Padres Prospect Interview: Mike Baxter

FORT WAYNE - The Padres drafted New York City's Mike Baxter, 21, in the 4th round of the 2005 draft. A product of Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, Baxter initially chose to attend Columbia University [giving the Wizards two Ivy League players, the other being Will Venable of Princeton].

At Columbia, Baxter hit .368/.405/.474, which earned him a second team All-Ivy League selection at third base. After a season at Columbia, Baxter elected try his luck at a more competitive baseball conference and transferred to Vanderbilt University in the SEC where he posted two solid seasons, his last year hitting .374/.468/.607 which earned him a a second-team All-SEC selection at first base. Baxter led Vanderbilt in every offensive category including average (.374), home runs (nine), RBI (48) and stolen bases (26).

A left handed hitter, Baxter was sent straight to Fort Wayne after the team signed him, bypassing the Arizona League and Eugene to replace Australian Lachlan Dale at first base who was released from the organization. Baxter seemed destined for a rapid advance through the system hitting .275/.339/.412 in his first month before slumping to .219/.267/.311 to finish the season.

This year the Padres have moved him to the outfield to take advantage of his athleticism. He has had an up-and-down year and will have to hit a lot more, especially for a corner outfielder, to re-ignite his prospect status.

Last year you got out of the box rather quickly and then struggled as the season went on. This year you've been up and down, so what has been the biggest problems for you so far?

Mike Baxter: I'm looking at video tape a lot with Max [Venable the hitting coach of the Wizards] and we kind of locked it into my timing is off. I really haven't gotten into the groove where I can drive the ball as well as I would like too.

It seems, not to make any excuses after watching you for a few nights that you are getting a lot of tough breaks or as Seth Johnston says, "the baseball gods aren't smiling on you."

Mike Baxter: Yeah, [laughs]

How tough is that to deal with during the season?

Mike Baxter: It might be a little easier to deal with when you are hitting .350 but when you are hovering around .200 it's a little more difficult.

Everyone goes through it, but I've also had my share of dink hits to go along with the line drives. Hopefully it will all even out during the season.

You have a pretty even keel about this, although you can see that it bothers you, it seems the mental part of the game is much more grinding on you than the physical part.

Mike Baxter: I feel good physically [laughing].

I'm ready to play everyday, but mentally its much more of a grind. I just want to help the team win and some days I think I did my part. I really want to turn it around offensively as quickly as possible.

The Padres organization seems to be pretty positive on how well you have adjusted to playing different positions

Mike Baxter: Hey, that's refreshing [laughs].

You got to get some positive news in. How has this year been different for you playing all over the outfield? Is there any position you feel more comfortable in?

Mike Baxter: Yeah, right field is pretty cool. Center field is nice, but I'm the most comfortable in right field now.

Why is that?

Mike Baxter: I don't know. A lot of guys think its hard out there because of the angles, but probably because that is where I have the most reps. Josh [Alley] got hurt so I got to play a little center, which is fun because there is a lot more room out there, but for whatever reasons I just feel I get better reads out there.

How did the Instructs go for you?

Mike Baxter: It was good. It was really useful because a transition guy is going to get a lot more to specifically work on, which really helped me getting into spring training. Both were pretty bad for me defensively, but it was important for me to get the bad reps out of the way before the season.

When you talk about working on one thing specifically, what were you working on? Is it like situational hitting or certain types of plays in the outfield in your case?

Mike Baxter: Personally was learning how to read the ball off of the bat. Catch up on what I missed out playing the infield in college and high school. A lot of guys go there to tweak there swings, my goal was to get used to playing the outfield.

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

Mike Baxter: I don't know. I was originally left-handed according to my parents. In kindergarten my teacher made me write right-handed, but I've always hit lefty. It's just closer to first base.

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