Joey Railey: Right away I was really excited and happy someone took me, especially a California team. It took the butterflies out because I was scared all day. When I got the call – it was relief. It has been my dream since I was a little kid. I can't even put it into words.
What is it about the game of baseball you love so much?
Joey Railey: I can't put it on one thing. I love everything about it. I love how you get to play everyday. If you have a bad game, you get to come back and play the next game. I have fun doing it.
It is a game of failure. You learn a lot about yourself as a person. I just love everything about it.
You earned Defensive Player of the Year this season. Talk a little bit about your defense and how much pride you take in it.
Joey Railey: I have been working on it because my sophomore year I played third base and didn't do very well over there. I had never played third base. I kept working at it. I take a lot of pride in it because there are two sides of the game. If you are not hitting that day, you have to play defense. I kept working at it on off days, taking ground balls and trying to get my hands softer, doing drills. I think I am developing more and more defensively.
You are a guy that has posted a .400 on-base percentage three straight years. Talk a little bit about the patient approach at the plate and how it has helped you.
Joey Railey: That is how I have hit. In high school, I was more aggressive but once I got to college and landed in that leadoff role, I naturally started seeing pitches. I trust my eye and am confident hitting with two strikes. I don't mind hitting with two strikes. I know I am going to battle the guy. I am selective and wait for my pitch to hit. If I don't get it, I will battle until he makes a mistake.
I have naturally been a patient hitter. I like to see pitches and work the count to try and get on, especially being a leadoff guy – your job is to get on base.
Do you feel like you were as aggressive as you should have been at the plate?
Joey Railey: I think so, especially playing for four years at the college level. I knew, especially as a senior, how teams pitch me in our conference. I stayed aggressive. Our coach trusted me and gave me green lights on a 3-0 count with runners in scoring position. I swing 0-0 – if it is a pitch I can hit. I am patient but think I am aggressive enough to have success.
Does the same hold true on the base paths? I know you had somewhere between 10 and 15 stolen bases. Would you have liked to have more as a top of the order guy?
Joey Railey: Absolutely. I was always green lighted and able to run on my own. Our coach was a short-game guy so a lot of time he would just bunt me over. Last year, I had 20-something stolen bases and only had half of that this year. I probably should have run more, but our two-hole guy was a really great bunter and a good hit-and-run guy so we were aggressive in that way.
What is it that will help you the most going into the professional ranks?
Joey Railey: I think it is how tough I am mentally. I am able to handle adversity. I think that is one of the strong points I have. I am not the biggest guy in the world but where my head is at – being away from home and handling the ups and downs of the minor leagues, I think my head is going to keep me going and not giving up and not letting things get to me and enjoy it. My mental state will be there at all times.
When I got a chance to talk to the Padres after they drafted you, they mentioned the word ‘scrappy'. What does it mean?
Joey Railey: I have heard that term a lot. I think because I am not the biggest guy – a hard-nosed guy. I love being tapped as that. I battle pitchers. I give pitchers fits. I get on base and always hustle – give it my all every pitch. I love getting dirty – diving. Scrappy – I play the game like it is my last day. I go out and give 100 percent all the time and have fun doing it.
It sounds a little like Lenny Dykstra without all the chew in his mouth.
Joey Railey: I have heard that. I have heard someone call me that before.
When you look at your game, do you believe there is an area that needs to be improved?
Joey Railey: I would probably say on the base paths, as far as stealing.
Defensively, I had a really good year but still think I can improve. I can get a little bit quicker with my hands turning double plays, develop. My hands have gotten a lot softer picking balls but there is always room for improvement.
Hitting – there is always room for improvement. I hope I continue to develop as a hitter. From what I was from high school to college was a complete 180. I developed so much in college and I hope at the pro level I continue to develop.
You mentioned going from third to second and seeing a lot of improvement defensively. What specifically was it that improved? People don't realize how much goes into being sound defensively.
Joey Railey: Oh yea. I played second pretty much my whole life. I think I was comfortable there. I did a lot of stuff to get my feet lighter, doing jump rope everyday. I think my footwork got a lot better and a lot cleaner. Repetition – doing a lot of drills, but my footwork and hands really improved as far as my hands being softer and staying below the baseball. My footwork got a little bit lighter and I was getting better jumps on balls.
On the bases, they say you can be as fast as you want but it does not matter if you don't have that first-step quickness. Is that the area you speak of when you talk about getting better in that area or is it reading pitchers…?
Joey Railey: I think I am pretty good at getting a good jump. Sometimes, I don't think I am as confident as I should be at stealing. Sometimes I am a little unsure when I should just trust what I see. A little hesitation. I think I read pitchers well but sometimes am too cautious and don't trust it enough. I need to be more aggressive on the base paths.
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