Cubs Prospect Interview: Casey McGehee

We caught up with third baseman/catcher Casey McGehee following Sunday's thrilling 15-14 Daytona victory over the Fort Myers Miracle. The 10th round pick in the 2003 draft talks about the transition from third base to catcher, as well as that of aluminum bats on the college level to wooden ones at the pro ranks.

Q: You came from Fresno State in last year's draft. What can you tell us about yourself?

A: I grew up in Santa Cruz, California. I went to Fresno State straight out of high school. I played three years there and got drafted in the 10th round by the Cubs. After I signed, they sent me out to Lansing where I got to play third base every day last year in the second half of the season. I was fortunate enough to be on a championship team out there. Then this year, an instructor came and talked to me about doing a little catching, so I spent the whole off-season getting ready to do that. I got a chance to go to big league camp and work with all the guys there. Scott Servais fine-tuned my catching skills. So far this year, I've done a little catching and a little third base. It's been mostly third base duties, but there has still been quite a bit of catching. It's really been kind of back and forth.

Q: That was one of the things I wanted to ask you about—the transition from the hot corner to behind the plate. Tell us about it.

A: It's tough. It's a completely different ball game when you're behind the plate instead of at third. You have to let go of stuff a lot quicker when you're behind the plate. You can't go back their just thinking of your at-bats because you have to be locked in with your pitcher. The days you are back there, that is your main job: to get your pitcher through the game and have a good outing. As much as I enjoy hitting, you have to put it aside when you're back there. But I love it. You're right in the middle of everything when you're behind the plate. You have a lot of responsibility that keeps you in the game. There's always something going on, no matter the score.

Q: Whenever you're back there, do you try to rattle the hitter? Ever strike up a conversation, a la Crash Davis?

A: (laughs) Not too much because I don't really want their catcher doing it to me. But if I know a guy that steps in there, I'll say something to him. I try not to do too much chirping back there. I just try to stay locked in with my pitcher the best I can. Who knows, maybe when I get a little more comfortable back there I'll worry about some of the other stuff.

Q: Which do you enjoy more: third base or catcher?

A: It's hard to say. I really enjoy getting behind the plate and getting my nose in the game, and being in the middle of everything. As far as being comfortable and feeling like, "well I've done this before," I like third a little better just because it's a comfort zone for me. I've been there long enough to know I'm comfortable and not too many new things pop up over there. I've seen just about everything there is to see over there. It's not like catching, where every day there's a new situation. It's one of those things that you can hear someone tell you about, but until you're actually in the middle of it, you're not going to learn. It has it's plusses and minuses.

Q: Back to your college career at Fresno State. What was your proudest moment with the Bulldogs?

A: There were a bunch of them. I guess it would be my freshman year. We had a really good team. We got into the regionals and did well. Actually, Mark Prior's USC team knocked us out of the regional championship game. If I were to point to one thing, I'd have to say getting a chance to play for Bob Bennett would be it. He was the coach there for a long, long time. He's kind of a legend in college baseball and I got to be pretty close with him. Probably the one thing I'll hang on to more than anything is some of the things he tried to instill in us, and the way he had us feel about the game. On a personal level, I had a 32-game hitting streak in my sophomore year, which was good for second all-time in Fresno State history. So on a personal level, that was probably the accomplishment I was most proud of while I was there.

Q: How did it feel during the midst of that streak? To go out there consistently with all that riding?

A: I didn't even know about it until I was 20 games into it. Me and one of my buddies were out to lunch and I saw something about it in the newspaper. You know, it takes a mind of its own. I was trying to move it to the very back of my head, but when you're 0-for-3 in the eighth inning, it kind of creeps in there. As much as you try not to let it, it takes on a mind of its own. I was almost relieved when it was over. I was disappointed that it was of course, because you want to keep it going since you're starting to get close to a record. But yeah, I was almost relieved it was over, especially since it was during the last week of the season.

Q: You also majored in Kinesiology while you were at Fresno State. What made you decide to go into that field?

