Q&A with Pierre LePage

Pierre LePage relishes being the underdog. At 5-foot-8, 167 pounds, the right-handed batting infielder hit .327 with 20 doubles for Connecticut this past season en route to being drafted in the 13th round by the Chicago Cubs. LePage got off to a blistering start in the Arizona League, going 5-for-5 with two stolen bases in only his second game as a professional.

Q: You're a bit of a small guy, yet you've been able to hit the ball well. What is your approach at the plate?

A: I'm definitely undersized for the game as a lot of people would say, but that's been one of my main motivators for my work ethic and is one of the reasons why I've worked so hard and accomplished so much. In terms of hitting, I've watched David Eckstein and Dustin Pedroia, two of the guys I really look up to and I follow their approach. You can't be timid; you really have to be aggressive and use what you have up there. When I go to the plate, I look for that first fastball that's around the zone to get my bat on and hit it. Being small, a lot of pitchers think they can get the fastball by me, so I take that and use it to my advantage and as an opportunity to capitalize on their mistakes. I jump ahead on fastballs early in the count.

Q: Do you sort of relish being the underdog? If so, why?

A: I definitely do. I think it's one of the reasons why I've never had a favorite Major League Baseball team. I usually just root for the team that's the underdog. My whole life, in each step of the way -- high school, college, summer ball teams – I've had to prove myself at each step and each level, so I definitely enjoy it and take it as a great challenge. I look at it as an opportunity to not exactly shut everyone up, but to prove to everyone that it doesn't matter how big or how strong you are, baseball is still a game of skill and talent. If I work hard enough, I can pitch in at any level.

Q: Can you describe your swing?

A: My swing is a little bit unorthodox right now. Before I get to a few levels up, I'm going to have to refine it and change it a little bit. But pretty much I have an aggressive, slap swing through the zone. I like trying to get on top of the ball, trying to get hard groundballs through the infield, especially now that I'm out here in Arizona. I'm just trying to hit the ball down and hard. Hitting it in the air is usually a mistake. I'll get that occasional double in the gap and use my legs to get on base to make things happen.

Q: Is using your legs and your speed a big part of your game?

A: Yeah, in my first professional game, in my fourth at-bat I hit a chopper over the pitcher's head and was able to leg it out. My legs have definitely been something that I've had to use to my advantage. There's nothing better than being on the bases taking a lead off (first) and the pitcher is more worried about me than the batter. Taking his mind off the batter really helps the guys around me and it helps the team succeed as a whole.

Q: You mentioned your debut in the Arizona League. Can you just talk about getting signed and squaring off against some professional pitching?

A: First of all, it's really hot here. During the day, it was 112 degrees one day. It just feels like you're in an oven, but it was a dream come true. It was a blast. When I got to the ballpark at 2 o'clock, I saw my name in the lineup, playing shortstop and leading off. The moment I saw my name in the lineup, like I said, it was a dream come true. I had some nerves. If you don't have nerves, something is wrong with you.

But I just got up there and once you step in the box and get on the field, it's just like I've been doing it my whole life. I stayed with my same approach. I think I swung at the first pitch and hit a groundball hard up the middle, but the pitcher snagged it. I stayed with my approach and I plan on doing that throughout minor league ball, staying aggressive, playing hard and giving 100 percent the whole time.

Q: You struck out only three times at Connecticut this past year. I guess it's safe to say you're a contact hitter.

A: I think it's definitely a good thing having someone at the top of the order that's going to get most of the at-bats with runners on second and third. When you've got to get a guy in, you can't strike out. I think I get that job done at least 90 to 95 percent of the time. I take a lot of pride in it. The one thing I may need to work on is getting my walks up. But definitely with three strikeouts, my walks-to-strikeout ratio is pretty good. I think if you don't put the ball in play, you have no shot of getting on. But when you put the ball in play, even though it doesn't always show in the average, I can get on base because of errors and things like that.

Q: Besides walks, what are some areas that you can improve on now that you're in pro ball?

A: I think plate discipline definitely goes along with the walks. When I'm ahead in the count 2-0 or 3-1, I've just got to look for a better pitch – my pitch – to hit. Sometimes I'll see a pitch that I know I can handle because I put the ball in play so well that I know I can hit to the opposite field. But I've got to look for that one pitch that I can really drop into the gap for a double or triple. That's the next thing I'd like to work on.

Q: Does that fall under the category of "wasting at-bats?"

A: I don't know if it's wasting at-bats; I think it's just being a little too excited up there. I know that I can hit any pitcher, so when I see a pitch I know I can hit, I swing at it instead of waiting for that one ("it") pitch. But you definitely don't want to waste at-bats late in the game and minor league ball is a true test to that. I give 100 percent for nine innings, 27 outs, every day. You won't see me wasting any at-bats.

Q: What is your natural position?

A: That's a good question. I played shortstop my whole life through high school and really enjoyed short. I think it's a little more exciting than second base, but I probably feel equally comfortable at both. I'm pretty versatile I think. I'm not going to hurt you at shortstop and I think I can help a team at both positions.

Q: Have the Cubs talked to you about the importance of getting some reps at other positions?

A: In minor league ball, the main thing is being versatile. A lot of teams draft athletes and when you draft a bunch of athletes that are middle (infield) guys or outfielders, you've got to be able to play different positions. My manager asked me if I'd ever played third or centerfield, and I told him yes because I know I can play any position. You've just got to be versatile and be ready to play wherever they put you.

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