Padres' Prospect Interview: Matt Antonelli

When the San Diego Padres drafted Matt Antonelli in the first round of the 2006 MLD Draft they believed they were getting an athlete that would consistently reach base. He delivered on that front, posting an on base percentage that was in the top five of the Northwest League during his time with the Eugene Emeralds.

Talk about the hand injury earlier this year.

Matt Antonelli: It stayed the same for a while – we just kind of took it slow.

You were a hockey player growing up – was that a dream to play in the NHL?

Matt Antonelli: I had the same kind of dream to when I was younger. I always liked hockey and baseball and wasn't sure what I was going to play. When I got to high school and as I got older I kind of realized that baseball is probably going to be the sport that I want to go on and keep playing.

Most hockey players and fans are true diehards – was it tough leaving the sport behind?

Matt Antonelli: It kind of was. I was a diehard – more baseball than hockey. I enjoyed hockey a whole lot but the sport I really loved was baseball. That was also one of the reasons why I continued to play it and chose it over the other sports.

What position did you play in hockey and were you a good skater?

Matt Antonelli: Center. I was decent.

During your time with Eugene you got a chance to work with Doug Dascenzo on the basepaths – does that footwork and quick feet in hockey translate at all to the diamond?

Matt Antonelli: I don't know if it translates at all. The stuff that I learned in hockey – the hard work – helps you in all areas in sports and outside sports.

I mentioned Dascenzo working with you – how can he help you and how has he helped you with your ability to steal bases?

Matt Antonelli: He knows a lot of stuff, especially on baserunning and stealing bases. I have really improved. It is a lot of the mental stuff I have never thought about before and he really helped out big time. Footwork – he taught me some new stuff that I had never seen before. It all helps.

I also saw Doug on the mound mimicking a pitcher with you on second base. Is that working on keys and what to pick up from the pitcher?

Matt Antonelli: I never look for something in particular and he was letting us know ‘at this point you look at the head. When he does this you look at the feet.' It was stuff I really hadn't heard before. It really helped out when you just focus on a certain thing here or there and it makes it easier.

When you are sitting in the dugout, is it easier to pick up on those things from the bench now that you have been keyed in to some of those little tricks?

Matt Antonelli: Now I am starting to look for it where I wasn't before. Definitely I can see it. Hopefully I can put it all together.

You were also a football player – was there any time left in the day?

Matt Antonelli: No, there really wasn't. I don't think I had many days off in high school. I went from one sport to the other and sometimes I was playing two at one time. It was a lot of fun though.

You went 19th round to the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school. Talk about the decision to go to college instead of signing.

Matt Antonelli: I guess it wasn't a real hard one, although I did give it some thought. I always wanted to play professional baseball and I wanted to start playing as soon as possible but when I weighed my options I thought it would probably be better if I went to school. I got three years of school and had a chance to do it again later on and luckily I got that chance.

We all know you matured as a person but how did you grow as a baseball player from those high school days to now? And do you think, based on your experience in Eugene and Fort Wayne that you have grown more as a baseball player than ever before?

Matt Antonelli: I think the big thing, especially out of Massachusetts, I didn't get to play a whole lot of baseball. I played three sports and it is cold – we didn't get outside very much and when we did I was off for three months. Going to school I got to play year round in North Carolina because of the nice weather. I think that was one of the big things. That helped a lot and focusing on it, being able to lift weights more than I could in high school. It all came together and helped me improve big time.

A lot of the guys here you have faced at one point or another but the coaching at the professional level is a different thing altogether. That changes the nuances of the game.

Matt Antonelli: I have seen a lot of the guys before. Just looking at our guys – the improvement that I have made personally and a lot of the other guys you can see pretty quickly. I think coaching is definitely one thing I have enjoyed being here – I have always had good coaches but this is another step up where I just learn things I have never learned before.

You got a chance to step in as the first base coach – does that help you see things you may take for granted?

Matt Antonelli: That was my first time probably ever doing it in my life so I felt kind of awkward out there. It is interesting to watch the game from another perspective. You can pick up on some things you don't really see when you are playing because you are focusing so hard on your job and you don't get to see the whole game. It helps a little bit but I don't want to spend too much time over there.

You have played mostly third base but there are some rumblings that at some point you may be moved to another position – centerfield or wherever. When you hear that talk do you say, ‘but I am a good third baseman!'

Matt Antonelli: Actually, my original position was shortstop and when I moved to college they moved me over there so I am kind of used to moving. I played some second base so really it is not like I have one position. I think it is good I can play anywhere. If I get moved later on that is fine and if I don't that is cool too. I will play anywhere.

The outfield?\

Matt Antonelli: That is one place I actually haven't played but I am sure I can pick it up.

Was it awkward early on to be going from third base to designated hitter and back to third base with David Freese in Eugene?

Matt Antonelli: Yeah, I hadn't done that ever before and had never DH'ed before in my life but I hadn't played baseball in about a month (when I came to Eugene) and I think if I played every single inning of every day at third I might have been a little worn out. So it was good that I got a little bit of a break.

Didn't they teach you not to wrap your whole hand around the bat when you are bunting because it exposes your fingers to getting crunched?

Matt Antonelli: (Laughs)They did but apparently I am not a good listener!

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