Collin Cowgill was teammates with fellow Diamondbacks prospect Sean Coughlin at the University of Kentucky, where Brandon Webb used to pitch. There, Cowgill put up some terrific numbers, particularly in his junior season, when he hit .361, belted 19 homers, stole 23 bases, and had an 1.170 OPS.
Upon being selected in the fifth round of last year's draft, Cowgill performed even better at Yakima, crushing 11 home runs in just 20 games there before earning a promotion to the playoff-bound South Bend Silver Hawks. He did not fare as well there until the postseason, when he hit .300 with two home runs in 30 at-bats.
The Silver Hawks' playoff run ended abruptly. After being out-scored 18-0 in the first two games of the Midwest League Championship Series in Burlington, the remainder of the series was called due to cold and rain in South Bend. Just days later, Cowgill would begin working out in the Instructional League, where Field Coordinator Jack Howell would dub him the most valuable position player at Instructs.
Part one of the interview can be accessed here. You can also of part two.
FutureBacks: You were on a Silver Hawks team that certainly had some good hitters behind you...
Collin Cowgill: Definitely.
FB: ...And it was definitely a good team overall. Talk to me a little bit about the kind of team that was, if you could.
CC: Statistically on paper, we weren't a great hitting team, but we were very, very offensive. It didn't really show up on the stats sheet. It was a team where when we cored three or four runs, we knew we were going to win because our bullpen and our pitching staff were just incredible. We had three or four guys coming out of the pen that we knew were going to shut the door. As long as I was in South Bend, I don't think I saw Clay Zavada give up an earned run or even a run.
Having that kind of confidence in your pitching staff takes so much pressure off the guys in the lineup, especially the middle guys in the lineup that are supposed to drive in runs. If Coughlin doesn't hit a ball in the gap and score me and [Ollie] Linton, it isn't going to kill us. If [Taylor] Harbin doesn't go 2-for-4 with a couple of doubles, score two runs, it's okay. We're going to win a 2-1 ballgame nine times out of ten. We were pretty solid all the way around. We kind of lost it there in the Finals of that league, but just a very, very complete team. Just an unbelievable team to play for; that staff takes a lot of pressure off of you.
FB: What was it like playing with Sean Coughlin again?
CC: It was awesome! Obviously, we had a lot of success hitting back-to-back in the order at Kentucky, and you can never get tired of hitting in front of a guy like Coughlin, because he's such a threat. You're going to get a lot better pitches to hit when a guy like that is hitting behind you. Tons of fun... [he was] one of my better friends at Kentucky when we played together. It made the adjustment from college to pro ball a lot easier for me, just being with a guy I was comfortable with. We ended up living together up there for the games at South Bend. Just an awesome experience to be back with a teammate as good as Coughlin. Anytime I can play in front of a guy like that, I'll take it any day of the week.
FB: You mentioned the Midwest League Championship Series. Did you guys feel like you were cheated because that series was called after two games?
CC: I don't think so. We gave it a great run, but we got our tails kicked the first two games of the Finals. Had we played another three games, anything could happen. We were actually a better team on the road than we were at home, so home field advantage wasn't really that crucial for us. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened, because we were the team where anytime we kind of got kicked in the face, we responded pretty positively.
I don't think we got cheated. It was just a freak thing. They made a good call. There was no shot we could have played on the field. That field was completely underwater. It would have taken at least two or three more days. Shoot, people's Instructs were starting four days after we were done. It was an awesome experience and we were pretty fortunate just to get there, as the start of the season for those guys wasn't very good.
FB: I heard you were working on your two-strike approach at Instructs.
CC: Yeah, it was one of the things that our hitting coordinator [Dave Hansen] and our field coordinator [Jack Howell] and all of those guys said was an adjustment I needed to make. I spent a lot of time working on that in the three-and-a-half weeks I was out there in Tucson.
FB: What did the sort of unofficial MVP Award mean to you?
CC: That's pretty cool. A nice honor. I guess that's more of a testament to the hitting coordinator and hitting coaches that were working with us every day and putting in tons of hours after practice, before practice, after the games. It's an incredible organization from top to bottom, the guys that are there every day helping us out. A lot of people weren't able to make the adjustments as fast as I was, and I think it's because of the great teaching that all those guys gave me: all the tips and the work that they put in. I wouldn't have had that success at Instructs without those guys. Without that, I don't think it goes as well for me. The MVP was great, but I think the experience was way more important for me.
FB: Do you have any specific goals going into your first spring training?
CC: Not really. Whatever team I'm on or wherever I go, I just want to get there healthy and ready to get after it. I'm just looking forward to seeing where I go and see how this whole thing plays out. I'm ready to make the jump and be on the fast track to the big leagues, just like everybody else is trying to do.
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