2011 MLB Draft Q&A: Mikie Mahtook

One of the top power-and-speed players in the 2011 collegiate draft pool, Mikie Mahtook isn't expected to have to wait too long into the MLB draft to hear his name called this June. The LSU outfielder is currently batting .358 with 10 homers and 32 walks in 41 games. He has also stolen 21 bases and has yet to make an error in the field. John Anderson spoke with the Lafayette, Louisiana, native.

John Anderson: Hi Mikie, you're having a great year so far.

Mikie Mahtook: Yeah it's going pretty good. I couldn't ask for a much better start but it's a long year so I just keep plugging away and working hard to get better.

JA: Are you feeling better after the last few weekends?

MM: Yeah we've had a couple of tough series wins and I feel confident moving forward and it should be an exciting rest of the year.

JA: Talk a bit about your days before LSU. Your late father played football at LSU and you were a star quarterback in high school. Were you a Tiger born and bred and did you think of playing both football and baseball at LSU?

MM: When I was little, the big decision was whether I was going to play football and baseball or concentrate on one. I always knew I wanted to play baseball but I wanted to play football also. I broke my arm playing football my junior year but played again my senior year and had a really good year and got interest from colleges for football but I started thinking that if I just concentrated on baseball I could take some of that raw athleticism and turn the raw into being a more complete baseball player. So that was my goal.

As for going to LSU, I grew up an hour away from LSU and I was kind of born into it. It has always been my dream place to play baseball with all its history and tradition. So LSU was always my choice.

JA: So you arrive at LSU and after a few games you are inserted in the starting lineup and played a big part in the Tigers winning the World Series your freshman year. Talk about your role with the team both on and off the field this year as a veteran versus two years ago as a freshman.

MM: Well my freshman year I was surrounded by a bunch of talented guys that were older and had more experience than I did. So I was just trying to go there and be a part of the team and do whatever they wanted me to do and run with that. They laid a great foundation for me and I just tried to move forward and improve every year.

This year the roles are switched and we have a lot of young guys and I'm trying to show them the right way to go about things. That's the biggest change. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by great leaders for my time here at LSU and I'm trying to use bits and pieces of what I learned from them as a learning tool and to show the young guys how to go about things. Off the field I've tried to lead by example as well.

JA: What's driving you now as the season starts to wind down?

MM: Winning, absolutely. Freshman year was an awesome experience and getting to the World Series and winning it is something very few people get to experience. So the driving force for this year has been to get to that level. We are young but we have a great group of guys bringing fresh legs to the program so that is the main force driving me and the team this year. We want to get to Omaha and win it and make a name but we have a ways to go. Every year a team has a new identity and we are still trying to figure that out.

JA: Let's talk about you. How do you assess your game?

MM: I'm constantly improving. I've worked on things every year to get better. Freshman year I was a free swinger and took few walks so this year I'm trying to be consistent with each at bat. I'm trying to cut down on the strikeouts and have better plate discipline. I'm trying not to over-swing and stay within myself. I'm really trying to help the team and get on base as well. I'm improving every year and learning new things and apply what I learn to my talent pool.

JA: A scout told me he considered you a "freakish athlete." What does that mean to you?

MM: That's a great compliment and I'm honored to hear that. I've been blessed with different talents and I'm fortunate for that and I try to go out everyday and play the game with passion and don't be a robot and think too much. I let my talents take over and the coaches here have done a good job of channeling my athleticism to allow me to succeed and produce in baseball.

JA: You touched on a good point when mentioning producing. So often the athletic ballplayer doesn't have the numbers you've produced and teams draft that player on potential and projections. You have the athleticism and are also putting up numbers worthy of being a first round pick.

MM: That just comes with hard work. You have to go out there every day and be real coachable. A coach may have an idea or something that may be beneficial to you and you need to listen to it and work on it. We have a great coaching staff here and they give me suggestions and tips on what I need to do and I take that and work on it and have been fortunate enough to succeed in making adjustments. You are only as good as how hard you want to work…if that makes sense. The harder you work the better you will be. The fact that I'm blessed with athleticism it helps in that aspect and you can never stop working.

JA: You mentioned earlier that you play with passion and I believe people love to see that. In sports we often see that talented player out there like he has no pulse while you are out there playing like your hair is on fire. I've seen you play at Baton Rouge and your style has made you a legend with the fans and it will be the same when you make the big leagues. Fans respond to that style.

MM: I've always played like this. Ever since I was little. I don't know where it came from but I've always played the game with a lot of passion and I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I go about every game that way. I may show my emotion after a big hit or out in the field on defense and I just show it and try to get my team fired up. It's not for show I can tell you that. It's the way I feel and the way I play but at the same time it benefits me and the team.

JA: Talk about your power/speed combination. Is one more developed at this time or are both pretty equal?

MM: I'm not sure. I don't really know. It would be better for someone else to come up with that decision. I'm just trying to improve on both aspects. I don't go up there trying to hit homers it just happens. I'm thankful to be blessed with that ability but I can't tell you which one is better at this time.

JA: When you look at the majors do you pattern yourself after any player?

MM: No I don't. I'm a baseball fan in general. I just like watching the game and I respect players that play the game the right way and play the game hard. I have a bunch of guys I like to watch but I don't have a favorite player. I want to have my own game and I don't want to copy anyone else.

JA: Talk abit about last summer with the national team and playing with all the other players who will be top picks this year.

MM: Well that was unbelievable. It was something I will cherish the rest of my life. It was great playing with those guys and great to meet them all and we are all really good friends now. So the playing of games was great but just to be around all that talent was awesome and I was appreciative of the opportunity and I had a lot of fun doing it. It also helped me a lot in my maturation as a baseball player.

JA: Do you keep in touch with some of the guys?

MM: Yeah I do. If I can. I'll talk to them after a couple weekends and see how they're doing. I'm also able to play against some of them because they are in my conference so we get to keep up with each other quite a bit.

JA: How about some of the LSU guys in the bigs like Leon Landry and Jared Mitchell. Do you keep in touch with them?

MM: Yeah, I talk to them all the time. Jared and me are from the same area and I just spoke with him a few days ago. We are really good friends and grew up playing against each other and Leon and me played against each other. These guys I knew before LSU so we are real good friends and I talk to them quite a bit…and not just those two but I talk to all my friends in the minors.

JA: Talk about your year so far. You had an incredible hot streak for a few weeks and continue to hit well.

MM: I'm not looking to hit home runs or anything. I'm going to the plate with the mindset that I want to have good at-bats and make solid contact. I can't control what happens with the ball after I make good contact. I'm just up there trying to help my team win and drive guys in.

JA: Any expectation for the draft? Have scouts been talking to you at all?

MM: I love it here at LSU so I kind of want to take it one day at a time. I'm not looking too far in the future. I have no expectations but obviously I want to go as high as I can go in the draft.

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