2010 Draft Prospect Q&A: Michael Choice, OF

Going into next week's MLB Amateur draft, one of the top collegiate hitters on the board is outfielder Michael Choice from the University of Texas, Arlington. Choice hit .383 with 16 homers, 76 walks and a 1272 OPS in 60 games for the Mavericks this season. The centerfielder spoke with John Anderson on Wednesday about his thoughts on the draft, the challenge of two-strike hitting and more...

John Anderson: Hi Michael. I saw that you had a pretty good few games in the Southland tournament. How did you feel?

Michael Choice: I felt pretty good after the tournament.

JA: How do you feel now with a week left before the draft?

MC: Well I guess I'm feeling pretty anxious. Time's going by pretty slow.

JA: What are you hearing from teams and their area scouts? Are you hearing from everyone in the top 10?

MC: Yeah, I'm hearing from a lot of teams right now. They're saying that they are going to be staying in touch pretty closely and to be expecting more of their phone calls the closer the draft gets. That's what makes me so anxious as I don't know which team I'm going to end up with.

JA: The buzz is that you can go anywhere from the 4th pick to the 11th pick, so I can see where you would be anxious but it is a credit to you that you have reached this point.

MC: Yeah it is definitely a good feeling.

JA: Any team preference?

MC: I guess if I had any preference it would be the Rangers because I'm from Arlington and I've grown up watching them.

JA: Talk about your approach to this season with it being your draft year and also that you knew you would be pitched around quite a bit.

MC: The season, I thought, went pretty well. My approach going into the year was that I knew I would be pitched around a little bit because we had some younger guys behind me and teams were going to make them prove themselves before they threw to me and my main goal was not to chase pitches out of the zone and to look for a pitch in the zone regardless of whether it was an off-speed pitch or a fastball. That was the approach I had to take. I couldn't get too relaxed thinking I'd get pitched around because then they'd throw two right down the middle and I'm not even ready for it. So that was the hard part…trying to stay in the middle.

JA: Scouts have made mention about the success you've had hitting with two strikes. How do you handle that?

MC: The main thing is trying to put the ball in play as easy as possible. I knew every time I got two strikes, the strike zone would expand a little bit because the pitcher would really try to get me to chase or they'd really try to get that pitch right on the corner that doesn't really look good to my eye. So that was my main challenge, to try to put it in play.

JA: You had a great summer with Team USA last summer. How did you find the transition going from a small conference to competing with players form the major conferences?

MC: The transition wasn't too difficult. It was one of those things where at first I didn't know what to expect but once you start playing you realize that those guys are just like you are. It took a little bit to adjust to the better pitching for maybe a couple days but once you got going, you got used to it.

JA: After the summer with Team USA, did any of the area scouts tell you there were certain things they wanted you to work on for your junior year?

MC: Not really. Most told me to keep doing what I had been doing but I had personal goals which were to try to steal more bases and maintain speed throughout the year which was my main goal.

JA: Your speed leads to me ask do you think you have the skill set to stay in center or is right field your ultimate position as some scouts contend?

MC: I think I can definitely stay in center. It's all about how hard you work. It will depend on which organization I end up with and whether they need corner outfielders or whether they need me to stay in center, either way is fine with me. I do feel more comfortable in center as I've played there for my three years in college. I caught in high school and played second base so I don't have a lot of experience on the corner, besides playing some left field this summer.

JA: Because you have such good speed have teams talked to you about continuing to develop your base running and base stealing skills?

MC: I have spoken to some scouts and coaches about base-stealing and I definitely believe it can be an aspect of my game. I just haven't got the repetition and haven't been doing it more.

JA: What other sports did you play growing up?

MC: I played football in middle school but I didn't carry it over in high school but I always played basketball and baseball growing up. I didn't play basketball my senior year of high school because I wanted to focus on baseball.

JA: What position did you play in basketball?

MC: Depending on the team I was on, I played either point guard or shooting guard.

JA: Are you a Dallas Mavericks fan?

MC: Not so much. I used to be when I was younger but I kind of fell away from the Mavericks because of some trades they made. They traded away some of my favorite guys so I stopped really following them.

JA: Who were some of your favorite guys?

