Kellen Kulbacki signed and ready to go

Kellen Kulbacki may have missed the season opener for the Eugene Emeralds, but he won't miss anymore time. The outfielder came to terms and will report to Spokane on Wednesday. We caught up with the former James Madison product to discuss his strengths and weaknesses, as he embarks on what he hopes is a direct line to the San Diego Padres through their minor league system.

When dissecting your game, do you feel there is an area you would call a weakness or something in your game that needs a little improvement?

Kellen Kulbacki: The big things are possibly strengthening my arm a bit and I feel I have pretty decent speed – I am not the fastest guy – but with agility work I think I can get faster foot speed to be a little bit quicker in the outfield. Those are the two areas I need to improve on to be a better well-rounded level.

Who do you compare to at the major league level so we can give fans an idea of what your game resembles.

Kellen Kulbacki: I think if you look around at my complete game – if you are trying to compare would be Nick Swisher and Brian Giles. I think Swisher is probably a better comparison for someone at the major league level.

I feel like the build overall and the body size – the way we play the game with good power and intensity. I think that is a pretty good comparison.

You mentioned your arm and strengthening that – how is the rest of your outfield game?

Kellen Kulbacki: I think I am a pretty solid overall outfielder. In high school I felt like that was a big strength of my game. I covered ground pretty well in center and felt like I had a good arm. When I went to college I didn't play much center and moved over to right. I think fundamentally I am pretty sound. I get rid of the ball quick and am accurate with my throws. Overall, I am a pretty solid outfielder.

You also mentioned staying with that patient approach at the plate and taking what you are given. At the same time, there is the love for the home run. How do you stay away from falling into that lull and trying to hammer everything out of the park?

Kellen Kulbacki: As a hitter, I feel like the more you try and hit home runs the less you are going to because you overswing, you try and pull everything because you feel like you have to gear up and rip it. For me, I told myself that the less you think about trying to hit a home run, the more it is going to come because you are not always thinking at the plate – you are seeing it and putting a good swing on it – but that is what I tell myself. Hit the ball where it is pitched. Try and hit a line drive. The home runs will come and that has helped me be as successful over the last two years with the bat.

You played in the Cape Cod league in 2006 – a wood bat league – how has that experience helped you and perhaps put you ahead of the game now that you are going to the wood bat all the time?

Kellen Kulbacki: I learned a lot from the Cape last summer. Not just from how to get their as a player but you learned the lifestyle of a minor league, playing everyday, the competition level, the day in day out grind of being a baseball player. It has helped me out to open my eyes a little bit. It was a great experience for me.

I got off to a little bit of a slow start. My coach up there was trying to work with my swing a little bit, and it was hard to make an adjustment at that level while I am taking game hacks and game at bats while making an adjustment with my swing. I got off to a slow start. Halfway through the summer I went back to my approach and my swing that worked well for me at college and I finished pretty strong in the second half. I didn't feel like I showed the potential I could have because of the slow start and my numbers were bad.

I learned a lot and took a lot from it. Some of the experiences I had will help me in my professional career.

You are the highest taken position player in James Madison history. Is there any pressure to not only perform for yourself but also the school?

Kellen Kulbacki: I think I have already felt that pressure through last year's season. I had a solid, successful sophomore year and a lot of people thought it might have been a fluke or the ballpark or competition level. I feel like I had a lot of pressure building up – even in the Cape last summer – to show people that the power numbers and batting numbers were legit. I think I have been playing with that pressure ever since.

I don't think the pressure is going to be a new feeling for me. It is going to be the same experience I had to deal with since last year. I don't mind playing under that pressure. I think it helps me play at a level that I expect to play at and will help me out long run.

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