Will Venable: It was a nice opportunity to be able to go play everyday and between Randy Ready and my dad it was an opportunity to get some really good instruction, not that it wasn't the case in Eugene the year before. Playing everyday you can put it into action and get comfortable. It took me half a season to really get comfortable. It was unbelievable to get going and get in that mode.
From Eugene to Fort Wayne it seemed like you really put those lessons into application.
Will Venable: Exactly. Getting adjusted to pro life in the first place – that was tough. And not playing everyday I felt like I was in a rut there and didn't play well enough to get in there everyday. It was nice to be given the opportunity where I showed up at the ballpark and knew I was going to play. It was an opportunity I could develop.
In the minor leagues it is part of the reason we are here: to find ourselves and figure out which direction we want to move and what kind of players we are. I was happy with the season I had.
You went out to Hawaii and end up winning the batting title out there against better competition. The accolades kept coming.
Will Venable: It was nice. They set us up where we only had to play every other day. It rains a lot and we had nice days off. The fatigue wasn't there. It was an opportunity for me because I had been a Low-A guy and all those guys were High-A and Double-A. It was another opportunity to challenge myself and I ended up rising to the occasion.
This off-season, was the preparation any different?
Will Venable: It is hard for me being a basketball guy my whole life. Getting in shape and getting your body ready – you are on a whole different program. I remember being out in Arizona in January and Ben Johnson was there. I was running a bunch of different sprints because that was the only way I knew how to get in shape. He was like, ‘Hey, you need to cool out. You are going to burn out in the first two months of the season.' Adjusting to that after a full season – I still have a lot to learn for preparing myself for the season. I am trying to work those kinks out to get my body and mind in the right frame.
Did you feel tired in August last season, especially when we are coming up on that time of year again?
Will Venable: Maybe that first step stealing a base. I think I stole twice as many in the first half than the second half. Part of that was being tired and the other part was Freese came along and it almost wasn't worth it because he was hitting doubles every time. A little bit but that is expected.
You got to hang out in big league camp this spring. What was that experience like?
Will Venable: It was unbelievable. It was an opportunity that not a whole lot of guys get to do. It was nice to not only meet the guys but also to see what it is like to be a big leaguer. The talent level and the adjustments they make.
Before, I have always been motivated and I always believed in myself. You get around those big league guys and they do incredible things but once you see it face to face you believe more in yourself.
Did you find someone who you bonded with more than anyone else – someone who sort of took you under their wing?
Will Venable: Jose Cruz Jr. was my throwing partner. He would help me out with little things. When the outfielders would go do their fundamentals, it was a group thing where everyone would talk about how you do this and what works best for you.
That was another great thing. We are fielding ground balls and Mike Cameron is asking a non-roster guy, ‘How do you do it?' Everyone is trying to find out the best way for them because everyone is different.
It was nice to soak up some of that stuff.
You go 6-for-19 out there – that is a pretty good showing in the limited action. Do you know any of the guys you got hits off?
Will Venable: To be honest, I can't even remember one guy I faced. Half of them didn't have the name on their back. I don't know if any were big leaguers.
Is it validation for you thought?
Will Venable: Yes. You step in that box and see a fastball – to be able to get the barrel there. It is the same fastball that I have to hit is the same fastball Mike Cameron has to hit in the big leagues. It was nice to set foot in there and validate what I thought. I am more confident in that way.
When you looked at the off-season – was Double-A the goal for you? Did you think it was a possibility?
Will Venable: You always want to set your goals – I don't want to say a level higher than reality, but I just wanted to make sure I didn't put it out of my mind as a possibility. I don't want to stop working hard and I believe in what I do. I still have to get the barrel through the zone and hit the fastball. I have to continue to take care of my business.
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