C.J. Hinojosa was selected in the eleventh round, number 336 overall, in last year's June Draft, and in his first pro season made the all-star team. After batting .296 with a .328 on-base percentage last season with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Rookie Ball, Hinojosa has hit .301 and improved his OBP dramatically, now sitting at .382 at the break. He has matched his home run total of five, and has 30 RBI this season.
David Jay of MadFriars.com (Padres) caught up with Hinojosa before Tuesday's festivities.
So, a year ago today, you got your professional career underway. What did you do over this offseason to get yourself ready for the impressive debut you’ve put up?
I went home and went home trained at this little place real close to my house called Athlete’s Edge. Me and one of my best buddies from high school trained there. We were in there five, six days a week. That was a part of me getting in better shape. On top of that, I grew up playing for the Banditos, and that coach has been my coach since I was eight. And I was in there every day, and we would hit literally three times a day. Ray DeLeon, he worked with me, and I just trained and got ready for the year.
Did you take a break after instructs?
It was hard for me to take a break because I had to miss the last part of the season and had to have surgery right after instructs for my hamate – I played with a broken hamate for most of the year. So once I got healthy, it was hard for me to put everything down. I just wanted to continue working and getting better, and nothing was going to get in my way of doing that.
How much work did you do with Christian Arroyo this spring?
It was really cool. As soon as he came down – I had never met him before – but we started talking because he played short and we would switch off doing drills and stuff. And then when games came along, he was at short and I was at second. So being able to work with someone like that who is a really good baseball player at a really young age was great. We worked together and talked about positioning and getting to know each other.
What have your key focus areas at the plate been through the spring, especially facing pitchers who have more pro experience under their belts than you do?
I take every game the same. I have the approach of hitting four line drives a game, and as long as I do that, I don’t care if I go 0-for-4 or 4-for-4. As long as I keep having quality at-bats, at the end of the year all the numbers are going to add up. [I’m working on] picking off the pitches I know I can handle and laying off the ones I can’t, and just being relaxed and having fun with the game. I enjoy coming out here every day and playing and competing with guys I’ll be able to see for the next 10 years.
What are you seeing in terms of adjustments pitchers have made to you now that you’re facing them for the third or fourth time on the season?
The pitch me differently. If I get them once, they don’t want to go back to the same pitch. These guys are good enough that they’re controlling two or three pitches for strikes. So it’s really just attacking that pitch that I do get, whether it’s a breaking ball on the first pitch, or battling to 3-2. I’m starting a lot more off-speed stuff early in counts, guys are pitching backward. It’s getting to that part of the season that everyone knows everyone. But I just have to trust in myself and my ability.
Are you starting to feel the daily grind a little bit as you run the routine of the full-season schedule?
It gets a little rough some days, playing 12 or 14 in a row. But you’ve just got to take care of your body, eating right, maybe after games, hopping in the cold tub for 10 minutes. As long as you are, it doesn’t get that bad. If you start slacking on that stuff, that’s when your body starts getting tired. I stay on top of that and make sure I’m always hydrating throughout the day and night.
You’re a guy who’s always had to fight questions about whether you can stay at the position defensively. What does making the All-Star team say for you being able to answer those questions?
I’ve always been told I’m too small, I’m too slow, I don’t have a good enough arm, so I go out there and make every play that I can and go after every ball that I can to prove to people that I can still play there. I train to be the best that I can be and I don’t expect anything less than that. If people don’t like me there, that’s their opinion, but I’m going to give everything that I can. It doesn’t matter to me, though. I’ll play third, I’ll play second, if I had to, I’d play first – as long as I’m in the lineup, it doesn’t matter to me where I’m playing.
If you notice, I’m the guy who’s always talking and yelling. I have a blast out there – that’s home for me, so I could play centerfield – I mean, I’m probably not fast enough [laughs], but I’d do it – as long as I’m out there and in the lineup, even if I wasn’t in the lineup and just in the dugout, I’d still have fun. It’s a blast for me.
As you look around the rest of your Cal League All-Star teammates, is there one tool that stands out as something you wish was part of your game?
Chris Shaw. I mean, I get to watch him hit BP in front of me every day. That guy has so much power it’s unreal. People think he’s chubby, but if you see him without his shirt on, he’s an absolute monster. So I mean, I wish I was as strong as he is and could hit the ball as far as he can with ease.
Note: The Cal League All-Stars fell to Carolina 6-4. Hinojosa went 1-for-4 with a double, two RBI and a run scored. Shaw also went 1-for-4 with a double that brought home Hinojosa. Rodolfo Martinez work the final frame, hitting 101 on the radar gun according to MiLB.com, which referred to his arm as a "bazooka arm." Martinez struck out two of the three batters he faced in a perfect frame.