One of the most pleasant surprises of the 2014 Oakland A’s draft class thus far has been outfielder J.P. Sportman. A 27th round pick out of Central Connecticut, Sportman didn’t arrive in pro baseball with a high profile, but he put his name on the prospect map with a solid pro debut. Sportman will be one of 44 prospects attending the A’s fall Instructional League later this month.
Sportman played four seasons at Central Connecticut and he was a sparkplug for the Blue Devils. He hit .327/.367/.476 in four seasons and also hit better than .340 in each of the past two summers in the New England Collegiate League. He is just one of 19 players to ever be drafted out of the school. Only two have ever made the big leagues – Skip Jutze and current A’s reliever Evan Scribner.
Sportman began his pro career in Arizona with the AZL A’s. He made a strong first impression with the A’s, posting a .414 OBP and a .321 BA in 21 games with the Rookie League squad. That earned Sportman a promotion to short-season Vermont and a return ticket to the Northeast. Playing in front of friends and family, Sportman posted an impressive .301/.333/.418 line in a league generally geared towards pitching. He earned a spot in the New York-Penn League All-Star game despite joining the team partway through the season.
Donald Moore spoke with the upstate New York native about his professional debut season during the Lake Monsters’ final road trip.
Donald Moore: How is everything going for you this year?
J.P. Sportman: Good. I'm just staring to get used to everything and I got my feet wet in Arizona for about 20 games, got used to the atmosphere, got sent up here and continued to have a good time with the Lake Monsters.
DM- What are your goals for this season?
JS: Just to finish strong now. I got off to a good start, so basically I'm just going out there, grinding out at-bats and trying to keep doing what I'm doing. And the success will come doing that. That's my plan for now.
DM: What do you feel is your greatest strength as a baseball player?
JS: I think my speed and being versatile is probably my strength. I can play anywhere and getting on base and putting myself in a position for these big other guys behind me to hit me in. I can get out and steal bases and help the team win.
DM: What would you like to improve on?
JS: Probably defensively in center field, getting better reads, better jumps, but overall, probably just being a better player overall. Just rounding out everything, hitting for power, getting on base, stealing bases and all that kind of stuff.
DM: How are you adjusting to pro baseball?
JS: I think it's awesome, you know. It's a grind. It's a long season and I'm definitely feeling it right now, but that comes with the job and I'm figuring out ways to adjust to everything. I think that is probably the biggest adjustment, but I'm looking forward to everything that comes my way.
DM: Any pregame routine?
JS: Usually I do the same thing. I get to the ballpark. We have stretch, hitting and stuff like that. Usually at home I'm here by 2 p.m. getting my early hitting in and stuff like that. I do some certain routines like tee-work, and all that kind of stuff.
DM: Favorite thing you like to do off the field?
JS: I play a lot of Call of Duty. You know when you're at these places, it's kind of hard to find things to do, but I do like to play golf when I'm around.
DM: Favorite team growing up?
JS: New York Mets.
DM: If there was one person who taught you the most about baseball, who would that be?
JS: Obviously, I got to say my dad. You know, he's been there for a while. He played in college, he taught me a lot of things growing up. Now I look back at everything he has taught me and it really does play a part in this game. And also George Springer [the Houston Astros’ rookie] is one of my good friends, and I get to hit with him in the off season and I think he rounded me out to be a professional hitter and I thank him for that.
DM: Craziest thing you have ever seen on a baseball diamond?
JS: Besides from injuries and stuff like that, I really can't think of anything right now off the top of my head.
DM: Where do you see yourself in the future with Oakland Athletics organization?
JS: The same thing everybody else does, wearing the A's jersey in the big leagues. But, for now, I have to stay down here and keep grinding and make myself a better player so I can get to that level.
DM: J.P. thank you so much for your time and the best of luck to you and your future.
JS: No problem and thank you.