Sogard Excited For New Opportunity

PHOENIX - Earlier this month, the Oakland A's acquired Eric Sogard from the San Diego Padres as part of the trade that also brought Kevin Kouzmanoff to Oakland. Sogard, a second baseman, profiles as a classic A's prospect, one who knows how to work the count and take a walk. Phoenix Correspondent Kyla Hill recently spoke to Sogard about his career, his transition to the A's and more...

A solid hitter with an eye for drawing walks, Eric Sogard may not yet be a household name for some fans, but the second baseman is a player that the Oakland A's have kept an eye on since his days at Arizona State University and throughout his three years in the San Diego Padres organization. Drafted in the second-round of the 2007 draft, Sogard was acquired by Oakland earlier this year along with third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff in a trade that sent outfielders Scott Hairston and Aaron Cunningham to the Padres.

Batting near the top of the lineup throughout most of his career, Sogard capitalizes on his ability to get on-base and score runs. During his first season, he pulled in 53 hits, followed with 165 in 2008 and 134 in 2009. He had an on-base percentage (OBP) of .335 with 22 runs in 2007, which increased the following two years to .394/97 runs and .370/79 runs, respectively.

Sogard has admitted that he needs to improve on his defense, as he committed 15 errors during the 2009 season. However, he feels confident his new exercise program will improve his speed and agility minimizing the potential for errors.

In his relatively short professional career, Sogard has played in the 2008 California-Carolina League All-Star game and participated in the 2009 Texas League midseason classic. Before the trade, ranked him as one of the Padres top-30 prospects for 2010. Sogard has expressed confidence that he will comfortably transition into and progress through his new organization, possibly competing this year for a starting position with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats.

We caught up with the Arizona native before he reported to the A's big league camp on February 25, the first big league camp of his career.

Kyla Hill: What was the biggest transition from your college experience at Arizona State University to professional baseball?

Eric Sogard: Playing everyday. In college, you're hitting well or maybe you're in a slump, but you have the whole week to prepare yourself for the weekend games. When you're in pro ball, its day-by-day, you travel constantly and you don't have that week to make your adjustments.

KH: Tell us how you came about batting left and throwing right?

ES: [laughs] Here's a little something different. When I was younger I used to throw left-handed. I still can apparently. My dad said when I was younger that I wanted to be an infielder so I just switched and learned how to throw right-handed. I've always hit left-handed pretty well so I've never had the need to switch over. I only hit left-handed in games, but if I were messing around I can hit right-handed pretty decently.

KH: In 2007, you were named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year as a Sun Devil. What contributed to that achievement your junior year?

ES: I was able to get comfortable at second base. For a couple of years at ASU I moved around and played all different positions. I was able to focus on second base alone and really work hard. We had a great infield coach, Andy Stankiewicz, that really helped me and I was able to really focus on all the little things, not just the general position itself.

KH: In the 2007 draft, the Padres selected you as their 2nd round draft pick (81st overall pick). When you heard the news, did you feel as though your childhood dream of becoming a professional baseball player was coming true?

ES: That's pretty much exactly it; a dream come true. It was something that I had always wanted and worked really hard for. So to finally see my name called for a professional team it was a shock. I was so excited. I had a few of my ASU teammates around and it was an unbelievable experience. One that I will never forget.

KH: You probably knew at that time that your life was going to change drastically?

ES: For sure. I knew they [the Padres] were giving me a chance to work my way through the organization. I had heard that the minor leagues are a bit of a grind, which I have found out to be true, but I have enjoyed my time so far and I know the best is yet to come.

KH: You said you heard that minor leagues are a bit of a grind, what do you mean? Is it the constant traveling and being away from family and friends?

ES: It is tough, being away from home. For some guys, it's the first time leaving home. You're spending six months away from your friends and family. If you have a girlfriend, it's tough only getting to see her once a month, if that. Just traveling all the time: hour bus trips, getting it at 6 a.m. then having to play later that night. It takes a toll on your body to do that every day for six months.

KH: Being able to produce and contribute on the field, when it counts, is key. What do you do during the season so your body does not physically wear down and that you're able to play the way you know you can?

ES: One thing that I have found that has helped me is to routinely workout three times a week. It's really tough to get yourself to do that because you're dragging and you're tired from playing, but it's amazing how much it helps your body. It gets you refueled and keeps you going.

KH: Going back to your first season in 2007, you went from short-season to Single-A, with a spot appearance at Triple-A. With a batting average of .251 to close-out the season, what did you take away from your first year removed from college?

