Padres Draft Interview: Derek Shunk

Derek Shunk is signed, sealed and will be delivered by the end of the week. He is heading out to Eugene, Oregon and the Emeralds after being drafted by the San Diego Padres and subsequently putting his name on the dotted line.

What was the overall feeling after being selected by the San Diego Padres?

Derek Shunk: Obviously, the first emotion is exctiemtnt. To be honest with you, I wasn't watching the draft. When Jim Bretz called me, my phone was going off the hook from my friends and family. I couldn't even here him. Like I said, I wasn't watching so I asked him what round it was and he saif it was the 17th. I was absolutely blown away. We were thinking I was going to go a little bit later than that so it was a pretty pleasant surprise.

Talk a little bit about your game and the strengths of it.

Derek Shunk: My ability to play any infield position – I have always hit for a pretty high average and am sure the transition to pro ball will be a little bit of an adjustment period but I have always had a real strong work ethic and that will carry over into pro ball.

You have a friend in the system in Jeremy Hunt. Do you keep in touch with him and how much can he help you?

Derek Shunk: I do. Jeremy has been very helpful. He is in Lake Elsinore. He got off to a real good start in pro ball.

I will never forget his senior year he had in Villanova. He was just unbelievable – the offensive show he put on. He was given a chance to play at the next level and has made the most of that.

There are a lot of things to know about pro ball and Jeremy, as well as some other friends and mentors of mine who have played pro ball or are currently playing, it is a great feeling to talk to them and find out what the daily routines are and the expectations of the organizations – basically how to approach each and every day because it is going to be a grind. It is something that college guys and high school guys aren't used to. They are not used to playing everyday.

One piece of advice I have taken from these guys is if something doesn't go your way one day, there is no time to get down about it because you literally will be out there in the next day and it is a chance to do better.

You end your career at Villanova as the all-time hits leader in school history. What does that mean to you?

Derek Shunk: It is obviously a tremendous accomplishment but the credit goes to Coach Godri and the rest of the coaching staff for giving me a chance to play for four years. It was a tremendous amount of ups and downs and they stuck with me. I guess when you play for four years and have some success, those numbers take care of themselves. It is a tremendous accomplishment, but I really have to give the coaching staff a lot of credit for sticking with me and giving me the opportunity to break records.

You are a guy who drew more walks than he struck out. Can you talk about the patience at the plate and how that has helped your game.

Derek Shunk: The philosophy at Villanova was always to get pitch counts up, not necessarily to be too patient, but we looked at it as if we can get into the bullpen early on a Friday, that might make the Sunday game easier because the team we're playing – their bullpen might be spent.

We also emphasized on-base percentage and walks are a big part of that. We actually led the Big East in walks, and I think we did for three of the four years I was there.

The Padres – and I met with Jim Bretz who was telling me that as well – is the same thing. Get pitch counts up, get on base, be patient – have good quality at-bats.

You come into a system with that same patiently, aggressive approach as you mentioned. Do you get into a habit of being too patient and letting some good pitches go by?

Derek Shunk: I think when things aren't going my way that may be an issue. You take that first pitch fastball right down the middle and kind of kick yourself and wish you would have taken it into the gap somewhere. At the same time, you don't want to get overaggressive and first pitch you get a changeup in the dirt and get yourself in trouble.

You mentioned the ability to play multiple positions on the infield. Did you play shortstop all of last year and what has the evolution been like?

Derek Shunk: I did. I played shortstop my freshman year, my sophomore year I played second, my junior year I played the first 10 games at third base and then played the rest of my junior year and senior year at shortstop.

What is the comfort level for you at each of these positions. Because yes the versatility is good but you also have to want to establish yourself somewhere as well.

Derek Shunk: To be honest, they drafted me as a middle guy so that is where I am focused right now. I am guessing that is where there plans are for me.

Four years of college – how much have you grown over this time span in terms of maturity within the game of baseball?

Derek Shunk: I have grown a lot. Coming out of high school, there are so many things you have to learn and you begin to realize that it really is an all year round season, rather than just playing in spring. You realize the speed of the game is different and is better – the quality of play and coaching is better. They want you to learn for four years and by the time you graduate or are ready to be drafted, they want you to be a lot better of a ball player than you were when you came in as a freshman.

Villanova – their coaching staff – has really gotten us ready to play pro ball by there hands-on approach they give you with hitting and ways to do things.

Do you feel like you are a guy who has untapped power potential?

Derek Shunk: We play at a very big ballpark. It is not very hitter friendly. I do. I really believe I am going to surprise some people with my ability to hit some home runs, drive gaps and also be an RBI guy. I know they would like me to be a guy who hits for a pretty high average. I have done that through college and hopefully can continue to do that.

I know once I learn the ins and outs of professional hitting, some balls will go over the fence.

While I do not know your team and am not trying to make insinuations, did you feel you were receiving more breaking balls than in the past without a lot of protection. The reason I say this is there were not many other hitters in the lineup hitting over .300 and you hit close to .375.

Derek Shunk: It was very obvious that pitchers had concentrated in their scouting reports and meetings on ways to pitch me. Basically, it is about making adjustments. It is always about that. Our hitting coach, Chris Madonna,really helped me out. At the beginning of the year, I was seeing a lot of breaking balls and a lot of sliders. Guys weren't giving me fastballs. I was also getting myself out but I didn't get off to that great of a start. Halfway through the season till the end of the season, I was able to make my adjustments and not miss my pitch. That is something that if I want to be successful at the next level, I will have to do.

What is it about the game of baseball that you love so much?

Derek Shunk: I have loved being able to be on the field – it is fun to me. It is something I have been doing since I was five. I have been told by my family to do what you love and do what you have fun doing. I have really worked hard at it. Anyone who knows me and has played with me – there have been things I have had to overcome and its instilled a work ethic in me. You sit back and look at all those things: I am a 22-year-old, I was just drafted, and you say, ‘To be able to overcome those things and be here as a 22-year-old, all those things that have been in my way – it is still fun. I enjoy it more than ever and am sure I am going to for a long time.'

Is there a guy in the major leagues that you like to model your game after because of the way they play or what they have done?

Derek Shunk: I am a Philadelphia guy and who I idolize is Chase Utley. The way he plays the game – you will never see him not run a ball out. He will hustle on everything. He is a role model to every young player who aspires to be a professional baseball player. He handles his business day in and day out the way every baseball player should. Not only does he perform – he is out of his mind on the field – but he absolutely plays the game the way it is supposed to be played.

If I play the game the way it is supposed to be played, things will work out.

Another role model of mine is Joe McEwing. He lives about two minutes from me in Yardley, Pennsylvania. I have worked out with him for the past six summers.

To see someone like that. Joey wasn't drafted. He was a free agent and he worked his way through so many things to be a 10-year major leaguer. He is not a big guy. You look at him and would never believe he is a professional athlete. He has really mentored me and really has given me an advantage because he has told me stories and given me pointers that we need to know in order to be successful out of the gate in pro ball.

When you look at your game, is there an area that you can pinpoint that needs some improvement?

Derek Shunk: I think I am always trying to work on my foot speed and the ability to drive gaps consistently. I did a lot better job with that this year but sometimes I miss a pitch I should put in the gap and foul it back.

You can always improve in everything. I want to go into it and make that my goal – learn everyday and make every aspect of my game the best it can be.

How will the added footspeed enhance your game?

Derek Shunk: It will help stealing bases and give me more range in the field. It helps when you are playing more than one position because you need more range at shortstop than third base. The ability to have that makes you more athletic and allows you to do more in the field.

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