Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Nino Leyja, IF

At 19 years old, infielder Nino Leyja is one of the youngest players on the Kane County Cougars roster. However, he isn't short on experience, having played for the Cougars during the second half of last season. David Malamut recently sat down with Leyja for a Q&A...

David Malamut: How has the season gone so far?

Nino Leyja: It's going alright so far. We have had some ups and downs during the season. It's a long season. That's just baseball. You're not going to win every game.

DM: What is your mentality at the plate?

NL: Let the ball come to me. A few games I've been chasing out of the zone, and hitting pitchers' pitches and not waiting for my pitch in my one spot.

DM: What are you working on defensively?

NL: Slowing my hands down, and slowing the game down. The past couple of years I've kind of sped the game up and hands have just been moving too fast, and basically slowing my hands down and making the fundamental play.

DM: What are you working on offensively?

NL: Shorten up my strike-zone.

DM: How has it been playing 3b/SS/2b

NL: Making the transition to third base is a little rough for my arm just because it is a longer throw. I'm just trying to learn how to maintain the strength in my arm to get the throw across the diamond.

DM: What did you learn going to Houston Christian High School?

NL: I learned a lot from my head coach, and the hitting coach. They taught me the game. They're not the normal high school coach that just tries to bark at you, and make you run all the time. They were teachers of the game. They know how to sit you down and tell you what you need to do, to tell you what you are doing wrong. They know how to go about teaching you the game.

DM: How was draft day?<

NL: Draft day was great. I was just sitting at home, not knowing if I was going to go to college or what. I was just sitting there waiting, trying to enjoy my summer. Once I got that call I was pretty excited. I listened to the draft the first day. I knew I wasn't going to go the first day, but I had some friends in the first round, and I just wanted to see them. I was excited for them.

DM: Where were you going to go to college?

NL: San Jacinto Junior College. No idea what I was going to study, maybe baseball.

DM: What was Arizona like in 2008?

NL: A little hot, one of the hottest places I've ever been. It was fun. It was my first season in pro ball. Basically I just tried to play hard every day and just tried to have fun. I had no worries. I was just going out and playing baseball.

DM: How was Vancouver?

NL: Vancouver was fun. I was there for a little bit. I didn't get to enjoy it the way everybody said, big league city. I didn't get to go out much or experience any of that, but playing ball there was pretty fun. Rick Magnante is a great head coach. Canada was a little different not having transportation and the food over there was a little different.

DM: What did you learn playing in Kane County last year that has helped you this year?

NL: I grew older in the game. I learned different situations in the game that happen during the game. I made a lot of mistakes last year and I learned from them. I think that is what helped me a lot is the mistakes last year and learning from them.

DM: How about playing in the Midwest League?

NL: It's cold at the beginning. It's really cold. It's the first time I ever played in 40 degree weather. It was tough at the beginning but it's getting pretty hot the way I like it.

DM: How was the playoffs last year?

NL: The playoffs were competitive. Everybody came out every day trying to get to the next series. Burlington just came out and beat us. They just came out and swung the bats and just beat us.

DM: What besides baseball do you like to do?

NL: Spending time with my family.

DM: What would you be doing if you were not playing baseball?

NL: I'd be in school.

DM: What was your biggest influence growing up?

NL: My dad. I never really had any instructors or coaches that I went to on a regular basis. Really my dad was the one coach I had growing up until high school. He really got me to where I am today.

DM: Top 5 artists in your iPod?

NL:Little Wayne, Lil Boosie

DM: How was off-season training?

NL: Good. My plan for the off-season was to get stronger and get bigger, and kind of fit into my uniform a little more. It went well. I had a couple of set backs here and there. I basically trained every day.

DM: Spring training?

NL: Went by really fast. Felt great out there. The weather was great. I was basically just trying to get back into the groove and get started.

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