Padres' Prospect Interview: Will Venable

FORT WAYNE - How good an athlete is Will Venable?                                                            

Venable, 23, was a three-year starter on Princeton's basketball team, his last two years winning all league honors. He decided to try out for the baseball team in his sophomore year, despite not having played the sport in two years, and proceeded to start 24 out of 27 games.

His junior year, after missing a significant chunk of the season because of Princeton going deep into the NCAA basketball tournament, he still hit .344/.379/.438 and was drafted in the 15th round by the Baltimore Orioles.

Venable elected to return to school and continue to play baseball, after his commitments with basketball were done. His senior year he repeated what he did the year before, hitting .385/.437/.636 for the Tigers.

The Padres took Venable in the 7th round of the 2005 draft and placed him in the Arizona League, where he hit .322/.385/.508 in 15 games and 59 at-bats.

The trouble came when he was promoted to Eugene where he hit .136 in his first month, but picked it up to .253 in August. He finished the season at .216/.295/.324, which is not the type of numbers he was used to putting up in any sport.

A full off-season where he only concentrated on baseball helped to refocus Venable.

This year he's made the Midwest League All Star team, is playing a solid left field and is among the leaders in the Midwest League in several offensive categories.

Oh yeah, what he did he do in the spring of his senior year in high school when he decided not play baseball? He ran track and was the league champion in the 200 meters.

Some things in life just aren't fair…

I talked to you last year in Eugene when you just came out of Princeton. You were struggling after doing pretty well in the Arizona League [short-season A-ball]. Now you are in the Midwest League, a higher level, and performing much better. What has been the big change?

Will Venable: Its just the adjustment period. I think when you come right out of college and into the pros there is a certain adjustment period which really isn't an indication of what type of player that you are.

It's just so different from college with that short-season, playing everyday. This year I had Instructional League and spring training which gave me an opportunity to show what I could do.

The Northwest League was kind of tough, but you played much better in the Instructional Leagues and everything is now clicking for you here. What were some of the things that helped you change?

Will Venable: It's just being comfortable and having confidence. The Instructional League was a great place to really work on your game, where results didn't matter; you just had an opportunity to get better. Spring training was the same way.

At Princeton, where you played college ball, you didn't get as much opportunity to play as many games as someone who went to school in the SEC or at a Pac-10 school. Also throw in the fact that you were playing basketball and only played two years of baseball in college.

Will Venable: Just being able to play everyday, playing back-to-back games as compared to playing four games on the weekend in college is huge for your development.

In the few games that I've seen you play here you seem a lot happier than you were at Eugene. You have a big smile on your face and you're laughing.

Will Venable: Its hard to smile when you're hitting .125. Life is not great. [laughs]

How is everything working out having your Dad as a coach?

Will Venable: Growing up he was always playing or coaching in the minor leagues doing his thing. He took a break from coaching professionally and coached me in high school for a while, but I didn't take it too seriously. Now, he's been getting his hands on me and really working with me, so it's really worked out well.

Your Dad must have been instrumental in a lot of your success this year, what has been the biggest thing that he has helped you with this year?

Will Venable: Really a lot of mechanical things, but the biggest thing has been in my preparation and mental approach. Just taking every at-bat seriously because someone is always watching you. It is a long season, but you have to make sure you take advantage of every at-bat and opportunity that you have.

You played some right field in Eugene, now you are only playing left field here, can you play center?

Will Venable: I played some center in college and I've been playing left field here. I don't have the arm for right.

What is the biggest thing you are trying to improve upon for the next level?

Will Venable: Everything, but specifically I'm trying to improve my arm strength. I don't think its holding me back, but its something I want to get better.

Contact senior writer John Conniff at

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