BravesCenter Exclusive: Elvis Interview

BravesCenter's Bill Shanks talks exclusively with Braves' shortstop Elvis Andrus, with the help from translator Kike Seda.

BRAVESCENTER: Can you tell us about how you were signed?
ELVIS: They started looking at me when I was fourteen years old. By the time I turned fifteen, and when I became sixteen when I could sign, they started contacting me. They start talking to you, and everyone starts treating you real nice. They asked me if I could start practicing with them, so I could show them what I had so we could prepare for the signing.

BRAVESCENTER: When they signed you, the money was pretty good?
ELVIS: Sure. Thank God everything went well. I cannot complain about anything. The money was good. Every time I talked with the Braves they always treated me well, with respect. The organization has treated me very well.

BRAVESCENTER: When did they start looking at you?
ELVIS: About twelve years old. Then when you get thirteen and fourteen, people start to try to get to know you and be nice to you.

BRAVESCENTER: What teams were looking at you?
ELVIS: All of them.

BRAVESCENTER: All of them?
ELVIS: All of them. I went to a tournament in California, the Area Code games, at fifteen years of age. Teams saw me play and really started looking at me.

BRAVESCENTER: How did the Braves get you? Were they the most aggressive?
ELVIS: When they saw me, they saw me run and field and hit. Some of the teams kind of eliminated themselves because they knew it was going to take a lot of money to sign me. The Yankees, Rangers, and Braves pursued me strongly. I almost signed with the Yankees. They made a pretty good offer. The first time I talked with the Braves they made me a pretty good offer, but it was just our first conversation. Dayton (Moore) and J.J. (Picollo) went to Venezuela and told me they wanted to sign me today and get the deal done. We did not get it done that day, but we did get it done the next day.

BRAVESCENTER: Was it all about the money or was it the Braves?
ELVIS: It was not all about the money. The organization treated me with respect. I talked with my brother, who was with the Yankees, and he told me the Braves were a super organization. I felt confident with the organization and the way they treated me. When I came the first year I just felt so at home with the organization, like I had been here for three years just because of the way the coaches treated me - with respect. And it was mutual.

BRAVESCENTER: When did you know you were good?
ELVIS: I started playing ball at three years old. I enjoy playing, but at twelve years old that's when I won some batting championships. People started saying I was good, and I hadn't thought about it. But then I started to realize that maybe I was pretty good. Whenever you‘re one of five shortstops and you‘re the best one of the group, you kind of feel like you‘re good. If you‘re the best of the lot, you‘re pretty good.

BRAVESCENTER: Did you watch the Braves on TBS in Venezuela?
ELVIS: No we didn't get TBS, but we have ESPN one and two. So I watched the Braves every time they were on.

BRAVESCENTER: Did you play with Venezuela in the Caribbean Series?
ELVIS: I did not get to play. I was too young. I would have liked to have played, but I was too young.

BRAVESCENTER: Let's go back a bit. How did you get the name of ‘Elvis?'
ELVIS: I'm not sure if I was named after Elvis Presley or not. Everybody in my family has a name that starts with an E. My dad is Emilio. My mom is Elia. My brother with Minnesota is Erold, and then another one is Erickson. Elvis was just the next name with an E.

BRAVESCENTER: You might be the second most famous Elvis in the world in a few years.
ELVIS: (Laughs)

BRAVESCENTER: When you got here last spring, there was a lot of talk about you. Did you know the impression you were making?
ELVIS: Not really. I did not realize it. People start talking and come to you and say nice things about you. Then you starting thinking you are doing a good job. I feel honored when people say nice things about me and to me. As a ballplayer, you like that.

BRAVESCENTER: How do you feel you did in the GCL last summer?
ELVIS: Last year I came to explore. It was like a new world for me. I came to learn. If I didn't have a good year, I was not going to get frustrated and let it bother me at all. I did not think I played to my potential. I made some errors that I thought I shouldn't have. I worked with Rafael Belliard and all the instructors worked with me and were patient. From spring training, I started learning. I was preparing myself for the next level. When they promoted me to Danville, it was a big surprise for me. I was very excited. Luis Ortiz (GCL Manager) told me, "I got some news for you." I said, "They're not sending me to Venezuela, are they?" He said, "No they're sending you to Danville?" It was just a giant emotion. I said, "Wow." In Danville, they had a few players from Venezuela, so I felt good. It pumped me up. That promotion to me was a super experience. I just kept playing my baseball at the same level that I can. I never thought that a season would be that long, but I kept working the same way I would have worked.

BRAVESCENTER: How many games were you playing in Venezuela?
ELVIS: Twelve games a year. Then I wound up playing twenty-eight games, and then forty games (in the minors last year). Toward the end of the season, I was tired. Not physically, but mentally. When they told me I was going to Danville, it was instant. I was just rejuvenated.

BRAVESCENTER: Kids at sixteen, when they sign, usually don't come over to the states. They'll stick around and play in the Dominican Summer League. So how was it for you to come straight here?
ELVIS: The preparation I had at home got me ready to come play here early, without going through one of the leagues in Latin America. Most of the kids that sign do play a year in the Dominican League. By that time, they're older and more mature. But in my case, they believed I was ready to come over. Some of the kids that get signed early are not prepared mentally. They‘ve got the physical attributes, but mentally it‘s just as important to face what‘s ahead for you.

BRAVESCENTER: A lot of people started talking about you last year. How do you feel about that?
ELVIS: Well I heard people talking. A lot of the coaches would ask me if I was really sixteen. They would tease me about it and say, "Are you sure you're not older?" I guess it was because of the maturity. It made me feel good and proud that they believed that. When I finished the Gulf Coast League last year, they congratulated me and said that I had talent. They told me I was very mature.

