Spring Camp Q&A: Brian Dopirak

MESA, Ariz. — Brian Dopirak is one of the most talked about prospects in not only the Cubs' farm system but all of minor league baseball heading into 2005. He was voted the organization's 2004 Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America, who also ranked Dopirak as the top prospect in the Cubs' system recently.

Inside The Ivy: Brian, congratulations on an outstanding season last year. Tell us a little about how things are going so far this spring.

Brian Dopirak: Things are going well. I'm getting a lot of work in, taking a lot of groundballs and extra batting practice, and I'm working on my swing. All in all, this year's camp has been run really well and I'm getting a lot out of it.

Inside The Ivy: How do you deal with all the hype heading into this season? Do I really need to go through the list of accolades you've been awarded in recent months?

Brian Dopirak: I just go out there and play my game. The way I handle it is I remember that baseball is just a sport. It's meant to be fun, and you're supposed to have fun while playing it. I'm a competitor and I'm always going to play well; it's just the way I grew up.

Inside The Ivy: You hit exceptionally well for power obviously, but you also pull your weight for average. What would you pinpoint as the secret to your success?

Brian Dopirak: It starts with a good coaching staff. I had a great staff last year that was willing to work with me whenever I needed help. I just kept working hard and remembered to stay on top of my basic fundamentals, which was a good part of my game and mental approach at the plate last season.

Inside The Ivy: What are some of the things you're busy working on at the moment?

Brian Dopirak: One is defense; I'm working on my fielding and am trying to get better at that. I'm trying to keep my hands out and bend my knees a little to become more agile around the bag. Offensively, I'm trying to stay inside on the ball and keep hitting it to right field.

Inside The Ivy: What were some of the things you did in the offseason to stay in shape?

Brian Dopirak: I worked on my agility, so I was in the weight room at least four times a week. I did a lot of sprints, jogging, and work on my dad's fishing boat. I like to fish a lot, but I have a big love for weight lifting and working out as well.

Inside The Ivy: You also had some experience in Mesa a few months ago in the Arizona Fall League. Tell us a little about your tenure in the AFL.

Brian Dopirak: The experience was great, man. I couldn't have asked for anything else after the season I had. It was great to be around such a good group of guys with outstanding character. We started to play really well as a team and we were all rooting hard for each other. The competition was good and we had some great players on my team, the Solar Sox. It helped me tremendously in my mental approach with all the great coaching in the league and the great guys who managed us. I got a lot of work in, took a lot of ground balls and got to work on my swing, so it was a very good experience for me.

Inside The Ivy: You share a unique connection with Ryan Harvey and Jim Hendry in that you all hail from the same high school in Dunedin, Fla. What are some of the things you've picked up from being around both gentlemen?

Brian Dopirak: Jim is a very professional man. He's professional about what he does, and winning is the only thing on his mind. As for Ryan, we both share the same characteristics.

Inside The Ivy: Would you compare yourself to anyone at the major league level?

Brian Dopirak: There are a few different guys I like to watch hit, such as Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez. Those guys are great hitters and Albert started at a young age, too. Sometimes you watch those guys and the video tapes from last year, and you begin to see how they do things.

Inside The Ivy: Good luck this season, Brian. Knock them dead.

Brian Dopirak: Thanks!

Author's Note: Dopirak's 39 home runs at Class-A Lansing last season were more than enough to lead the Midwest League, and ultimately the Cubs' farm system, in 2004. With the glove, Dopirak committed 15 errors in 1,041 chances for a .986 fielding percentage in 115 starts at first base.

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