Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Connor Hoehn, P

Oakland A's 2009 12th round pick Connor Hoehn made a strong first impression last year when he posted a 1.35 ERA and 28:9 K:BB ratio in 20 innings for the A's short-season squads. Hoehn has continued to shine in 2010 for the Kane County Cougars. In 27 innings, he has a 3.00 ERA and 37 strike-outs against eight walks. David Malamut spoke with Hoehn, and got help with the questions from Max Stassi.

David Malamut: How has the season gone for you so far?

Connor Hoehn: Pretty well, I've learned a lot. I've had some good outings, some bad outings. I really came out early and know what I need to work on.

DM: What are your goals for the year?

CH: Pitch well. This is my first full season. I don't know what to expect, if I can just compete every day that's all I can really ask for.

DM: What did you learn from playing at St. John's High School?

CH: I learned a lot. I learned how to work hard, push myself. Good coaching staff over there. We played a really competitive schedule. Once you play at a higher level you get better faster, and I think that is one of the pluses. It got me out there. It got me exposed. I went to a bunch of national tournaments my junior and senior year.

DM: Why Alabama, and what did you learn?

CH: My high school coach was really good friends with the assistant, and he came up a bunch of times and saw me. At first they were just in the mix with the other schools, then I went down and visited and it was really good. I like the coaches, I like the atmosphere around campus. It's kind of one of those things where you know it's where you want to be.

DM: Why did you transfer to St. Petersburg JC?

CH: I could tell I wasn't going to be a big part of the staff my sophomore year. I really wanted to compete. I missed that feeling. It was probably the first time in my life that I wasn't playing or competing every day. It was pretty much a career choice, if I had stayed there I don't know if I would have made it professionally.

DM: What did you learn from the college experience at both schools?

CH: It was really good. I got to live the normal college experience at Alabama. It was a great school, great football program. I made a lot of good friends. I learned a lot even though I didn't get a lot of innings while I was there. The coaches were still good. It wasn't a sour situation, so I learned a lot. In junior college I got a lot of innings, and once you get a lot of innings you start getting better really fast. Obviously junior college isn't on scale with a larger college in terms of the college life, but I made a lot of good friends there, and the coaching staff was just as good as at Alabama.

DM: What was draft day like the first time?

CH: I didn't have my hopes set high because you kind of get those calls a few day before the draft. The Brewers had called a few days before the draft asking if I would sign for a certain amount or a certain round, and another team had called, so I knew some teams were interested. I knew I was probably going to get drafted. It was pretty exciting. You can't really get that excited until your name gets called because you never know. I had a big smile on my face the entire day. We went out and had some good dinner. I kind of figured it was going to happen.

DM: Why did you not sign?

CH: At that point me and my family decided that the college opportunity to what was being offered on the table just wasn't, the college opportunity out-weighed it.

DM: What did you learn from scouts and coaches between the two times you were drafted and how did that help you?

CH: The big thing I learned is never get your hopes up. Between me and my friends, the people that got drafted, we all thought we would go higher, so we learned mostly from the scouts that if they say that if you go in this area you don't always go in that area. A lot of scouts broke it down to me, so that I knew what the actual scenario was. As far as the coaches, I learned a lot about how to carry myself off the field. That was one of the big things at Alabama, they prepared you for the next level.

DM: How was draft day like the second time?

CH: It was good. I was at home, I wasn't listening to it live on the computer. My agent called me and said you got drafted, and I was like no way. I hadn't really talked to Oakland. It was awesome. I knew at that point that I was definitely going to sign. I was just ready to start this. It was probably the best decision, that day I knew it was the start of the rest of my life.

DM: What about being drafted by Oakland?

CH: I was really excited because there are probably teams out there that you don't move as fast, they are more stacked with older players at the big league level and you see Oakland bringing a lot of young players up through their system quickly. You have the chance to make it. You feel that it's a legitimate shot, so I was really excited. It was probably one of the few organizations probably that no matter position you play you can feel that you honestly have a shot.

DM: How was playing in Arizona and what did you learn?

CH: I played there in Instructional League and I was only there like 15 days in the summer, I've never been to a desert environment, but it was pretty cool. One I had to learn to play in the hot heat. You have to adjust to that. Maryland has humidity. It's just way different, 114 it's like a hair dryer in your face. They have [roving minor league pitching and rehab instructor] Garvin Alston down there. They have the rookie ball pitching coach down there. They have a lot of staff to develop you and help quickly get you used to the professional setting, get you comfortable really quick. So when they sent me up to Vancouver I knew what to expect. When I first go there it's not like high school, it's not like college in Arizona. I learned what it is all about real quick.

