Q & A: Micah Hoffpauir

<B>Inside The Ivy</B>: Do you feel any sense of pressure knowing the organization has an influx of first basemen between yourself, Derrek Lee, Brian Dopirak and others?<p> <B>Micah Hoffpauir</B>: For me to sit here and say that I don't think of those guys, I can't do that ...

... However, I don't try and base my performance on them. I don't want to be worried about them to an extent that it's going to affect me personally. Yes, if they're having a great year, it's going to push you a little, but you don't want to get too caught up in that sort of stuff. There are certainly guys around me who are capable of doing a lot of good; I just have to go out and perform, and hope that's how things will stay.

Inside The Ivy: As you get set to report to Spring Training, what has your off-season consisted of to this point?

Micah Hoffpauir: I began by playing winter ball in Venezuela for three weeks. Unfortunately, I suffered a minor stomach injury while I was there, straining an oblique muscle that put me on the shelf for two weeks. Other than that, I've been working out, lifting weights, running, throwing, and serving as a substitute teacher.

Inside The Ivy: Tell us more about the stomach injury.

Micah Hoffpauir: Well, I swung at a pitch and it felt as though someone put a knife in my gut. I was trying to figure out how to keep it from getting worse. At the moment, it's fine. I've been swinging pain-free for several months and am 100 percent.

Inside The Ivy: What goes through your mind as you inch closer to the start of 2005? Are there any butterflies in your stomach as you presumably become one step closer to reaching the major league level?

Micah Hoffpauir: Not really, although there obviously is a little anxiousness. I'm reporting to camp this Thursday, as we have an early camp that starts on the 24th. About 30-35 guys, both pitchers and position players, are invited, so basically I'll get a two-week head start. I'm really looking forward to it.

Inside The Ivy: You were with the Cubs last spring in Mesa. Who worked with you and helped you the most during that stint?

Micah Hoffpauir: The Cubs' organization has such a great mix of coaches, and they have different guys who come in and help. Our Double-A manager (Bobby Dickerson) last season works really well with us defensively, so he's going to help out and get 100 percent out of us. Jeff Huson is another guy who knows his stuff, although he goes about it a different way. Offensively, you have a great mix of hitting coaches. To give credit to just one person wouldn't be fair to all those who help.

Inside The Ivy: Who was the mentor you learned from the most last season at West Tennessee?

Micah Hoffpauir: All of the coaches had their own approach. Bobby is a real hard-nosed guy that expects you to do your work; I liked that and respected that. Von Joshua, our hitting coach, is laid back. If you have a question and you go to him, he'll answer, although most of the time he's not going to approach you. Then you have Alan Dunn, our pitching coach, who is an exceptional man. He's very undervalued in the organization and is a just a great guy all around. Lastly, there was Charlie Greene, a catcher-slash-coach, who served as a median to the coaching staff.

Inside The Ivy: What is one piece of advice you learned from Double-A last season that you take with you heading into 2005?

Micah Hoffpauir: I just try to take things one day at a time; to take things as they come and not look at stats from my competition and say, "I should be doing that." Relax, have fun and play the game.

Inside The Ivy: Which aspect of your game is most important to you—hitting for average, or reaching base with good OBP totals?

Micah Hoffpauir: Well, my goal is to be the guy that is just going to drive in runs and hit for average first and foremost. If that consists of hitting a lot of home runs, so be it. If not, then great. But if a guy is in scoring position, my goal is to get him in whether it's a home run or a roll-over to second base. I just want to be the guy who drives in runs.

Inside The Ivy: What are your thoughts on the recent decision to experiment with Major League rules at the Minor League level as announced last week?

Micah Hoffpauir: (laughs) Man, I have no idea. To be honest, I didn't even know the rules were different, so it's not something I can really go into. I know that sometimes early in the season, those games last a long time and it doesn't really bother you. But when you start playing game No. 140 and pitchers are just walking around, you'd love to see it speed up from a player's aspect. They can try and do that as much as they want, but it's still going to be in the players' hands. You know, players have so-called rituals they go through. If a guy has a ritual that works, he's not going to change it for anybody else. I don't know how you can do that without affecting someone's feelings.

Micah Hoffpauir is a lifelong resident of the Lone Star state now living in Jacksonville, Texas. He was born in Fort Worth and attended college at Lamar University in Beaumont, after which he was selected by the Cubs in the 13th round of the 2002 draft. Last season, Hoffpauir batted .306 in 99 games for Double-A West Tennessee, adding 11 home runs and 75 RBI.

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