Obviously, my season didn't start off in the place that I had hoped it would. All in all, I think it was a growing experience for me. More importantly, I feel like I proved to myself that I can play at this level and that I can help the team win at the highest level. From a personal standpoint, it was great. Now, from a team standpoint, which is basically the only point I look at, it could have been a lot better; we could have won more games.
How important was it to get some confidence under your belt?
Winning the confidence battle is 95 percent of the battle. My confidence is up there and it's always been up there, but I think it generates to where our other players can start to feed off it. All of a sudden, now you've got the ball rolling and it's hard to stop, and I think that's what we're trying to create. I watched Juan Pierre and Jacque Jones, and how they go about their business and how they play the game. We all feed off each other and hopefully we can just get it rolling a little earlier next year.
Were you always able to maintain a positive outlook earlier in your career when things weren't going quite as well for you as they are now?
It was tough. I will tell you this: the whole switch-hitting thing definitely tested my confidence and it tested a lot of things in my career. But I had good support and people around me who comforted me a lot to where I never totally lost it. Once I got back to that right-handed side, everything started to fall back into place. And even still, when you talk about the numbers not being there, I was a switch-hitting middle infielder hitting .260, which isn't really that bad when you sit back and look at it. But it wasn't where I needed it to be and it wasn't where I wanted it to be.
Was switch-hitting something you'd experimented with in college, or something that only came about after you were drafted?
I'd never done it before; it was something that only happened in the Cubs' organization. It wasn't something that I'd done when I was younger by any means. They say it's tough to teach an old dog new tricks, so it was tough.
Looking back on your career, is it fair to say that the choice to abandon switch-hitting is what helped spark you more than any other thing?
Oh, no doubt. That got me going, but there were a lot of things mixed in there. I had pressure placed on me in different areas that had never been there before. I was married, plus there was the birth of my first child, Houston, so you assume responsibility of a life that can't survive without you. Let me tell you: that's a wonderful feeling, but it also kicks you a little bit to where you say, "Let's get it going here. You better figure something out one way or the other." I think everything kind of happened at once: me not switch-hitting anymore, and then the birth of my son. It turned out to be a great pressure when you go back and look at it because everything started to soar after that.
Going into next year, do you see yourself starting or would you be comfortable with being a utility guy for now?
I see myself starting. That's where I feel I can help the team the most. By saying that, I also know the people making the decisions are going to make the right ones. But you don't ever want to shoot for being a utility player. Nobody wants to shoot for sitting on the bench; they want to shoot for being in the spotlight. As a competitor, I want to be up at bat in the bottom of the ninth inning when the game's on the line. Playing every day, I might get that opportunity. I can help the team win the more I play, so I'd love to start. Whether it happens or not, I think that's a little out of my control to an extent. But I feel like I've put myself in a good position to have a chance.
What areas do you feel you can improve on?
That's a good question. I would like to just get a little more consistent with every facet of the game. I felt I did a really good job with my at-bats this year. I'd like to expand my horizons. To tell you the truth, I want to learn how to catch and be a catcher. It's probably dumb of me to want to do that, but I do. I also want to work a little in the outfield just in case.
Have you ever done any catching before?
Never. But it's something I'd like to do!
What all does the off-season hold in store for you besides staying in shape, working out, etc?
I'm just going to play with my son. Other than that, I'm probably going to follow the same routine that I have these past few years. I don't ever really stop. I'll take a couple of weeks off, but after that I'll get back in the cage and start hitting and do some throwing. I feel the more time I take off, the longer it takes for me to get ready again. I try to just keep it going.