MadFriars' Off-season: Casey McElroy

Casey McElroy, 21, was drafted in the eleventh round of the 2011 draft by the San Diego Padres out of Auburn University. The Orlando native had a strong junior year hitting .372/.429/.564 earning first team all-SEC honors and finishing in the top ten in eight league offensive categories.

In three years with the War Eagles, the 5'8" McElroy hit .330/.404/.516 before signing with San Diego in mid-August and putting up good number in Eugene.

The left-handed hitting was a shortstop in college but saw time mainly at second with the Emeralds and may even see time behind the plate next year.

You had a great junior year at and also put up pretty solid numbers in Eugene, hitting .301/.381/.466. What really impressed me is that with the exception of a few at-bats in the AZL that was a pretty big layoff.

The last game for Auburn was in late May correct? How did you stay sharp?

Casey McElroy: The day after the draft I didn't want to sit around until a deal was done. I went up to Auburn and enrolled in summer classes and was able to work out and use the field and keep in shape.

What took the deal so long to get done? In another interview you said that both sides were pretty close on dollars and wehn the team added the bonus that they would pay for you to finish up at Auburn that sealed the deal.

Was the reason for the wait was because you needed a bit of a break after a long season?

Casey McElroy: Before the draft quite a few teams were asking me what type of money and if it was more important to me compared to what round I was drafted in or the bonus. For me, it was the bonus.

During the draft I got a few calls from teams asking me if I was willing to take less and I said no. So after the Padres drafted me we came to an agreement where I think they went a little over slot, so that was the reason for the delay.

But I really like the organization and am lucky that they picked me.

For guys starting out in pro ball we always talk about the transition to wooden bats. How much experience did you have hitting with wood?

Casey McElroy: I really didn't have that much experience. I played for two weeks in the Valley League in Virginia which was a wooden bat league before I hurt my hand.

I was lucky to get to play a full summer in the Cape Cod League the next year – which in a way kind of reminded me of playing in Eugene – so that was very close to life as a pro where you just have to focus on playing baseball.

Also this past year we used new bats in college which were quite different than the ones we used before in that you had to be much more precise. So that helped me with wood, in that you have to get used to just being much more aware of where you are hitting the ball.

You were a shortstop in college and you played mostly second at Eugene. How did that go?

Casey McElroy: It went well I knew that I wasn't going to stay at shortstop because I don't really profile as the prototype for that position.

I had played second in high school so it was fine.

Speaking of position changes, you actually caught some in the winter. What was that like?

Casey McElroy: I had never played catcher before. When I was at the Instructs I had played a lot of second and shortstop and then one week Bud Black came down and was watching me hit off of a pitcher that was rehabbing. I was having a pretty good session and they approached me afterwards about giving catching a try.

They pointed out the advantages, not that many left-handed hitting catchers and that they thought that I had the ability and I said sure. I went down to the Dominican [Republic] for a few weeks and it was difficult.

It's just different getting used to something the first time when you are playing against quality competition. But at the end I'm starting to get more comfortable.

With Austin Hedges seemingly ticketed for Fort Wayne do you expect to see the majority of your time at second?

Casey McElroy: I'm not really sure. Since I've been signed I've been playing both catcher and infield but they will let me know once I get to spring training.

What was the biggest transition going from the college game to the pros?

Casey McElroy: Everything is more individual, about development as compared to being about the team in college. The goal is to make you into the best player they can for the major leagues not necessarily to win at a certain level because the players can get moved around so much.

You are not the biggest guy in the world but you have had success at whatever level you have played at. How much of people telling you what you can't do drives you?

Casey McElroy: I have always played with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. In high school I put up good numbers and didn't really get as much attention as others who I thought I out performed.

It's funny the first day I was taking batting practice in Eugene, and I was probably trying to hit them out to show off a little, Pat Murphy our manager came up to me and said that I should work on something else because he said I was a slap hitter.

I let him know that I may be the smallest guy out here, but I am not a slap hitter. The next few weeks I put up some doubles and a few home runs and he came up to me later and said that he might have been wrong and I wasn't a slap hitter.

So that was pretty cool.

How did you end up being a left-handed batter?

Casey McElroy: I really don't know. When I was about three or four it's just how I started to pick up the bat. Later on when I started golfing I started to do it left-handed and my dad turned me around because he was worried it could screw up my baseball swing.

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