Q&A with Dante Brinkley

Dante Brinkley is an outfielder in the New York Mets farm system. He was drafted in the 26th round by the Mets in 2003. Brinkley hails from Franklin Heights, IL, which lies just outside of St. Louis. We caught up with him in the Mets' Instructional League which, due to the effects of Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, was moved to the minor league complex of the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, FL.

NYF: How did you get your first name?

Dante Brinkley: From my aunt. She just liked the name. She gave me my middle name as well, Roman.

NYF: Did you play any other sports in high school or college?

Brinkley: I played high school football.

NYF: What positions did you play?

Brinkley: Corner back, running back, wide receiver and I was the back-up quarterback.

NYF: You did just about everything. Did you kick and punt as well?

Brinkley: (grinning) I did run back kicks and punts.

NYF: Did you play football all 4 years?

Brinkley: Yes.

NYF: Did you set any records in football?

Brinkley: No, I don't think so.

NYF: How good was your football team?

Brinkley: My first year I was at E. St Louis HS. Then I transferred to Belleville HS and I played on some good teams. The first year was just the second time in school history they made the playoffs. In my junior and seniors we went to the semi-finals.

NYF: Are there any athletes in your family?

Brinkley: No, there are not. I am the first professional athlete in my family. My dad played high school ball but had to leave sports behind when he had me. He was the one that got me into organized sports as a way to keep me from getting into trouble.

NYF: Were you always an outfielder?

Brinkley: I didn't play the outfield until my freshman year in college. Before that I was a shortstop but when I joined S.W. Missouri St they had a hot-shot SS who just joined the team from JUCO. The coach said that if I wanted to play my first year there was an opportunity in the outfield so I went out there. It was tough at first, not taking ground balls, standing in grass instead of infield dirt, but I like it now.

NYF: I always found the outfield lonely, there's nothing to do but stand there and wait. In the infield there's the chatter, if runners are on base there are plays you could run to pick them off.

Brinkley: I'm talking out there, I hope you can hear me. And there's plenty you have to focus on to position yourself correctly and to get the best jump on the ball so I don't have time for my mind to wander.

NYF: If I remember, your college, S.W. Missouri St had an incredible run in the NCAA's your final year. Is that true?

Brinkley: My junior year we were ousted in the regionals but in my senior year first round we had Nebraska. We beat them in our first game but they came through the losers bracket. They beat us the first game, but the next game we beat them to get to the Super Regionals. There we beat Ohio St two straight to get to the College World Series. We lost our first game 4-3 then lost to University of Miami 5-4. It was still a great experience and playing before all those fans was great.

NYF: How many fans did you have at home games?

Brinkley: We had between 3,500 to 4,500 but that number is way up because they just build a 30 million dollar stadium on campus. Our field was a couple of miles away so we had some very loyal fans.

NYF: Why did you choose Southwest Missouri State?

Brinkley: You could basically say that it was because the coach was from the St Louis area. Plus he was straight forward and that was important to me. He said what was going on, and all of what he said he was going to do, he did. Not many other schools were interested in me. The SW Missouri coach saw me play in my junior year and again when I was on an American Legion team in the summer. He talked to me that summer, I visited the campus and I was sold and just waited until the first day you could file a letter of intent. I told college recruiters that I was going to SW Missouri and that was a reason why I didn't hear from many. I heard from more schools for football but I told them I wasn't interested. I really only played football to keep me in shape for baseball.

NYF: Were you drafted out of high school?

Brinkley: No I wasn't drafted. I don't know why. We won 31 games my senior year. I felt it was because of my size and the same old story about short players, the fear that they would physically break down from the rigors of a long season.

NYF: Who were your influences in baseball?

Brinkley: I owe it all to my Dad. He played and loved the game, and it rubbed off on me. It was also served as a way to get me time with my Dad. Whether it was just playing catch or watching it on TV or talking about it with him, it brought us together.

NYF: Who were your favorite players?

Brinkley: Andre Dawson, Kirby Puckett, Tony Gwynn, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., and of course Ozzie (Smith).

NYF: Have you met any of your them yet?

Brinkley: I did talk to Tony Gwynn over the phone because his son was on my Cape Cod Summer League team. It wasn't much, just really a hello and good luck.

NYF: I was going to ask you if you played in any summer leagues. It is quite an honor to be invited to Cape Cod League.

Brinkley: It was cool. I was playing with the best players in the nation and just about everyone is, or will, be in pro ball.

NYF: What was your summer job?

Brinkley: My father wouldn't hear of it. It would take time away from baseball and school.

NYF: I mean when you were in the Cape Cod League, I thought everyone had a job?

Brinkley: Oh that. I worked at my host family's store called Pizza One, Sub Two, my host father was a sports fan and it had a sports theme to the restuarant.

NYF: Were you disappointed being taken in the 26th round?

Brinkley: The year before (his junior year) I was taken in the 48th round. My talks with them were kind of a funny deal as I told everyone unless I was taken higher I would go back to school. We really didn't have much to talk about. The next year I was a senior I was just happy to be taken and have an opportunity because if I wasn't it meant I would have to go out and get a job.

NYF: Were you surprised you were drafted by the Mets?

Brinkley: Yes I was because I can't remember ever talking with them before the draft.

NYF: How did you learn that you were taken by the Mets? Were you at home following it on the Internet?

Brinkley: Actually I was out in the field with my college team practicing, getting ready for the Super Regionals. It was my coach that came over and gave me the news.

NYF: How many are in your family?

Brinkley: I have three older brothers and one older sister. I was the baby of the family.

NYF: Did they pick on you a lot?

Brinkley: No, no, they were very protective of me.

NYF: Did your brothers play baseball?

Brinkley: No, they didn't.

NYF: How come they didn't play since your father pushed you so much to play?

Brinkley: That's because I was my Dad's first. The others were from my mom's previous marriage.

NYF: You were born and raised in Illinois. How far back does your family go?

Brinkley: My Dad is from Mississippi. My Mom is from the St Louis area.

NYF: What do your parents do for a living?

Brinkley: My Dad is a corrections officer, my Mom works for a hotel.

NYF: A corrections officer. Did he ever take you to his prison?

Brinkley: Yes, and seeing what on in there reinforced that there is no way I'm going to do anything that will get me to end up there. I saw a lot of things.

NYF: What was your major in college?

Brinkley: Computer information science. Programming.

NYF: Do you intend to pursue anything in that area?

Brinkley: I don't think so. I'm already rusty but you never know.

NYF: Thank you for your time and good luck.

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