Kurt Suzuki Catching On To Pro Game

Ever since a dream season in college at Cal State Fullerton for Stockton Ports catcher Kurt Suzuki came true, his cards have been perfectly placed. But with great athletic ability and a quick bat, Suzuki success on the baseball diamond is more than just a lucky deck. Daniel Ray caught up with the top flight catching prospect before the end of the Ports' season.

Kurt Suzuki's professional baseball career begins with a stellar senior year in college where he won the 2004 Johnny Bench Award, Big West Player of the Year Award, and helped lead Cal-State Fullerton to the 2004 College World Series title. He also hit .417 with runners in scoring position and did not commit a single error all year long.

"It was awesome," Suzuki said. "It's something you dream of happening. We started off slow and ended up turning the season around midway. Went to the playoffs, and just kept playing good baseball, and then won the national championship to cap it off. It's just something I'll never forget."

After his collegiate career ended, Suzuki was drafted in the second round by the Oakland A's in the 2004 draft. For the remainder of the year, Suzuki spent 44 games in Vancouver where he hit .294 with 3 HR, 31 RBI and a .388 OBP. Since joining the Athletics organization Suzuki has noticed a key difference between the college and pro level: more games.

"You play every day," Suzuki said. "There's no such thing as practice or taking it easy. In college you have a full week of practice and play three games on the weekend and you have a week to let your body recuperate to get ready for that upcoming series. In pro ball you play every day, it just mentally and physically it drains you."

After the 2004 short season in Vancouver ended, Suzuki spent some time with the Oakland A's in spring training of 2005. While he was there, Suzuki had the experience of learning from the A's two catchers, Jason Kendall and Adam Melhuse.

"It was unbelievable," Suzuki said. "Whenever Kendall was playing, Melhuse used to be in the bullpen with us hanging out and we would talk about some stuff such as handling pitchers. And before we had a game, we had practice where Kendall would have free time and I would talk to him about calling a game and his approach to defense and hitting, as well. They've been in the league for a while so it's always nice to get information from them. Hopefully someday soon I'll get to be up there."

Suzuki joined the A's class-A team, the Stockton Ports, at the start of the 2005 season where helped lead the team to a second half division title and also a playoff spot. While in Stockton, Suzuki hit .277 with 12 HR, 65 RBI, and a .378 OBP.

With his first full-length professional season behind him, Suzuki knows there is still room for improvement.

"There are a lot of things I still have to learn," Suzuki said. "Defensively, I have a lot of stuff I have to tune up for next year. Offensively, I just have to keep trying to get better in every aspect whether it's swinging, pitch selection or being more mature at the plate. And also taking care of my body. It's a long season and my first full one. I've catched for over a hundred games. It's a lot different than college so I just try to get used to that. Hopefully it's going to help me keep it going for next season."

After a long first full season of baseball, Suzuki still isn't finished. After the Ports finished their playoff run, Suzuki will now join other top prospects in the Arizona Fall League.

"I'll get some good experience," Suzuki said."Especially since I was in the California League the whole year and now I have the chance to go to the Arizona Fall League. I'll get the chance to face some better competition and try to get myself better and ready for next season."

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