A: I just figured the more I learned how the human body works, especially in the profession I've chosen, it could only be of help to me. It would help me stay in better shape and maybe learn how my body works. It certainly couldn't have hurt me. It's going to be more beneficial to me than going out there and being a history major or whatever. I might as well know what my body is doing so I can take care of it.

Q: Growing up on the west coast, who were your baseball heroes?

A: My dad is from Baltimore, so I would say Cal Ripken. There were also a lot of guys from the A's and Giants like Mark McGwire and Will Clark. When I got older, there was Ken Griffey Jr. and Tony Gwynn. We don't get a lot of east coast baseball back there. We do get a lot of the A's and Giants, though, so those were probably the guys I enjoyed most.

Q: So were you an A's fan growing up?

A: Well I never really had just one team that I was diehard for. There were a lot of players I liked to watch, but a lot of teams I hated. One thing cool about being drafted by the Cubs was although they were half a country away, I got to see them a lot because of the national coverage. I remember a lot of days waking up to the Cubs on WGN at 10, or 11 o'clock in the morning. When we got to visit Wrigley Field last year, just walking in that place was awesome. I had expectations of what it would be like beforehand and they were everything I thought they would be. It was one of the most awesome places I've ever been. If I ever had a chance to just play one game there, it would be awesome. Just walking around outside the place, you feel like you're going to a ball game as soon as you get in that area.

Q: Tell us a little about your approach at the plate. Do you see yourself as a low ball or high ball hitter? Pull hitter or opposite field hitter, etc.?

A: My strength is definitely going to the opposite field. I think I have a little more power than I show, just because my approach doesn't really let me use it a lot since I try to stay down on the ball and take it to right field a lot. But as far as the kind of category I fall into, I would say I'm a line drive, gap hitter. I'm trying to think of who I would really compare myself to but I don't really know. It's kind of an accumulation of all the guys I've watched; a little from this guy, a little from that guy. I'm still constantly trying to fine-tune my swing and my stance. Coming out of college, I had to make quite a few adjustments because I wasn't going to be able to hit the same way I did with the metal bat. I had to shorten up and work on staying back on the ball a lot better. That's kind of been the on-going thing: to make those adjustments. Because if I'm not careful, I tend to revert back to what feels comfortable to me. And what feels comfortable to me is the way I hit in college. I'm still fighting that a little bit, but sometimes it just creeps in there.

Q: That is one of the questions we do not get to ask all that much. Describe the transition from use of the metal bat to the more traditional wooden one. Had you already had some experience with a wooden bat before joining the Cubs?

A: I played two summers after my freshman and sophomore years of college in wooden bat leagues, and I struggled horribly. I think I hit .230 and .245 against pitching that was not the best in the world. In a way, I was a little nervous because I didn't know how big of a difference there was going to be. But we had really great instructors when I first got into pro ball. Richie Zisk was our rover last year and our Lansing hitting coach, Mike Micucci, were both great about gradually getting me to change my swing. Once I did that, and shortened up a little and started to stay back, then I started seeing that I could hit with wooden bats instead of just metal ones. You have to be a lot more precise with that wood in your hands as opposed to the metal. It took me awhile to get used to it, but I feel I'm at the point now where it's not even a second thought to me.

Q: You started every game at third base in your final season of college ball, correct?

A: Yeah, I think I started every game my sophomore and junior years. It's a little different I guess since it's only four days a week instead of six or seven. One thing I had to get used to last year was if I sat out a day, it was normally my way of thinking that it was some kind of punishment. If you didn't start in college, it was likely because of something you did that you weren't supposed to. So I had to learn that it was not really punishment; just that that one day on the bench would buy you a few more on the playing field on down the line. You need those days every once in awhile just to kind of regroup.

Q: Final question—favorite music, TV, entertainment, etc.?

A: I'm kind of a Reggae fan. Growing up in California, I have a little weirdness to that. Bob Marley is by far my all-time favorite. That's the type of music you can't help but be in a good mood when you listen to. As far as TV, most of the time when it's on I'll watch SportsCenter two or three times a night and still have it on when I fall asleep.

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