Matt Murton:: Most definitely. I feel pretty comfortable with where I'm at right now. There are obviously things you're going to be tinkering with, but I feel much further along this year than last. You have an offseason where you work on things, and obviously this is our job and it's what we do. This is my second full season, and now that I'm on the professional circuit, everything is more tooled around baseball instead of going to class, etc.
Inside The Ivy: What are your thoughts on your manager, Bobby Dickerson, and your coaches and teammates?
Matt Murton: Bobby, Von Joshua and Alan Dunn are all very professional, which I really appreciate. They treat us like men and expect the most out of us, which means they'll get on you even though they mean well. Von has been great; we're working on a few things with my swing. He is allowing me to free my mind and focus on little things like getting my load at the plate started earlier. Bobby was already a great help in Spring Training and I know the pitchers enjoy Alan. My staff and teammates are great, so they'll continue to push each other and hopefully I will feed off of that. Basically, the biggest thing in baseball is timing and balance; it's vital for good hitters. You can have quick hands and be strong, but if you're not getting started on time, you won't be as successful as you should. The thing with me is this: if I get started on time, the 95 mph fastball doesn't seem 95. It just sits there and you can work a lot better. When I talked about getting started earlier, it's a matter of when I'm getting set and when I'm getting my weight-shift back. We've been working on that a lot this year and making sure I don't dive my foot. Controlling your lower half and allowing your eyes and mind to work is just so important. If I can get that to work, I can simply let my athletic ability take control.
Inside The Ivy: A lot of your teammates this year played with you at Daytona last season. What kind of chemistry do you have with them?
Matt Murton: It's a very special bond, because I don't think it's as common in other organization's as it is here. I think this group of guys is a talented one, and for the opportunity to have that many core guys move level to level each year is just special. It's a tight-knit group and it's really special to have a relationship with guys off the field, because you get to know each other only better on the field. You know how personalities are different? Well, you learn how to approach them and interact with them on the field, which is great. It also allows you to give them space when they need it, and that's also a special thing. Obviously, this core would love to move up another level, but I think the realization of it is once you get to Double-A, things start narrowing down a little more and there are not as many guys moving on together. I think guys are looking for this to be a special year because they know they could be parting ways.
Inside The Ivy: What are your impressions of the Southern League in terms of locale? What are the most noticeable differences between Jackson and the Florida State League?
Matt Murton: We've only been here for a couple of weeks, but it's a little less populated from what I've seen so far. There is more woodland and rolling hills, whereas Daytona and Sarasota are both right on the beach. For the most part, baseball is just baseball. I think it will be a great year. There are some slight differences off the field. I've found a good home here, so we're fortunate to have found actual housing instead of just apartments. We're kind of excited about that. Being comfortable is a big thing, because you know you'll be here for the next six months. Your surroundings at home and living conditions make a tremendous outlook on your season as a whole.
Inside The Ivy: You got a few at-bats with the major league club this spring. How does that prepare you for the season ahead, and are you a wiser player because of it?
Matt Murton: The biggest thing with that is we're just thankful for the opportunity Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker gave us. Dusty is really good about getting guys into the game. What it does more than anything is make you more comfortable with your surroundings. These are guys you grew up watching on TV. To realize that and to realize the game hasn't changed, you have to respect each and every one of them. Because of that, they're at the place you want to be. It's certainly a great place, but you realize you're not that far away and that you're capable of playing at that particular level. It's a realization that it is not as far away as you expect, and it may allow you to focus differently and realize you may soon be on the major league club helping them win games.
Inside The Ivy: What's the most important thing you learned from Spring Training with the Cubs?
Matt Murton: The biggest thing is to realize more than ever that you've got good friends. I had a good friend who was let go by the organization this year, and so you realize your window of opportunity is closing. You go to Spring Training with 100 guys and you have to cut them down. When you have them all in one spot, I believe the Cubs really have a lot of solid talent; guys who can contribute at the major league level. It makes you realize you have to work harder. We're all going to feed off of each other. If you do the math, there are only so many spots. You have to work harder every day. Don't ever let somebody form a negative thought about you, and don't ever let someone tell you can't make it.