We spoke with the young outfielder about his first season in professional ball, his quest to get better on defense, where he will begin the season and more…
OaklandClubhouse: How has your spring training been going so far?
Matt Sulentic: It has been going good. It has been going really good. I'm feeling comfortable out there on the field and I'm just getting ready for the season.
OC: Do you know if you are going to be headed to Kane County?
MS: Yeah, I'll be in Kane County.
OC: You had a taste of the Midwest League at the end of last season. What do you think you'll take with you from that experience as you begin this season?
MS: The competition is really good there and the fans are really dedicated to a lot of the teams in that league, so it makes that much more intense when you are out there on the field. I just think that it is super important to keep up your intensity and play every game like you are really playing for something. That just makes it all that much better to be playing out there. [Playing with intensity] is just one of those things that you really learn to do while you are there.
OC: What sort of adjustments did you have to make last season going from high school baseball right to Vancouver, which is often referred to as a collegiate-level league?
MS: The adjustments I had to make were that I really had to get used to being in a situation where every player on the field was capable of making all of the plays and every guy on the field being a really good player. The competition was much better [than in high school] and the speed of the game was much better.
I had a lot to learn as far as how to play the game, too. That was probably the biggest thing for me was as a high school player never playing college ball or anything like that. It was tough, especially with a lot of the situational stuff that I had to learn. I had to make a lot of mistakes in that area before I really started to get any better. That was probably the hardest part for me.
OC: Was there much of an adjustment going from aluminum bats to wood or had you had a lot of experience with wood bats?
MS: I played in a lot of wood bat tournaments and I practiced hitting with wood a lot. There are definitely some things that are different [about hitting with wood], but when it comes down to it, you have to get the ball on the barrel, and if you do that, usually you'll be successful. It's the same in that respect with both wood and metal. I just really tried to keep that in mind while I was making that transition.
OC: Has there been anything that the A's have worked with you on in terms of your approach to hitting during the Instructional Leagues and now in spring training?
MS: Absolutely. The A's hitting philosophy is that you want to be a very selective hitter, but aggressive to the pitches that you can handle. I worked a lot on that in the Instructional League and I have been focusing on that in spring training. It is a really good approach and it is helping a lot.
MS: In the off-season, I worked a huge amount on defense. I spent a lot of time working with guys who play professional baseball in other organizations from my area who are living close to me in the off-season. They helped me a lot.
I needed help pretty much on every aspect of defense. I struggled a little bit on defense at times last season. I got better, I think, in the off-season. [The off-season work] has kind of slowed the game down for me and I'm not as tense when I am out there because I feel a lot more comfortable. I still have a lot of work to do, though. I am always going to be looking to get better on defense.
OC: What was that moment like on draft day when you heard that you had been drafted so high and that you were about to be a professional baseball player?
MS: It was unbelievably exciting. I was just ecstatic just to be drafted and then to be drafted as high I was, was just even better. It was just a dream come true. I was really grateful to get a chance to chase my dream.
OC: Did you get a chance to visit the A's clubhouse after you signed?
MS: No, I didn't make it out to Oakland. After I signed, I went straight to Vancouver, maybe a week and a half after I signed. [Vancouver] was really my first taste of pro ball. I was pretty much there right away.
OC: Having gone through pretty much an entire spring training now, is it a lot different than getting ready for a high school season?
MS: It's different because obviously it is a lot more intense in spring training, a lot more physically demanding, but my approach has always been that I'm just looking to get ready to go for the season. And that always takes a lot of hard work no matter what level you are at. It's a lot of fun [at spring training] and it is a good chance to get your game tight for the season.