MadFriars' Interview: Dean Anna

SAN ANTONIO -- Dean Anna, 25, is the embodiment of every feel good cliche in baseball.

A twenty-sixth round pick, small college, undersized, no publicity, doubts about his ability to play at higher levels...and well, you get the point.

And also like everyone in these stories the components of it are true but one fact kind of overrides all these questions, if you give him a chance Dean will show you that he can play.

After being chosen by the Padres in 2008 out of Ball State and initially in Eugene with a .224 batting average he has improved every year.

This season, although he doesn't have a regular position, he's been in the line-up everyday and made the Texas League all-star team.

The left-handed hitter is second in the league in on-base percentage at .424 and has been one of the few bright spots for San Antonio's offense this season.

We know you are from Illinois and that you went to Ball State. How long did you play there?

Dean Anna: I was only at Ball State for one year. I transferred from a Junior College, John A. Logan [located in Carterville, Illinois] where I played for two years.

After my junior year at Ball State the Padres drafted me and I signed.

I always find this pretty fascinating especially with all the talk that always goes on during the draft season about what it will take to sign some one.

A player like you that is a late pick the minute they get an opportunity, you take it.

Dean Anna: Definitely. In this game all you need is one chance and hopefully you do well. I was just happy to get drafted and be given the shot to chase my dream.

Not a big negotiation process?

Dean Anna: [laughs] In the twenty-sixth round? No, I'm just happy to be drafted.

I always have so much respect for late round picks because there is not only the pressure to play in pro ball but you have to do it right now. No one was going to give you a couple hundred at-bats to get your feet wet.

Dean Anna: For a guy like me, BP became my game because I wasn't getting in there much when I first started. When I did get in I had to show them that I could play on command and that is what has been bringing me up through the organization.

I believe I've showed that I can play when given a chance. I will be prepared and ready to go.

That is easy to write about and to say but how do you avoid putting too much pressure on yourself? For example everyone always talks about not trying to hit the six run home run.

Dean Anna: When you are in the box its just you against the pitcher. I really don't think about much else except competing against that guy and trying to get a hit.

Your on-base percentage has steadily gone up but this year your power is starting to tick up. Are you starting to become more selective and looking for pitches to drive?

Dean Anna: I'm starting to get more comfortable and have an idea of what I am looking for and what the pitcher is trying to do to me.

I know what to lay off and what to swing at.

As someone who makes his living offensively by getting on base as often as he can how do you avoid trying to do too much and taking away from your strengths?

Dean Anna: The big thing is knowing what you can and can't do. When you try to do too much it takes away from your consistency.

I try to keep a level swing and drive the ball through, not over the fence.

So many guys have difficulty playing just one position but I think this year you have played both corner outfield positions second, third and shortstop.

How many gloves do you carry and how do you keep all the positions straight?

Dean Anna: I only have one infield and one outfield glove. I like staying consistent so I am not a big multiple glove guy. I like staying with the same stuff that works.

I don't like change. Although I also have a first base glove too.

Gibby always tells me make sure I can use it because you never know.

Do you have a catcher's mitt?

Dean Anna: [laughs] No, not yet.

How tough was it to get used to hitting with wood when you came out of college?

Dean Anna: It took me about a year and half. I repeated short-season in Eugene and about midway through the season I started to finally figure it out. With a metal bat really any swing is going to work but the ball doesn't come off of a wooden bat right if you don't have the correct swing.

A wooden bat swing is more of whip than being strong. Its kind of like a tennis serve. The big thing is to whip the bat through the zone so it comes off like an aluminum bat.

Talked to your hitting coach Tom Tornincasa [the Missions' hitting coach] and he always talks how the plate is eighteen inches and you can only cover twelve. You have to pick which third of the plate to let go before you get to two strikes.

Do you make an adjustment from at-bat to at-bat where you are looking to hit the ball. Because it doesn't take a genius to figure out that if you are looking middle to middle-in as a pitcher I'm going to look to toss some off-speed or breaking pitches on the outside part of the plate.

Dean Anna: Definitely. Tourny and I always talk about that. You have to know what the pitcher is doing. If he's busting you in look to pull, outside take it the other way.

You are not just saying my happy spot is middle-in and if its not there I'm not swinging?

Dean Anna: No, you always want to look at a spot but pitchers also start to learn what you are looking for and that is where it becomes tough. You have to start making adjustments and when they start to become consistent about getting you out in certain spots that is when you have to go in the cage with your hitting coach and figure it out.

That is how you get better. You have to make adjustments every single day.

People always ask us about the differences between the levels and it seems from talking to you guys players just become more consistent on both sides of the ball.

Dean Anna: Pitchers at this level start being able to move the ball around the plate. They also have three pitches that they can throw for strikes.

At the short-season level they usually have a fastball and the off-speed stuff they are working on.

Also you have to know the difference between a pitcher's strike and a hitter's strike. A lot of times they will throw a strike maybe in one at-bat that did something you didn't think it would and you have to make an adjustment the next at-bat.

You have played so many positions, what is your favorite?

Dean Anna: Probably shortstop because that is where I grew up playing. You feel like you are in control of everything.

How did you get to be a left-handed hitter?

Dean Anna: When I was really small my Dad gave me a bat and I grabbed it with my right hand and put my left on top of it. He put a ball on the tee and I started to take a swing.

Then I picked up the ball and threw it with my right hand.

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