BRAVESCENTER: You do seem very mature for your age.
ELVIS: My brothers took over when my dad died when I was seven. They tried to teach me to do right. They became the father figure in the house. My brother with Minnesota helped prepare me with what‘s ahead. He told me what to expect and tried to guide me along, so I wouldn‘t have the same hard knocks that he did as a young player. So I just learned the good things to do from my brothers and the things not to do.

BRAVESCENTER: Have you heard the comparisons? If not, we'll tell you.
ELVIS: No I have not heard.

BRAVESCENTER: Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, and this year Derek Jeter.
ELVIS: (Smiles) Wow. That's high praise. I'm very honored to be mentioned in the same breath with them. They are great ballplayers.

BRAVESCENTER: How big have you gotten in the last year?
ELVIS: When I first signed, I was six-foot-tall. Now I'm six-one, 185 pounds.

BRAVESCENTER: How much more do you think you'll grow?
ELVIS: I'm going to grow some more. I'm young. From last year to this year, my shoulders are bigger. My back is wider than it was. I don't do much weight lifting, and won't until I'm fully developed. Let the muscles develop. I'm taking vitamins. I'm not doing any weights, just letting the body develop. Just wait until next spring training, I'll look a lot different because I'll be developed a lot more.

BRAVESCENTER: Tell me about your game? Are you going to be a power-hitting shortstop?
ELVIS: I'm not going to be a power-hitting shortstop or a home run hitting shortstop that will hit forty or fifty a year. I just want to hit line drives. I want to hit for average and drive a lot of runs in and score a lot of runs. I want to steal a lot of bases. If I'm going to make it in the big leagues, I can't just hit home runs. I want to do it by turning the double play, hitting for average, and just being the complete ballplayer. I don't just want to think about home runs. I want to think about the complete game. I want to do whatever I have to that will help my team win. I'm not worried about home runs. I like defense. It's essential. I like defense better. I like to play good defense.

BRAVESCENTER: It looks like you enjoy playing the game.
ELVIS: Yes I love playing the game. I'm a quiet person off the field. I listen a lot. I try to sit back and learn. With my teammates, I joke. I never want to get out of the stage where the game is not fun. I want to enjoy the game and play it for a very long time. Some people change and instead of enjoying the game, they try to press too much and then the game is not fun anymore and they don't do as well. I try to enjoy myself.

BRAVESCENTER: How did you enjoy playing in the big league spring training games?
ELVIS: It's been a dream of mine to play in the big leagues. It was very emotional to play in that stadium with all the fans. They told me I'd be in the big league complex. I thought I was going to go watch the game. I didn't realize I'd be getting in the game. When they told me I was going to play, I was like, "wow." It was very emotional. The game is the same everywhere. If you want to play, it doesn‘t matter where you are, whether it‘s in Japan or Venezuela or the states. It‘s just very emotional.

BRAVESCENTER: What are your goals for this season?
ELVIS: To improve in all my stats. I want to improve as a person. I want to improve as a ballplayer. But this year I want to win a championship. Last year in Danville, they took the ring away from us. So this year I want to win the championship. I just want to get better.

BRAVESCENTER: Everybody asks me, "when is Elvis going to be ready for the big leagues?" So you answer that question for me.
ELVIS: What I want to do is work hard, improve, and be mentally and physically ready. So when the bosses call on me, I'll be ready. I don't want to set a deadline. I just want to be ready when they think I'm ready. I don‘t want to rush. I want to go at the organization‘s pace, whatever they have for me - their pace.

BRAVESCENTER: People compare your situation to Andruw Jones. Do you feel that way? The difference is the numerous shortstops we have in our system, meaning you won‘t have to be rushed.
ELVIS: I want to keep improving year by year. It's not just making it to the big leagues. The main thing is you want to make it and stay there. I'd rather make it and stay. If you make it at 18 or 19, you might be back down. But I'd rather make it at 20 and stay than go back up and down. When I get to the big leagues, I want to stay. I'm not under any pressure to make it to the big leagues right now.

BRAVESCENTER: Who is better - you or your brother?
ELVIS: My brother is left-handed. I'm right-handed. Both of us have things to work on. We're strong in some things, and maybe not so strong in others. My brother is an excellent ballplayer. He‘s taught me a lot. He‘s helped me mature. He‘s passed along a lot of things to me, so I won‘t make some mistakes. My brother told me if I see a door, go through it. But it might not be the best door for you to walk through. So it‘s helped me be mature. I owe a lot to my brother. What my brother has told me has been invaluable, and the hardships he went through, I‘m avoiding those.

BRAVESCENTER: What year did your brother sign?
ELVIS: Six years ago. He was sixteen. So he prepared me for my signing as well. He prepared me for the mental part of the game…like going from 80 at bats in a year to 500 at bats. He‘s prepared me for the mental part of the game. I‘m avoiding some of the bad things he went through because of his counsel.

BRAVESCENTER: Are they giving you classes for English?
ELVIS: Yes. I love the language. I'm trying real hard to learn. CBS interviewed me and I responded in English. I got through the interview.

BRAVESCENTER: Anything else you'd like to say?
ELVIS: I just want to give advice to the young ones that are about to sign, not only in Venezuela but in Latin America. They're used to not having anything, but then they come into some money. Do not change your personality. Play the game because you love to play the game. You need to treat everybody right. When you get to be 40 or 45 and are out of the game, you might not have any friends if you've treated people wrong. Just because you've got money, if you don't have any friends, I'd rather be humble and treat everybody right. If you're a good person, you'll be respected as a good person, and a humble person treating people right.

BRAVESCENTER: Some players don't like to sign autographs? How do you feel about that?
ELVIS: To me, it's an honor that someone would want to have my autograph. It's an honor and a privelage for somebody to want my autograph.


Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional front office philosophies. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.


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