Live from the AFL: Stephen Drew

Contrary to popular belief, Stephen Drew likes to make a good first impression. In his first game in Hi-A, June 7th, Drew went 2-3 with two walks and two runs scored. Drew made his Double-A debut by going 3-3 with two walks, a double, and a RBI. In his first game in the Arizona Fall League Drew did it again, going 3-4 with a walk, a homer, and two runs, netting himself AFL Player of the Week in the process. In a FREE PREVIEW OF PREMIUM CONTENT talks to the superstar in waiting.

Still, some refuse to believe it.  Drew continues to draw higher than high expectations, both for his talent and his widely publicized holdout.  He understands that there will be attention, positive and negative, and there will always be someone asking him a question, and not necessarily about baseball.

"It just depends on the day," Drew says of how the media affects him, "certain days I'm going to give more, and some days less.  I know it's part of my job, but it's not my entire job to talk to reporters."

He's not aggressive, he's not standoffish.  This day he's giving as much access as a reporter could want.  He sits, listens to the questions, and answers them honestly. 

The other problem the media has involving Drew really doesn't have anything to do with Stephen Drew.  Everybody wants to know how soon Drew will get to the Majors, and how good he'll be once he gets there.  There is widespread speculation, that has all been all but confirmed by members of the Diamondbacks front office, that Drew will at the very least be given the opportunity to win the Diamondbacks shortstop job next season. 

"I really try not to focus on that stuff.  I've got too much other stuff to worry about right now.  I'm here to learn, to produce, to improve," Drew says of the AFL, "it's the front office and the coaches that will make the call on when I come up.  I can't control it, so I'm not going to speculate."

What Drew can control, almost too well, is the strike zone.  After just a week, and in a league full of the best minor league hitters anywhere, Drew is already getting pitched around.  Hard to argue with the philosophy though.  In Drew's first six games he went 14-26 with four doubles (including three in one game), four home runs (in four consecutive games), and eight RBI.  He's been walked three times in eight plate appearances since.

"It's a more experienced league," Drew says of the differences between the AFL and his limited minor league experience, "and it's more specific, you're working on specific things down here, as opposed to the regular season, when you're sort of trying to work on everything."

As far as what he's working on, for Drew it's defense.

"He needs work, but so does everybody in that league," says Drew's Double-A Manager, Tony Perezchica from Tucson.  Perezchica was there working with the Diamondbacks Instructional League squad, where the D'Backs AFL representatives prepped.  "Sometimes its easy to forget he's in his first year, because he makes things look so easy.  A lot of guys need time to adjust to the lifestyle and the league, but from the first day I had him, he's been a professional baseball player."

That's high praise, and Perezchica hasn't even begun yet.

"He's got such a pretty swing, so under control.  He already recognizes what pitches he can and can't handle, a great command of the strikezone.  He's going to hit, that's not a question.  At any level, he's going to hit."

So does Perezchica think Drew should be the guy at shortstop next year for the Diamondbacks?

"You never know, but it's not a question of will he be the shortstop, it's just a matter of time.  He's still got a lot to prove, but it seems like every time they give him a challenge he responds."

For Drew, the speculation might grate on him, but it's easy for him to remember why he is where he is.

"I just come out here everyday and play hard.  I know this league isn't necessarily about winning and losing, but I want to win every time I put on a uniform.  The Lord has given me the ability to play this game and I've chosen it as my job now.  That's the way I approach it.  I come to work, I do the best I can and I try to get better everyday.  I take pride in my game, the offense, the defense, I just keep working.  I can get better, and I will get better.  Everything else I can't control, so I try not to worry about it."

There's already enough worrying going on about Stephen Drew.  The media is always worried about him, the front office has to worry about how quickly they can and can't move him, and every pitcher, in any league, who even might have to face Drew has got to be worried about this lefty with power, speed, a good eye and excellent wheels.  Really, it seems the only person now worried about Stephen Drew, is Stephen Drew.

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