DM: How was Vancouver?

CH: It was awesome. It was probably the best place I could've imagined playing my first half season. It's a good stadium, there is a good crowd whether you're losing or winning they are always screaming, getting excited out there. You get to play against all of the other top college prospects because that is mostly a college league, so I developed really quickly, especially mechanically with our pitching coach Lefty [Craig Lefferts]. He really helped me out a lot. He got me feeling confident, feeling good. The biggest thing that happened is that Lefty helped me with my mechanics, getting back to keeping things simple and not being all herky jerky. That was probably the biggest stride I made while I was there.

I had never been to Canada. I had been to Cuba one time that was the only other time I've been out of the country. I would really like to go back there, it was really overwhelming how nice the people were and how nice the fans were. The bus trips, 15 hours I think was our longest, and the bus broke down.

DM: How about the Midwest League?

CH: It's really cool, all these stadiums are nice. We played the [Peoria] Cubs [players] in Boise. So we are seeing a lot of the same familiar faces. Some people say this is one of the nicer stadiums in our organization. The playing atmosphere is awesome. As far as competition, there are some really good players in this league. Every team's lineup is solid. There are no weak guys. There are no guys you don't have to worry about. As far as developing, I'm glad I'm here.

DM: Have you ever played anything but pitcher?

CH: I played third base in high school a little bit, but then they converted me to a pitcher really quickly.

DM: What do you throw?

CH: Fastball, changeup and a slider, and sometimes, I'll vary the grip so it's more like a curve.

DM: What do you ultimately want those pitches to do?

CH: I try to cut my fastball on the outside with righties, and with lefties I try to get a little sink. You can kind of just control that with your release. My changeup, I just want it to have a little diving action, especially to lefties, and the slider as long as I'ts sharp and tight I'm fine with it. Sometimes it'll be a little slurvy. It's not perfected yet.

DM: What's your mentality on the mound?

CH: An extreme competitor. It's not exactly like I don't like losing, it's just when I'm out there, I can't go half way. I guess Tiger Woods would say going after blood. Even if I don't have my best stuff I'm going to try to find a way to get you out, end the inning with a zero on the board.

DM: What was your major?

CH: It was business, but I have an associates degree. I really hope to get a bachlorer's degree, that is one of my goals. I don't want to set myself up were if baseball doesn't work I'm kind of [without a plan]. We have a scholarship plan and I want to use it. That is one of my goals. I think the University of Phoenix has a 5-week plan. I was kind of looking at that, in the off-season I'm going to look into taking some online classes.

DM: Top 5 artists in your iPod?

CH: Little Wayne, Black Eyed Peas, 50 Cent.

DM: If you were not playing baseball, what would you be doing?

CH: I don't know, I'm really interested in business, but the thing is after playing baseball I really can't see myself sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours a day.

DM: What do you do besides baseball?

CH: I go on the computer and play games. There's a game called Evony. It kills a lot of time, like 2-3 hours a day. There's also Facebook.

At this point, Cougars catcher Max Stassi walked by and helped asking questions of Connor Hoehn

DM: Who was your biggest influence?

CH: The Iron Man Cal Ripken. I went to a few Orioles games. I named my dog after Cal Ripken.

DM: How was your off-season?

CH: It was pretty good. I sat on the couch a lot, and watched a lot of TV, went to the gym every other day, and did running and a lot of core stuff. That was one of the things that I really tried to focus on. You take 2-3 months off of throwing, that's really the only other thing you can do is try to get stronger, and work on flexibility and stuff.

Max Stassi: Who is your favorite teammate and why?

CH: Stassi, because he has the heart of a lion, and he goes out there every day and competes, and he is my catcher.

Max Stassi: Good, good that's what I like to hear.

How was your spring training?

CH: It was kind of rocky. I think I went there as a reliever then they tried to convert me into a starter, and then there wasn't enough spots so I'm back as a reliever, so I was trying a lot of things. I hadn't done the windup in 10 months. It was really rough seeing that I was wild. It was fun, it was my first spring training. It went a lot better than I thought it would, you don't know what to expect.

DM: What are you working on?

CH: I'm trying to do some mechanical things to work on my line to the plate. I kind of throw offline, so we are trying to do some small changes to get that.

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