Although you ended the summer hitting .439 with 2 home runs and 12 RBI in your last 10 games in the Cape Cod League, you started off the summer a little slow, hitting .200 with no home runs and no RBI in your first 10 games. What do you think caused that?
"I guess it was kind of having to get comfortable in the league, getting to know my teammates, and knowing my position on the team. At first I started off hitting in the 4 and 5 spot (in the lineup) because we didn't have a lot of guys there. It was kind of a struggle because those guys kind of get pitched to differently and you have to know how you are going to get pitched. Then I moved down in the lineup to 6 or 7 and I thought I finally got a little bit comfortable once I started hitting in that spot. Once I finally got comfortable they started moving me back up (in the lineup). At the end of the year I was batting second, which I had never done in my entire life. It was actually really good for me to be in all of those different positions.
"Defensively, I was at a new position at the beginning of the season. I'm not trying to blame that on why I couldn't hit but I do think that had a little bit to play into it. I was playing first and it took a little time to get used to. When I finally got used to playing first we had Pete Alonso come in, a stud first baseman from Florida. Then I moved to the outfield. And that is where I felt most comfortable. That is when I felt like I started coming around with the bat and being able to actually help the team a little bit."
In the last 15 games you hit .404 with 2 home runs and 14 RBI. In the last 10 you did even better, hitting .439 with 2 home runs and 12 RBI. Describe those last few games.
"I want to mention something. I had a hitting coach, Joe Lincoln, who is from Missouri State (volunteer assistant coach at Missouri State). He was a big help to me throughout the entire summer. He threw BP everyday. At the beginning of the summer I was doing a couple of things that were hindering my ability to catch up to some of the pitches. Everybody in that league throws hard. If you don't have your barrel in place and you are not on time, then you aren't going to get to the pitches that you want to hit. I felt like that was why I was missing some balls in the beginning. But throughout the summer he was working with me by doing early hitting before, and we figured things out. That really helped me by the end of the summer."
It really did. You hit .404 in the last 15 games. That is a great average in a great league.
"It was like everything was falling for me. I remember hitting a ball straight down in the dirt that bounced over the third baseman's head for a double. I don't think I have ever had a hit like that in my life. At that moment it was kind of how it was going."
Going into the summer was there something specific that you were trying to work on?
"Really going into my summer I wanted to focus on ... I feel like I am a power hitter and feel like I can put up a lot of power numbers. And playing (in the Cape Cod League) was really tough because it is not easy to hit home runs in that league. Not all of those fields are big fields but it is still not easy to hit home runs in that league. Every pitch is going to be a good pitch and you have to be on time (with your bat).
"I knew it was going to be tough because I had heard a lot about (the Cape Cod League). I wanted to go there and work on not swinging at everything. I felt like during my freshman year and a little bit of my sophomore year that if I got two strikes (on me) I was being a little too protective of the strikezone. I would just swing at whatever and end up striking out. So, this past summer I wanted to focus on battling counts and grind them out. I wanted to get walks, not be mad about getting walks. You have to take those walks because they are going to be (potential) runs for your team. You had to trust that the next guy would knock everybody in."
You had 21 walks and 36 strikeouts during the summer.
"I was trying to keep the walks around the same number of strikeouts, but it got tough in between. I had times when I was striking out a lot, then other times when I wasn't striking out any. But what I wanted to focus on was pitch selection and not chase bad pitches while swinging at good pitches."
How did you do defensively?
"I felt like I developed a lot as a defensive player. I feel like my arm felt really good this summer. I feel like I could let some balls go to home. Wherever I needed to I felt like I could spray it around a little bit. That really opened up right and left field for me. I felt like I could move back and forth and not have any problem with any throw that I needed to make. I feel like that helped my team this summer and I hope I can keep it going and help my team this season."
Do you think this is the best that you have ever felt at Mississippi State?
"This is the first season where I feel like I don't have an injury to come off of. It feels good. As a senior in high school I had Tommy John before that (season). When I got here I was still having complications with that going into my freshman year. Then I had nerve surgery going into my sophomore year. This is the first year where I feel like I am healthy."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network.