What did you carry over from the spring to the summer?
"Anytime you get at-bats against SEC pitching you are going to get better. It doesn't matter who it is because the SEC is so good. I think I got 40 or 50 at-bats against SEC guys. This is the elite conference. The elite arms are here. You face those guys and learn what pitches they are going to throw, how their pitches are shaped. That helps you when you see other guys who don't have quite as good stuff but are still good pitchers. You know what they are going to throw, how they are going to pitch you. It helps you out approach-wise and swing-wise. Approach-wise you want to have a plan when you go up to the plate. You want to get pitches you can hit and put good swings on them."
In the New England League you were hot from the beginning to the end. Then, at the end of the year, you were moved up to the Cape Cod League. You were very consistent the entire summer.
"Yeah, going to the park everyday last year was a little bit frustrating for me because I wasn't sure when I would be in the lineup and when I wouldn't. It's just a comfort factor. This summer, I knew I was going to be playing right or left field and hitting third (in the lineup) and getting my five at-bats every night. You are comfortable with that because you see pitchers over and over and you know how they are going to attack you. So, you are able to form a plan against them so you can be successful against them."
You also showcased your power in both leagues. You hit a total of 11 home runs in both leagues combined.
"Yeah, I hit 10 in the New England League and 1 when I went to the Cape Cod League. Honestly, it wasn't anything swing-wise. It was more approach-wise, more hunting pitches and knowing what pitches I was going to get. I was trying not to swing at pitches the pitchers wanted me to swing at. It was waiting for the pitch that I thought was coming and putting a good swing on it and being able to elevate pitches pull side and backspin them. I have enough strength and athleticism so that when I put a good swing on a pitch it is going to go a long way."
When you moved from the New England League to Cape Cod did you notice an immediate difference in the quality of the pitchers?
"The starting pitching is better (in the Cape Cod League). It is not drastically better because there were a lot of good starters in the New England League. It is the middle relief that is mainly the difference. The pitchers who came out of the bullpen in the 6th, 7th and 8th inning was where the pitching difference really showed. We were in the playoffs playing Y-D and they brought in a lefty from Vanderbilt in the 4th or 5th inning, Ben Bowden, who I played with last summer. He is a 6-foot-4 lefty who throws 92-95 (miles per hour) the whole game. I think that is where the difference is."
How do you adjust to a pitcher like that?
"I saw a few pitches so I knew what kind of stuff he had. I knew he was a fastball pitcher who had trust in his fastball, for good reason. He believed in his velocity. I was hunting fastball but he got me twice. I struck out once and flew out to right. I kind of missed that pitch, although I feel like I should have hit it pretty well. But I battled against him and got to full counts both times. I competed with him real well. I was pretty pleased with my at-bats that I had against him."
Which Mississippi State coach did you stay in contact with during the summer, Nick Mingione?
"I talked to Coach Ming. He talked about my progress, how I was doing mentally, mainly because he knows that I am going to work hard physically. He just talked about how I was doing approach-wise, how I was attacking pitchers, what I was visualizing before I went up to the plate. We also talked a lot about defensive work."
Do you ever think you overthink when it comes to hitting?
"No, I don't. But I have caught myself a few times when I might be struggling, a six, seven at-bat stretch, and I tell myself to take a step back and go up there and just trust my ability as an athlete and trust myself to just go up there and hit. After that at-bat it relaxes me a little bit and I can get back to formulating plans."
How much confidence did your success this summer help you going into the fall?
"I am (already) fairly confident. But anytime you have success over an extended period of time you are going to gain confidence. I was able to see great competition and succeed against that competition. Honestly, toward the end of the SEC season I gained a lot of confidence because when I did get my chances I made the most of them. I got some hits and some extra base hits, too. Now, I am ready to lead and be a guy who contributes offensively and defensively everyday."
[At the conclusion of the summer, Rooker was named a 2015 Summer Collegiate All-American by Perfect Game.-Gene]
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.