Bugs in the infield in New York-Penn League stadiums haven't stood a chance with Vermont Lake Monsters' right-hander James Naile on the mound. The Oakland A's 20th-round draft pick this season has an incredible 2.44 GO/AO and a 55% groundball rate on balls hit into play in 13 innings for the Lake Monsters this season. The UAB alum was a starter in college, but he has served as a closer for the Lake Monsters in his first professional season. He has four saves in five chances and a 1.64 ERA.
Donald Moore spoke with the Missouri native about his adjustment to professional baseball during a recent Lake Monsters' roadtrip.
Donald Moore: Hi James, how is everything going so for you this year?
James Naile: Fantastic. Having a blast, getting to meet a lot of new faces and getting to know some of the guys and seeing new parts of the country, so no complaints at all.
DM: What are your goals for this year?
JN: You know, I'm a new player. I come in and work hard and hopefully do my best to contribute in anyway I can. I'm in a new role out of the bullpen. I'm attacking it one day at a time and I'm going out there to try to help the team win and do the best I can.
DM: What do you feel is your greatest strength as a pitcher?
JN: Probably just my ability to throw strikes. I think command of the 'zone is everything. Commanding different pitches and being able to command the bottom part of the 'zone is something I take a lot of pride in.
DM: What would you like to improve on?
JN: Continue to develop pitches. Everyone here has pitches that are their strengths and weaknesses, so each pitch you need to develop further and hopefully to get it to be a better quality pitch.
DM: How are you adjusting to professional baseball?
JN: The transition has gone really well. I had great college coaches that prepared me well for this: getting used to playing everyday and treating it like a job. Treating it like it is and it's the greatest job in the world.
DM: What is the best thing about being a professional athlete?
JN: Just getting to be at this level with this group of guys. You know it's the best baseball level there is and the opportunity to get to play baseball everyday for a living. So that makes it great. And that makes it special.
DM: Any pregame routines?
JN: I'm not into anything superstitious, where I come from. I just take my time and get my work in and try to get my mind right.
DM: Any hobbies?
JN: I love playing golf. I like to hunt in the off-season. I like hanging out with friends and spending a lot of time with these new guys and getting to know them, so it's been great.
DM: Favorite baseball team growing up?
JN: St.Louis Cardinals.
DM: If there is one person who taught you the most about baseball, who would that be?
JN: My brother, for sure, hands down. My dad raised me and my brother around baseball our whole lives and so having an older brother that could push you and challenge you in different ways helped me tremendously. My brother hands down taught me the most about baseball.
DM: Craziest thing you ever seen on a baseball diamond?
JN: I saw a little kid one time climb through a small hole in the center field wall at Southern Miss University and the little kid actually ran out in the field in the middle of a pitch. So we stopped the game and we were wondering how a little kid got into the field through in a small hole in center field. That was pretty crazy.
DM: Where do you see yourself in the future regarding your baseball career?
JN: Right now I'm being used in the bullpen, because I was a starter in college. I won't speculate [what role he will have in the future] and I'll do whatever they tell me to make it to the big leagues.
DM: James, thank you so much for your time and the best of luck to you and career.
JN: No problem. Thank you.