Q&A with Joe Hietpas

With a number of catchers in the Mets' system primed for a season at Triple-A, 25-year-old Joe Hietpas is hoping for a return engagement at Double-A Binghamton in 2005. <P> The Appleton, Wisc. native hit .230 in 43 games with the B-Mets last season, and is using spring training as a starting point to raising his average this year. He spoke with Inside Pitch's Bryan Hoch in Port St. Lucie:

Coming into this camp, how did you evaluate your role with the team?

I'm not sure I have a role with the big league club. I'm here trying to work on things and get better every day. I want to take that approach back to the minor league side and hopefully play on a regular basis; that's the main thing. I hope one day I can be back here help this team win ballgames.

Knowing that you probably weren't going to make this club, what kinds of things have you taken out of your time with the Major Leaguers?

This is my third spring training and every year I've got something more out of it. It helps a lot to be around guys like J.P. (Jason Phillips) and Mike Piazza, because they look after you and always help out with whatever advice they can offer. I get a lot out of being here, and when Vance (Wilson) was here, it was the same way. I try to pick their brains as much as possible when I'm here to make myself a better ballplayer.

What kinds of things have you picked up?

It's a lot of little things. I talked to J.P., Mike and Vance a lot about technique – the things fans don't always see in a game. We'd talk about how to approach a ball hit to the outfield, how to call games and work the lineup, and how to talk to pitchers during the game. All of that stuff comes up through conversation in spring training. It's really a valuable resource.

Where do you see yourself starting the season?

I'd imagine that the way things are right now, I'll be in Binghamton. With [Mike] Jacobs, [Andy] Dominique and [John] Pachot, it seems like Norfolk is going to be pretty full. I really just hope I'm playing every day, and it looks like there's a chance of that at Binghamton. I need to earn that spot, but that's where I'd like to be.

Assuming you do play every day, do you have any statistical goals for yourself?

I try to have a good at-bat every at-bat. Last year, I hit 75 points higher in the second half of the season than I did in the first half. That was because I was having better at-bats and better ballgames. It kind of snowballed. You don't want to sell yourself short, but you don't want set goals that are too lofty. I just want to get the best I can out of every at-bat, because that's all I can do. You can't control a lot of things, you just can control your plan.

Were there any coaches or instructors who particularly have helped your development?

I've taken a lot from a lot of guys. I worked with HoJo (Howard Johnson) the last three years, and Lamar Johnson really helped me out here at St. Lucie last year and got me over the hump. Those guys, plus Rick Down during the time I've been here this spring, plus Mickey Brantley. I've got a lot of help from a lot of different guys.

What do you feel the strongest part of your game is?

I would think my defense is. I really take a lot of pride in it, and I work really hard to have a good relationships with pitchers. I need to be able to catch and throw. Those are my strengths, but I believe I can always get better at it.

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