Post-season Q&A: Jemel Spearman

After a sluggish start to 2006, Class-A Daytona infielder Jemel Spearman rallied for a respectable season at the plate, batting .279 in 131 games. Now, Spearman is ready for the next level, and ... MTV?

The 25-year-old spent most of the year at third base, and recently talked about his first season back from a wrist injury at Double-A a season ago. Spearman was a 16th-round draft pick in 2002 from Georgia Southern, the same alma mater as fellow '02 pick Chris Walker. He started more games this season than any others previously in his professional career.


Inside The Ivy: This was your third stint with the Daytona team. How did it feel to be back in the Florida State League?

Jemel Spearman: It felt good. The toughest thing was playing every day and understanding the 0-for-4's. I forgot how that was. I remember my first 0-for-10 stretch and how much I was panicking. Taking the up's and down's was the biggest thing this year. The previous two years, I'd only played in a handful of games. A 20-game season is much different than a 130- or 140-game season.

Inside The Ivy: Last year, you played in only 14 games at West Tenn because of an injury. What can you tell us about the injury?

Jemel Spearman: In Spring Training, I slid into second base head first and tore my TFCC. I played during the season and did really well, but it got to the point where I just couldn't do it any more. I went to Chicago around May 6 and had surgery, which set me out the whole year. The TFCC is triangular fibro cartilage complex. The crazy story is that I was living in a house with Matt Craig and Rocky Cherry. After the surgery, Aron Weston came up to West Tenn and went into the same house we were in, and he ended up with the same surgery I had. He took my room before coming to Arizona with me. Then, Dwaine Bacon took the room we had and called us up not too long after that. Dwaine thought he had to get surgery on his wrist, but I guess he was a little stronger than we were. (laughs) It was the curse of the room. If I go to Double-A next year, I'm definitely not going to that house.

Inside The Ivy: That's interesting. Was it the house or just one specific room?

Jemel Spearman: It was one specific room. The house was in Jackson. I can't remember the exact street, but three dudes go into the same room and all come out with a wrist injury? Something's up. It was crazy. Rocky of course had "Tommy John," so maybe he was cursed, too.

Inside The Ivy: You've always had good on-base percentages and it seemed like you drew a fair share of walks again this year. Do you distinguish much between on-base percentage and batting average as some players do?

Jemel Spearman: I would like to be an on-base guy. I'm not a power hitter and need to get on base and do everything I can to be a spark. I really don't go up to the plate saying I want to get a walk, because it can take away your aggressive side. But I know there were stretches this year where I was walking a lot. There were also stretches where I wouldn't walk it all. That's the way it is sometimes.

Inside The Ivy: You've also played many different infield positions between short, second and third in your career, but you played third almost exclusively this year. Do you now consider yourself solely a third baseman or still a versatile guy?

Jemel Spearman: I just consider myself a guy that's trying to get on the field and play. Wherever they stick me is where they stick me. My favorite position is second base. That's where I really like to play, but I'll play any position.

Inside The Ivy: You came out of the gate slow and really turned it on in the second half. Was there anything different in your approach the latter part of the year?

Jemel Spearman: I can't pinpoint one specific thing. I was struggling so much the first half that the thing that kept me going was prayer and my faith in God. My prayers were answered when Antonio Grissom got here. Richie Zisk (Daytona hitting coach) helped a lot, but Antonio and I really clicked. He got me on the right page. The first half, I was working really hard, but I think the amount of work I was putting in may have hurt me more than it helped me. My approach at the plate wasn't right. I was trying to do too much. It was all different types of things. The second half, I put the first half behind me and knew I had to start over.

Inside The Ivy: What about defensively?

Jemel Spearman: I had some streaks. The first half I felt went well. The second half, I felt I switched more toward hitting and my defense went through some lapses. I don't like that and it's something I'm going to work on more in the off-season. I don't know what it is. It's a learning experience. Every error I made, I knew exactly what I should have done. I asked myself why I did this or that. That's the way baseball is.

Inside The Ivy: Back when you first started in this organization four years ago, you were stealing a lot of bases. Up until this year, it seemed you weren't taking off as much as your early days. Was that because you'd dealt with a couple of injuries or because your coaches gave you more of a green light this season?

Jemel Spearman: The first year, I stole a lot, but yeah, the next two years I got injured a little. This year, I had the same approach, but the first half, the team ran a little more. In the second half, things changed because we had a different manager. His philosophy and way of coaching was a little different. He gave us the green light, but it was a different style of running under Buddy Bailey. Both of our managers were great, but they had different philosophies. The first half, we ran a little more. The second half, I won't say it was smarter baseball, but we had to manufacture runs a little more.

Inside The Ivy: What else jumps out at you among the differences in coaching philosophies between Don Buford and Buddy Bailey?

Jemel Spearman: Buford was very calm and laid back. Buddy, he's a big league manager. He had stats for everything. He had sheets for every thing when you came up to bat. I asked him how he had so many stats. A lot of one-run games in the second half, we won because he made so many moves you don't see in High-A. He's going to be a big league manager one day. I think he's already served some time up there.

Inside The Ivy: This is really our first time ever talking to you. What do you do away from the field?

Jemel Spearman: My hobbies are video games. That's all I do: Madden, NCAA Football. Another hobby about me -- I'll be on MTV as a dancer one day. I'm a pretty good dancer. I've been known to cut the rug a few times in my day. Just ask Chris!

Inside The Ivy: Nothing wrong with a little MTV!

Jemel Spearman: When they call, I'll let you know!


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