Q&A with Joe Hietpas

The Mets drafted catcher Joseph Hietpas in the 16th round of the 2001 draft out of Northwestern University. In his time with the Mets, he's earned the reputation as one of the best defensive catchers in the game. Joe sat down with NYfansonly.com for a Q&A session.

NYfansonly.com: It's not like when you think of college baseball that the Big Ten comes to mind. What was it like playing for Northwestern in college?

Joseph Hietpas: I had a great four years at Northwestern. It was truly a great experience. I feel extremely lucky to have played there with that experience. Sure the Big Ten is not as strong as a lot of the southern schools but that's because the Big Ten can not get as much field time as those southern schools due to the weather. There were a ton of talented players in the Big Ten when I was there, including Bobby Malek, Nick Swisher, Chris Basak, and a bunch of others. It was a great baseball experience and I was able to get a great education.

NYF: When you were at Northwestern, did you expect the Mets to draft you?

Hietpas: There were five to six other organizations that were talking to me about being drafted by them. All the other scouts were more vocal than the Mets' scout, Quincy Boyd. But he was the one that wound up drafting me. He was playing it cool behind the scenes I guess and he and the Mets were the ones that wanted me the most I take it.

NYF: What has your time in the Mets' organization been like in the last four seasons?

Hietpas: The Mets have treated me real well. It was tough to play only once or twice a week in the early part of my career, but I got the chance to watch Justin Huber and Michael Jacobs play a lot and learn from them. They've really given me an opportunity and I am grateful for that. I try not to pay attention to what kind of stats I need to put up. What I've done is tried to get the most of my experiences when I have played. I am not going to worry myself about the scenarios I can not control.

NYF: You have earned the reputation by your fellow teammates, opposing players, coaches, and scouts as a "shutdown" catcher. How does it make you feel when you hear the praises of all those people for your defensive abilities?

Hietpas: Wow, flattering is the only word that comes to mind. I have had to work on my defense really hard. I pride myself on my work behind the plate and I have had to establish a rapport with the pitchers on a daily basis. I put in a lot of extra work as a receiver, working with the pitchers when there is down time. I try and catch them on the side a lot in the bullpen sessions.

NYF: Have the Mets given you any indication of where you'll be playing next season?

Hietpas: No, not really. I just expect a chance to play as an everyday guy. I'm more concerned with getting consistent at-bats than I am with which level I'm playing. With Jake (Michael Jacobs) healthy and pretty much set at AAA, I'd like the opportunity to be the everyday catcher for Binghamton. I'd rather play every day than back up Jake.

NYF: What are your goals offensively next season? Have you given yourself any particular numbers you think you need to reach to make that next leap?

Hietpas: I don't really have any set numbers I am shooting for. My goal is to be competitive in every at-bat, to make the pitchers work more, and to make my swing more consistent. I mean, sure it looks good in the box score if you go one for three, but if two of those at-bats were awful, it kind of negates the one hit you had. I have no idea what kind of stats it is going to take. I am looking to try and drive the ball more and that comes with consistent at-bats. I was just looking to be more successful with each at-bat the second half of last season and continue that into next season. That is all I am trying to do.

NYF: Which players in the Mets' organization have you become closest to? Which of the guys have become your better friends?

Hietpas: I'd have to say I've become better friends with David Wright. He and I were roommates for two years and he helped me out a lot when I made it to the Big Leagues this past year. But really, we've all become great friends. There's a core group of guys that have climbed up the ladder together: Zach Clements, David Bacani, Chase Lambin, Wayne Lydon, and Angel Pagan. We all became close playing together so much and winning a championship together in St. Lucie last season (2003). I've also become good friends with Chris Basak.

NYF: Which of your fellow Mets' farmhands would you say has the highest upside, among the guys you've played with?

Hietpas: The most dominating guys I've played with are Blake McGinley and Yusmeiro Petit. They just knock your socks off! It's awesome to watch them both pitch. They simply dominate while not even throwing in the 90's. They both change speeds and locate their pitches really well. It is a lot of fun to catch them, I can tell you that.

NYF: OK, of your fellow positional players, which players are you most impressed with in the Mets' system not named David Wright?

Hietpas: Honestly, I'd have to say Angel Pagan and Wayne Lydon. Their speed changes the game entirely. Opposing pitchers just hate facing those guys because they are really hard outs and both get on base so much, and when they do get on base, they are really pesky on the base paths. I also enjoyed watching Victor Diaz hit. He always seems to find a way to get the good part of the bat on the ball.

NYF: Who in your opinion are the catchers in the Mets' farm system, of the players not named Joe Hietpas, that has the highest upside in your opinion?

Hietpas: I guess Jesus Flores is earning the reputation as the "can't miss" guy. I have never seen him hit. The word is he's a great hitter. But I was able to see him catch and throw down in the Instructional Leagues. He always received the ball real well and he has a great arm. Jake (Michael Jacobs) is really good hitter. He too always seems to get good wood on the ball and no matter what, it seems like he always hits whatever is thrown to him.

We would like to thank Joe Hietpas for taking the time to sit down with NYfansonly.com for this Q&A session.

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