Q & A: Rainiers 1B A.J. Zapp
InsidethePark.com: Do you set goals for yourself entering into a season?
A.J. Zapp: Obviously I want to have a good year… I always want to hit five home runs a month, and that would give me 25 home runs for the year. Obviously you want to hit .300, which I'm kind of battling for right now. And as far as RBI go I think as long as you're hitting for a high average then the run producing will take care of its self.
ITP: Coming into the 2004 season did you have any goals in particular?
AJZ: Obviously, I want to get to the big leagues every year. But I can only control what I can control, and that's my turns at the plate and how I go about my business. But all the moves (GM's) make that's out of my control.
ITP: What is your greatest strength as a player?
Clint Nageotte: (interrupts) His mental make-up!
AJZ: (laughs) Probably isn't… Obviously my strength is my greatest power. Hitting is what's going to get me to the Big Leagues and what's going to keep me there.
ITP: What do you feel you most need to improve upon as a player?
AJZ: Just being more consistent and to continue to do what I'm doing. I think I can hit in the big leagues, and all you can hope for is the opportunity.
ITP: Currently you lead the PCL in strike-outs with 128. Does that affect your mentality when you go to bat? Do you say to yourself "I don't want to strike-out here?"
AJZ: Not one bit. I'm going to strike-out, that's a given. It just means that I have to put extraordinary numbers up in other categories so that they over look that strike out category.
ITP: Are there particular pitches that you handle better than others?
AJZ: (laughs) The pitches in the zone are the ones I handle the best obviously. I just have to be picky up there, I feel like I can drive the ball out of the park at any time, and during any count, it's just a matter of waiting for my pitch.
ITP: Switching gears, did you feel like the first base job was yours to win in 2002, with Atlanta, particularly after you were promoted to Triple-A? And how did you feel when you learned that they had signed 42-year-old first baseman Julio Franco?
AJZ: Towards the end of my last year with the Braves I think we both knew that I wasn't going to break into the big leagues with the Braves, I had to move on. The change of scenery with the Mariners was the best thing for me. They still had a lot of confidence in me, and they still thought I was a prospect. The Braves drafted me in the first round, I was appreciative of that, but I just knew it wasn't going to work out.
ITP: This is your second year with the Mariner organization and your ninth year in the minor leagues, do you feel that Seattle is good fit and that now is the time for A.J. Zapp to reach the big leagues?
AJZ: Oh definitely. You know it's been nine years now, I've got a lot of experience, and I've gotten better every year. I still feel that I can play in the big leagues, and I know I can play in the big leagues. And like I said, all you can hope for is the opportunity.
Zapp is on pace to break the franchise and league strikeout records but is also on pace for career-highs in home runs, RBI, runs, hits, and batting average. The 26-year-old slugger has three home runs in his past four games and leads the current Rainier roster in almsot every offensive category.
Through games of July 30, Zapp is hitting .291 with 20 home runs and 72 RBI in 100 games played.
Sean Duade is currently a Junior at the University of Puget Sound and welcomes your feedback at SDuade@ups.edu
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