Spring Training Prospect Q&A: Eddie Kim, 1B

For pure power potential, there aren't too many prospects in the Oakland A's chain who have the natural ability to hit the ball as far as 1B Eddie Kim. In his final season at James Madison U., Kim slugged at a .740 clip. He was drafted by the A's in 2003. Thus far, Kim has been hampered by injuries through much of his minor league career. However, after an off-season of hard work, Kim is hoping for better health and results in 2006. We caught up with him from A's minor league camp recently.

Eddie Kim's 2005 campaign was marred by injuries from the very beginning. He was hurt early on in camp and missed the start of the regular season to get healthy at extended spring training. Kim arrived in camp this season healthy and looking to put together a big season. We recently chatted with Kim to find out what he was thinking about the upcoming season.

OaklandClubhouse: How has camp been going so far?

Eddie Kim: Camp has been going really well so far. The biggest thing for me is that I am healthy. It's weird because since I really couldn't do anything after the first couple of days last spring, it feels like this is my first spring training all over again. I have really enjoyed getting back and playing with the guys and all of that. Extended spring training is one thing, but the competition and the level of play is completely different in regular spring training.

OC: When we spoke with you last season, you were adding a toe-tap back into your swing that you used to use in college. Did you decide to keep it? How is your swing coming along?

Eddie Kim: I did away with the toe-tap this off-season and I was going with a simple up and down leg lift. Then today [March 28] we changed it again to what I was doing maybe last year or two years ago. I have early hitting tomorrow and I'll see how it feels then.

Basically, I'm trying to take the best elements of the swings I've used to get something that feels really comfortable for me when I am at the plate. Comfort is the main thing when you are hitting, and I have been feeling really comfortable at the plate this spring. I feel like I am seeing the ball well and I've been recognizing curveballs and other off-speed pitches and that's important for me. My goal is to have a plan and work on something different in every at-bat this spring. I've been working a lot on my approach at the plate.

OC: Which team have you been playing with this spring?

Eddie Kim: I have been with the Stockton team the whole camp and hopefully that is where I'll end up. Coach today said that nothing is set in stone, so you never know, but I am hoping for the best. It's really out of your control. I'll go wherever the front office tells me to and all I can do is try to show up and contribute whenever my name is on that line-up card and try to help the team win.

OC: Have you been working with Todd Steverson and his Stockton staff?

Eddie Kim: Yes, I have been working with the Stockton coaching staff. I've been hitting a lot with [Ports' hitting coach] Darren Bush. The way he talks about hitting, it's different then anything I've ever heard before. It's hard to explain exactly how he puts it. When he first start explaining [his philosophies] to me, it was hard to understand what he was looking for. But now I have a handle on it, and it is pretty amazing. It's so simple and yet totally different. I think if I have a chance to work with him all season, it will be pretty special.

OC: Are you excited about potentially hitting into that short right-field porch in Stockton?

Eddie Kim: I've heard a lot of things about the Cal League from the guys who have played there and how the balls fly out of the park, especially in the Southern portion of the league. However, if I am playing there, I can't be thinking about that or the right-field porch because if I start thinking about that, it will take me out of my game plan. One of the things I spent this off-season working on was having a good approach at the plate.

I'm 6'3'', 250 pounds, so the power will take care of itself. I'm concentrating a lot more on getting good barrel on the ball each time I'm up and less on trying to hit homers. That's actually one of the things that [Bush] has been preaching. He says ‘look, you're a big guy. The power will come naturally. If you hit 70 percent of the balls you hit hard, 10 or 15 of them will go out.' So I've been really just focusing on going up there and hitting the ball hard.

Sometimes, in the past, I would press to hit homeruns and it would effect my swing. When I was in Kane County, I really didn't have a plan when I was at the plate. Batting practice was almost like a homerun derby, where I'd just try to hit the ball as far as I could. That sort of practice doesn't really help you with your approach during the game. It doesn't really matter if you can hit it 500 feet or not. What matters is how you approach the at-bat and the kind of consistent contact you are making.

OC: You mentioned that you worked on your approach this off-season. What kind of work did you do?

Eddie Kim: The past two off-seasons, I worked out at JMU, but this off-season I was home [in Northern Virginia]. In Virginia, it worked out great because the weather isn't that good [in the off-season] so I had to hit in an indoor cage where you can't tell how far you hit it. Instead of staring at a fence and judging how I'm hitting on whether the ball was going over it, I was able to spend the off-season focusing only on the barrel of the bat hitting the ball, and I think that that helped me out a lot. I worked on keeping it simple with my swing and my approach.

I also worked out at a place called Velocity Sports Performance in Alexandria, VA. I was able to work out with a few big league guys, which was great because I was able to see how they went about their business. You can't prevent injuries, but you can change the chances of you getting hurt. I went there and told them that I wanted to add flexibility. I worked out there three or four times a week for about four hours. I lost about 20 pounds and I lowered my body fat like 7 or 8 percent. I feel really great right now. I know that in the past when I was healthy, I was really productive. Injuries are a part of the game – you risk getting hurt every time you go out on the field – but hopefully I've put myself in a good position to stay healthy this season.

OC: What non-baseball related things did you do this off-season?

Eddie Kim: I worked a lot this winter. I worked as an instructor at Overtime Athletics, which is an after-school sports program for kids. I taught them how to play basketball and baseball and soccer. It was great. I love working with kids. Probably the most challenging thing I did this off-season was I worked with 2- and 3-year-old kids at a place called Sportzone teaching them to play different sports. It was crazy because they have no attention-span so a ball goes one way and all of a sudden you have 17 kids running in different directions. It was a lot of fun, though.

I spent a lot of time relaxing and I got my mind off of baseball this off-season. I didn't pick up a bat or a ball until December or January. I spent a lot of time with my family and friends from home and JMU.

OC: Can you believe that fellow Colonial Athletic Association team George Mason is in the Final Four?

Eddie Kim: It's been crazy to see George Mason in the Final Four. [Dan] Meyer and I were just laughing about it the other day. Everyone back home is going wild over it. I think it really speaks well of the CAA and mid-major conferences in general. Even though it is basketball [and not baseball], I think you are going to see a lot of coverage of a lot of mid-major sports teams after this. Someone was talking about parity really hitting the college game and it is definitely true.

The JMU baseball team was ranked 25th in the country recently and Meyer and I were just amazed. I think you'll start to see that recognition coming for mid-major schools a lot more. Even though George Mason is our arch-rival, I'm definitely rooting for them in the Final Four. It's an amazing story.

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