Q&A: West Tenn's Matt Craig

West Tenn's Matt Craig has learned a new position, overcome controversy, and cut back on his strikeout totals--all in one season.

Inside The Ivy: In your own words, how satisfying or not has this season been for you?

Matt Craig: I think it's gone well. There are a lot of things I think I've improved on. I've learned a new position. One thing I wanted to do coming in was cut back on my strikeouts. I've improved on my defense and learned a new position, as well as various other things on defense.

Inside The Ivy: This has been your first real season at first base. How has the transition gone for you?

Matt Craig: Oh, it's gone well. It's pretty similar to third, which makes it a lot easier. It feels good to learn a position, especially in the National League where you may have double switches. You have to know how to play new positions. There are little things you have to learn about first, especially around the bag and about turning double plays. All in all, it's gone well.

Inside The Ivy: Whose idea was it to move you to first?

Matt Craig: Well, I think it was more situational, what with our team than any other thing. There are three guys here in myself, Brandon Sing and Casey McGehee all capable of playing the infield, and you have to try and mix and match around that. I can always go back and play third if things don't work out. I've played third since college, so I'm open to it and to doing anything.

Inside The Ivy: You had been struggling a bit these past couple of months. Can you think of anything that led to that?

Matt Craig: It's funny how baseball works. I've actually hit the ball harder these past two months than in the first two. The ball just goes right at people. I could have easily had four extra home runs than what I have now. I've been a little unlucky with balls going right at people. I feel a lot better now than in the beginning of the season, though. It's definitely the way you want to go with the long summer and with people getting tired. I feel like I've improved overall.

Inside The Ivy: Obviously the suspension early on was a setback. How have you coped with things since?

Matt Craig: I realized that people have gone through a lot worse throughout history as far as being accused of something they didn't do. They've come out on top and that's how I looked at it. This was small beans compared to what others have done. The Cubs were great about it, and I went and got my own third-party drug tests done. They all came up negative and it did a lot to ease me because I haven't had to change my diet.

Inside The Ivy: We had heard that you'd done a lot to clear your name. How has that process gone?

Matt Craig: I appealed the suspension of course. I know we pretty much have to do whatever the minor league office tells us, so my hands were tied in that regard. I just felt like getting my own tests and I've done it a couple of more times this season. They all turned out negative. I think the system is great and is in place for the betterment of baseball for the fans and the people's sake. There are some holes that will get ironed out, but there's no point in dwelling on all of that. I've learned that you can't really dwell in the past.

Inside The Ivy: Your home run totals are down a bit this season from last year, but when you look back to 2003, they're sort of right where they were then. Which is more accurate in describing your home run pop: the 20 homers you hit last year, or the 11 you've managed this season?

Matt Craig: I really don't know. Twenty homers were great last year, but I wasn't really focused on hitting home runs; I was focused on just driving the ball more. The home runs will come. In Daytona, the 11 I hit were all in the second half, so I can hit 10-plus in one half, but I just focus on different aspects of my game, such as defense. The 11 I've hit this year have been good, quality home runs. They've been the kinds of homers I wanted and there could have been more. To hit 20 homers, I think you have to have a lot go your way. I had a lot go my way last year with the wind blowing out, hitting it to the right area of the ballpark and what have you. It's hard hitting home runs in these Southern League parks.

Inside The Ivy: You mentioned earlier that you'd been trying cut back on your strikeouts. They seem to have subsided somewhat this season. Your thoughts?

Matt Craig: Yeah, it's more of your approach to hitting. Von Joshua (Jaxx hitting coach) helped me a ton with it this year. Making contact and hitting with all of the barrel, the ball will go somewhere instead of just thinking I have to hit it hard every time. When you start thinking like that, the air around you is a lot bigger.

Inside The Ivy: You also alluded to your defense. How satisfied are you with how much you've improved in that aspect?

Matt Craig: Bobby Dickerson (Jaxx manager) has been great to work with on it. He's helped me out a ton, even last year. I think I only have two or three errors at third. I don't know how many at first, but he's been a big help as far as positioning me on my feet. When you get to Double-A, you're proud of a lot of things and learn a lot as far as mindset preparation on both sides of the ball.

Inside The Ivy: Are you looking ahead to the offseason? What do you have planned once the season is over?

Matt Craig: This year, I don't know what I'll be doing. Winter ball is an option that I just started talking about with my agent and with Oneri Fleita. I'll probably go back to Dallas, my home town, and work out and stay in shape as I did last year.

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