Will “not in the Middle(brooks) any more”

Saturday afternoon…I want to thank Elizabeth Dresson, who has a tremendous blog at http://redsoxgirl46.mlblogs.com/, for putting together this interview with Will Middlebrooks…For the month of February, Elizabeth’s blog was the 8th most viewed fan blog through mlblogs.com.  That is tremendous. 



Will “not in the Middle(brooks) any more”
Potential Sea Dogs moving to third base
(Please direct your complaints on the title to me – seadogsradio@gmail.com.  Elizabeth did not come up with this.)


What was the
deciding factor, or factors, in choosing to go professionally over going to
college first?

Well, it was
tough because both my parents are educators, and my dad is a coach, so
education is important to them. I was [committed] to Texas A&M, which is a
pretty good academic school, and I was hoping to play football and baseball
there, so it was a tough decision but being able to start my career early and
just get a head start.


What was your biggest challenge last
year in Salem?

I feel like the
pitching was a lot better just in the jump from Low-A (ie. Greenville) to
High-A (ie. Salem), and just getting comfortable at the plate, staying
consistent with my approach. Within the first two, two-and-a-half months, I had
a real good beginning of the season

 

I hear a lot of guys say that the transition from Low-A to High-A
is tough. What did you notice about the pitchers that made it that much harder?

Just being able
to throw all their pitches for strikes. That’s just something the higher you
get, everyone is more consistent–that’s just the name of the game at this
point. So especially going in this year, I’m probably gonna be in Double-A (ie.
Portland), which is supposedly the biggest jump in the minor leagues. …Just
pitchers being able to throw any pitch at any time for a strike.

 

So how did you adapt to that?

Like I said,
just remaining consistent in my approach, and knowing what pitches I can hit,
and what counts, and just watching film and studying the game.

 

A lot of the times, an organization will change a player’s
position early on in their development. Is third base where you feel most
comfortable right now?

Well they’ve
already changed me: I was a shortstop coming in, and I got a lot bigger as I
got older; I put on some weight, so they moved me to third within my first year
of pro-ball.

 

So how was the transition from shortstop to third?

It was
tough–There [are] a lot different angles, a lot less time for reaction–it’s
just something you have to get used to, but I’m fully adapted to it now.

 

What do you think the biggest differences are between the
positions mentally and/or physically?

Mentally,
defense… as far as an infielder… it’s all the same: just being ready,
reading the bounces–it’s pretty much the same for everyone, but at first base
and third base, it’s a lot of reaction: you get a lot of hard hit balls; you’re
playing in a lot. Shortstops you’re more back a lot of time to react to balls.

 

I noticed that you batted fifth a lot in Salem. Is that where you
like to bat?

I could really
care less, anywhere is fine with me. I like middle of the lineup… a lot of
guys seem to be on base; you get more opportunity for RBIs.

Do you adjust your approach and/or mentality depending on where
you bat in the lineup?

Maybe in the
first inning is the first time it would be different just because you don’t
want your first batter up there swinging at everything because in the game, you
want your bigger guys who hit in the middle of the order, who hit for power be
able to see what this guy has on the mound. You know, first, second, maybe even
third batter see a few pitches so maybe we can see the breaking pitches or his
off-speeds.

 

What is your opinion on small ball? It seems like suicide squeezes
are kind of a dying art.

It’s very
important–especially when you get to the seventh, eighth, ninth inning, if you
need to move a runner over… I think you’re right, you don’t see the squeeze
bunt much anymore mainly because a lot of third basemen years ago were a lot
bigger guys; they couldn’t move as well. Now third basemen [and] first basemen
are a lot more athletic. I think they can make those plays and get the ball
home. Maybe that’s why you don’t see it as much, but sac bunts are just as
important as they have always been.

 

If you had to pitch against yourself, what weaknesses would you
take advantage of at this point?

I know my
positives: I could hit a fastball really well, so I would attack myself with
offspeed early in the count because I’m aggressive early in the count: I look
for fastballs.

 

What do you think fans overlook or take for granted the most?

Just the
day-to-day grind. It’s tough–especially straight out of high school it’s tough
to adapt [from] being at home, being with your family, in your comfort zone…
then you’re here on your own for eight months. It’s tough, it’s something you
definitely have to get used to, but once you can get past the fact of ‘I’m not
home; I’m not going to see my family, my friends, my girlfriend… once you get
past that, and you say, ‘OK, I’m here; this is my job; this is my life now; I’m
gonna play baseball; you can focus on that, and it’s a lot of fun.

 

What is the biggest thing you’re working on this spring training?

Just staying
consistent with my approach offensively and defensively… my footwork
defensively just getting good jumps on balls at third base.

 

You have been called up a couple of times already this spring.
Describe that process for us.

Normally we
find out the day of, or the day before. I’ve been lucky enough to go to four
games, and I’ve started two of them, so it’s a lot of fun. For me, I’m really
just a sponge when I’m up there. I just want to soak in everything, and see how
they go about their business because ultimately, that’s where we want to be, so
just follow them, see what they’re doing, see how they do their cage work,
their defensive work before the game in BP, and just try to change my game a
little bit to how they do it.

 

What is the best thing you have learned so far?

Just effort
level, really. You kind of have to pace yourself. With them, it’s 162
games–even more than that–just pace yourself. You cant be 100% everyday. If
you have 90% to give, that’s what you give. If you push past that, you might
get hurt or you could be out for a few months.

 

What has been
the highlight of your career so far?
Probably
in Lowell my first year when we played the Futures at Fenway, I had the walk
off hit in the 12th inning, so that was a lot of fun. I’d have to
say that so far.

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