Padres Prospect Interview: Craig Cooper

San Antonio is a dead zone for hitters. The wind blows in each night as the Missions take the field in their home park. It can be frustrating to the home squad. Craig Cooper has seen it but also notes that you can't let it affect how you play. In fact, Cooper has seen it before.

Coop, tell me about Double-A first. You come out here; you come to this particular park. It's not necessarily conducive to hitting the ball long. So, it might work to your advantage because you've been doing a great job of hitting line drives, getting them into the gaps over the years.

Craig Cooper: It's kind of the similar situation I dealt with in college. We had the same kind of wind blew in most of the time from left field. I kind of adapted to that and tried to stay with the line drive approach. I think it's helped me a lot. Hitting here at home, it comes kind of at the cost of power numbers here. You'll see guys every night crush balls up and into the wind and they just die.

Is there a lot of swearing is going on in the dugout?

Craig Cooper: Yeah! So, it's just something that when you're here, you've got to focus on the line drives. When you're on the road, hopefully you can get your power numbers.

Something we've talked about too is being able to pull that inside pitch and try and take it over the fence. Now, we're in a park that's not going to necessarily help you with that avenue. So, you almost get into your approach and say well "if I can't do that, is it worth doing it?" Let me just hit the ball the other way and drop it in, I'll get a hit.

Craig Cooper: Especially here, you can just take the approach of kind of shooting the other way, maybe like line drives. I mean, the days when the wind is blowing out or it's kind of a little bit quieter.

You've seen those days?

Craig Cooper: I think there have been two of them so far. That's when you can look for those pitches on the inside path and look to do some damage.

How tough is it to make the adjustment from the home to the road?

Craig Cooper: It's not too bad. As long as you stay with your approach, I mean you're going to hit balls here and they're going to get caught up in the wind; it's just part of the game. But, as long as you're hitting the ball hard and staying within yourself, then your numbers are going to even out across the two.

Are you a guy that keeps a journal of opposing pitchers?

Craig Cooper: Not so much. A lot of the guys we faced last year, and I have a pretty good memory of, but I don't have a written journal.

Would it help you if you did? Or is that more like you've got to keep your mental thing off the field; when you get to the field it's about your swing?

Craig Cooper: It helps to know a little bit about the other pitchers, definitely. The first time you face a pitcher it's always tough, really different. The more times you face them it becomes easier and easier, once you've seen their stuff more than once. So, it's good to keep tabs on them and if there's ever a new guy, we always try to figure out what he's got before hand. I just try to keep mental notes.

How much can you pick up, let's say you're batting fifth in the lineup tonight, how much can you pick up over those first four hitters for a new pitcher you may never have faced before?

Craig Cooper: It depends. A lot of guys that are in the game will just go fastballs right after guys. That's something you pick up, if you notice they're going right after guys. Or vice versa, if they get to one-one counts and they start throwing off speed pitches, that's something you notice. The first time through the lineup, there's not as many tells necessarily, but definitely as the game goes along, the more hitters you see, the more of an idea you have of what he's trying to do.

The first four hitters come back after whatever they do. Is it "ah, man, look for that fastball, it's going to come", "look for that slider"?

Craig Cooper: Guys will definitely talk to each other in the dugout; the fastballs moving because a lot of times you can't see that. If he's got some sink or some cut on it, they'll tell you that. Or they'll be like "hey, he's got a good slider; he's going after guys at two strikes and just trying to get them to chase". Sharing that knowledge helps.

Is it the most important thing just knowing what his best pitch is?

Craig Cooper: Early in the count I think it's just trying to get your pitch. And then, if you end up falling behind, just kind of battle from there on out.

There's a penchant to change your approach when there's two strikes. Yet, at the same time, probably keeping your approach is the best avenue. How difficult is it to decide between the two and go "alright, I've got two strikes here, I'm going to…"? You fall into bad habits with your mind almost.

Craig Cooper: Yeah, it's hard. You just have to kind of tell yourself to stay back and trust your hands. Sometimes they're going to beat you and sometimes you're going to beat them. So, you've just got to keep that mindset and just battle.

How has the outfield game for you progressed through the years? We started at first base, now you're pretty much, almost a regular out in right field you know.

Craig Cooper: Yeah, it's been a lot of fun. I played a little bit, actually a lot of outfield in my first couple years of college. Kind of getting back out there has been a lot of fun; diving here and there and making those throws and throwing guys out; threw a guy out at home a couple of weeks ago. It's a different kind of excitement out there.

Now, does the arm surprise you? I mean, obviously, we knew you had it, but you know, it's accuracy; it's everything that comes in to play. When you're on first base, the farthest throw is throwing it back to the pitcher.

Craig Cooper: Well, at first base, I always considered myself an outfielder playing first base. So, when I got back out there, I feel comfortable and I know I can make those throws.

What's going to make each and every year a success?

Craig Cooper: For me, it's just kind of learning from the mistakes I made in the beginning of the year. I had a pretty solid start and just try to keep building on things I've learned thus far and try to keep learning as I go.

What mistakes have you made?

Craig Cooper: Early in the year, especially in the first couple of weeks, I was trying to do too much. I got a little pull happy; I was hooking a lot of balls to short-stop and third base. Now I'm just trying to get back to myself and my game. I'm going to drive some balls out of the park, drive them into the gap. But it's not something that you can consciously go out of your way to try to do. It was good to learn that early and get it out of the way, not be doing it in August.

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