ES: It was just a great experience for me. I probably didn't come out and have the best first half of the season that I could, but you know I was kind of getting my feet wet and seeing what the whole pro-ball experience was like and learning from it. I wasn't happy with it [the batting average], of course, but I just had to take it as a learning experience. It was the first time I had ever played that many games of baseball in my life. I just learned from it and took some time in the off-season and started working out hard, knowing that I had been playing this game my whole life and had been successful at it. I knew I had to come out the next year and actually show them what I could do. It was a great learning experience for me and I learned a lot.

KH: In 2008, it seemed you settled in a bit and felt more comfortable with the pace of the minor leagues. Besides getting your first full season under your belt and getting a full season of at-bats, what do you attribute your improved batting average of .308 with High-A Lake Elsinore to?

ES: During the off-season, the organization enforced hitting the weights and getting stronger and putting on weight. I gained almost 15 pounds and felt strong. I had a really good first spring training there and I felt confident that I could succeed at this level and I got out there and played my game. I felt comfortable out there and it went well. However, that off-season I probably lacked a bit in my speed agility and running, which I feel like I lost a step on these last couple of years just from really concentrating on the weights. This off season I finally got into a pretty elite workout program which has allowed me to concentrate on the agility part of my game which was a big part of my defense at ASU.

KH: Last season you advanced to Double-A and played for the San Antonio Missions. You were named to the Texas League All-Star squad, hitting .293 while leading the team in runs scored and finishing second on the team with doubles and extra base hits. Seems like each year, you're gaining momentum and confidence.

ES: I felt that I got comfortable there and was able to have another pretty decent season. However, I could definitely tell the difference in the pitching. Pitchers were more consistent and had a little more run or sink on that ball, but playing every day I got adjusted to it pretty quickly.

KH: In Double-A you had a 58-to-47 walk-to-strikeout ratio and had a ratio of 79-to-62 in 2008. You have a very simple swing and approach, and you do not need a lot of maintenance and adjustments. What do you contribute to your walk-to-strikeout ratio?

ES: I don't know. I just try to stay consistent with my swing and mechanics. I get up there and I try to see a lot of pitches, work the count, which a lot of times I will get a walk out it. If not, hopefully I'll get a good pitch to hit and drive it somewhere. I usually hit towards the top of the order so I am able to get on-base for the number three and four hitters and they'll drive me in.

KH: When you found out that you were part of the trade that brought you and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff to the A's, what went through your mind and how important is it to have a positive attitude throughout your career? Here you are the 2nd round pick by the Padres, moving quickly through the organization, seemingly close to the bigs, and then you get traded.

ES: I really didn't know how to act. I kind of had mixed emotions at first, but then I found out the details and how the A's really kind of wanted me. They wanted me during the draft, but I guess didn't have the opportunity. They liked what I had done throughout the minor leagues, got the opportunity and took me. I was excited to hear that and then I got the invite to big league camp so that kind of just of put the cherry on top for me.

Attitude is a large part of the game. It's something that really helps me get through the season and changes over time. When I'm out there playing with those guys everyday, they become brothers to me. We go out there and find ways to have fun every day. I think it really helps your performance on the field, as an individual, and as a team.

KH: Speaking of big league camp, what are you looking forward to? Anyone on the team that you're interested in getting advice from or will you just lay low and soak it all in?

ES: I'm sure I'll do a little of both, but I am very excited. I'm looking forward to just experiencing it. It's going to be my first one so I am just going to take it in and learn as much as I can and just have fun with it. I know Travis Buck will be there who I got to play a year with at ASU so I'll know somebody there.

KH: What can we expect from you this year, wherever you might be?

ES: Hopefully I can keep doing what I've been doing. Keep getting on-base for the guys to drive me in. I really take pride in having more walks than strikeouts. Also, I am going to continue to improve my all around defense. My speed-agility program will have a lot to do with my improvement. That's something that looking back on while at ASU, I never really noticed how much stuff I did until I'm working out on my own and don't have the drive to hit on all that stuff. By going to Fisher Sports this off-season I think is really going to help me in that area. I'm excited to get out on the field.

KH: If you had a crystal ball, tell us where it would say you'd be in three to five years from now?

ES: Hopefully I'll be able to continue what I am doing and just continue to improve in all areas and continue to learn about the game. I feel like I can definitely compete at the pro level. Hopefully, I'll be playing a full-season in the big leagues – three years sounds good.

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