over the other, and if pitching is the way then I am all for pitching". In college Cassey looked up to Troy Glaus, "Troy was a Bruin too, I had played short and moved over to third like him but now being a pitcher I look up to guys like Roger Clemens or curt Schilling".

Finally I spoke with Eric Rico who is pitching this year having been an outfielder for the last two years. "The switch was a Blue Jay suggestion, we have a lot of good outfielders in the system, and they thought I'd be better suited as a pitcher. I pitched in high school and college but I had not pitched since my last game in college. I was a starter at Cornell, just down the road, but this is the first time I have a chance to focus on pitching full-time. I was our fourth starter in college. I made the change at the end of spring training. We have made some adjustments with my landing so my control is exponentially better, I have done some drills, stick drills with JK. In college I never really worked on pitching, but here working with JK has been great, my control is the big thing, strike one, strike two, it makes hitting harder. I have been getting a lot of good sink, working away, and then I can surprise them inside a little bit. In my junior year I was all-county as a hitter, in my senior year I was all county as a pitcher. I have learned a change-up since I got here, my curveball is getting better, in college I just threw the fastball away".

There are some of your Auburn Doubledays.

Meet Your Auburn Doubledays | 12 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_David Paul - Tuesday, July 27 2004 @ 06:52 PM EDT (#48271) #
Awesome report, Gerry. Maybe one of the reasons JP likes college guys is because they give good interviews, and use phrases like "exponentially better." Anyway, your first hand reports and interviews make dabox exponentially better!
Pistol - Tuesday, July 27 2004 @ 06:57 PM EDT (#48272) #
I'll second what David Paul just said. Nice job Gerry.
_Ducey - Tuesday, July 27 2004 @ 07:20 PM EDT (#48273) #
Nice Job!

You mentioned "stick drills", what drill is that?

Does Macdonald look for real? ie. How hard does he throw, is he a big guy?
_David B. - Tuesday, July 27 2004 @ 07:27 PM EDT (#48274) #
Awesome report. Thanks!
Gerry - Tuesday, July 27 2004 @ 07:36 PM EDT (#48275) #
I did not see MacDonald pitch so I cannot give you a scouting report on him. Some of the pitchers had a short stick, about a foot long, and they were using it in the bullpen to go through their delivery. I assume the stick should end up touching or mear the ground and always be in the same position.
Pistol - Tuesday, July 27 2004 @ 07:40 PM EDT (#48276) #
Some of the pitchers had a short stick, about a foot long, and they were using it in the bullpen to go through their delivery

Is this the same kind of thing you'd see pitchers do with towels?
Gerry - Tuesday, July 27 2004 @ 07:47 PM EDT (#48277) #
Yes, the drills look the same and some pitchers were using towels. Towels are used for extension to make sure you get out there close to home plate. The stick might be used for follow through or arm position work.
Mike Green - Tuesday, July 27 2004 @ 09:28 PM EDT (#48278) #
Thanks, Gerry. I especially liked the Eric Rico bit. He's having a fair bit of success, and is a good bet to advance up the system nicely.
_Wayne H. - Tuesday, July 27 2004 @ 11:01 PM EDT (#48279) #
One of the great things about these reports is finding out a bit more about the players. While scouting reports describe the basic tools, I think JP's interest in the 7th tool (plate discipline is the 6th, it appears) being "character" is definitely on display here. The players all seem to be gritty character types, and that will carry them far beyond their classic 5 tools.
_Jordan - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 01:03 PM EDT (#48280) #
Tremendous work, Gerry, on these and all your minor-league reports!
Coach - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 01:28 PM EDT (#48281) #
Well done, Gerry, on two fronts -- sharing all of this great stuff with us, and being an excellent ambassador for Da Box.

Wayne H., you're absolutely right about the "7th tool" being important to the Jays. Everyone I've met in the majors and minors is a class act, which makes them that much easier to root for.
_Mylegacy - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 02:47 PM EDT (#48282) #
Funny me... I always thought the 7th tool was a left handed key hole punch..
Meet Your Auburn Doubledays | 12 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.