MC: I really like Devin Harris and when they traded him that was kind of it for me.

JA: Who were some of your biggest influences growing up?

MC: My biggest influence was, and probably still is, my dad. He always kept me around baseball and was always talking about it. He was my coach for a lot of my teams when I was younger so that was all he wanted to do was talk baseball. He kept me into it and around it and let me play in the summer and the fall so I was usually playing year-round. So he was my biggest influence.

JA: As the best power hitter in the draft, do you remember your first home run?

MC: I was seven years old and it was in the East Fort Worth League and I remember there was an 18 wheeler behind the left field fence which was like a storage unit for the whole entire complex and I hit it over that 18 wheeler. I definitely remember that.

JA: Talk about the home run you hit at UT San Antonio. That hit has been making the rounds with scouts and on the Internet. Did anyone ever get a distance on it?

MC: No one ever got a real distance on it but it was a pretty good shot because it hit the top roof of the building which were the dorms behind the left field fence. Before the game we were talking about hitting one out that way and that it was probably impossible to hit one over that dorm and then I end up hitting one over it, so it was actually pretty funny.

JA: For all leagues, as their drafts approach, teams speak more and more about the importance of the character of a potential draft pick. I've heard great things about your character and work ethic.

MC: Well, that's just based on how I was raised. My parents raised me to not slack and to always work hard and to do your best. They also taught me that all people are equal and no one person is better than any other person. So that is how I have always been and looked at things.

As far as work ethic, I've always been kind of the underdog wherever I've been or the kid that no one really knew of until I was on the team, so I've always had that motivation to work harder and to try to get better and to eventually try to be the best player on my team and then to try to be the best player in my conference or wherever it might be to just keep getting better and better.

JA: You mentioned high school a bit earlier. Talk about your recruitment your senior year. With all the big Texas programs, you end up at a smaller school. How heavily were you recruited and did ending up at UT-A motivate you more to prove people wrong?

MC: I didn't really talk to any schools before UTA. I talked to one school, Oklahoma, and they suggested I go to junior college because I graduated high school at 17. So I visited UT-A, liked everything I saw from the campus, the schedule and the opportunity for me, which was the main thing.

JA: With a few days before the draft do you day dream about pitchers you'd like to face?

MC: Kind of but I'm more anxious to get out there and experience it all. I hear all the stories about minor league baseball and how tough it is to make it up and keep moving up through a system. So more of it is just anxious about getting up, but if I did have to face a pitcher, you might think I'm crazy, but I'd probably pick Roy Halladay just to see what it would look like.

JA: Is there a player in the game you pattern yourself after or admire?

MC: I've always liked the way that Torii Hunter plays. He's a great two-way guy making plays in the outfield and he is also a good hitter. I always loved watching him play because he always played hard no matter what. You'd look up and he was robbing a home run rather than watching it go out.

JA: Just a couple more questions and I'll let you go. Have you heard from all 30 teams?

MC: I've talked to 29 out of 30.

JA: Who haven't you talked with?

MC: The Nationals.

JA: What type of interest have the A's shown you?

MC: I've spoken to their area scout a couple times but they all same the same thing. That "they will be in touch" and "stay by the phone", but no major throw outs where they say anything specific.

JA: Do you have an advisor?

MC: Yes, Jeff Frye.

JA: I've read you have quite a few tattoos. Any significant ones or baseball-related ones?

MC: Probably the most baseball-related one is the one on my bicep. It is written in scroll and it says, "It's Hard but It's Fair." That's something my dad always told me growing up. If I was tired or didn't want to go to practice or if it was the championship game of the tournament and we had already played two games that day, he'd say "It's hard but it's fair." He'd say it so I'd keep working hard so that everything would keep working out for you.

JA: Finally, you've mentioned your family a lot, how are they handling these last few days before the draft?

MC: Yeah, if you'd met them you'd realize that they are probably more excited than I am. They talk about it a lot more than I do. When I go home, they are always asking questions and are ready for the day as much as I am.

JA: Will they have the opportunity to follow you in the minors?

MC: Yeah, my dad actually just retired on June 1 so he plans on following me.

JA: That is fantastic. Good for him. Well, thanks so much for your time Michael and good luck next week.

MC: Thank you.

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