Padres Interview: Chase Headley

At the beginning of the year, Chase Headley was the consensus pick as the Padres' top prospect. With Kevin Kouzmanoff entrenched at third base, San Diego shifted Headley, who had played his entire career at third, to left field to get him on the field.

Despite a blazing spring training where he hit .371, San Diego thought it would be best for him to gain a little more experience defensively in the outfield instead of learning a position on the fly in the major leagues. In mid-June, after Headley had struggled with a tough April in Portland, the Padres promoted him on the back of a scorching May where he hit .357/.418/.619.

Headley improved every month; his best coming in the last month of the season where he hit .293/.352/.424. The Padres expect him to hit with more power as he becomes more experienced, and he is big part of San Diego's future. With the strength of the Padres' minor league system in the outfield, there is a good chance he could end up back at third base.

When I spoke with you in Portland in April you were struggling. What impressed me was that you had confidence that you would pull out of it and you did. What enables you to have that type of confidence in yourself?

Chase Headley: It is something that you either have or you don't, and if you don't it's going to be hard to succeed in this game because it is not a matter of if you are going to struggle, it's when you are going to struggle. When you get to the upper levels, guys are better and it's going to happen. With me, I know if I go out and stick with what I do well, it's going to work out.

My guess is the confidence that you have comes from your preparation. If you weren't working as hard as you do away from the field, that would give you more doubt.

Chase Headley: I think that is part of it too. I work really hard in the off-season and during the season to learn and improve. It's just a matter of time that if you work hard and stay positive it's going to turn around. I've played this game long enough to know there are going to be good times and bad times, but it's about working hard and keeping a positive attitude. You just try to limit the bad and string out the good. Look at it this way, if you are really good, you are going to fail seven out of ten times.

For our readers, when you say that you are working hard, can you give people an idea of what your day is? For a one o'clock game in the afternoon, which is a short day, you are here around 10?

Chase Headley: Yeah, I left the hotel around 9:45, so I was at the park just after 10. One thing I've had to learn this year is how to work hard, but not overwork. You have the extra month of the season in the big leagues and for me spring training was real important; so it has been a long season. It's not like I came into spring training just to get in shape, I came in to win a job. I wanted to win a spot on the team so I played every single game as hard as I could; they were like regular season games.

So now you still have to get your cage work in and short-toss, everyone has a different routine. You have to be able to get your work without overdoing it, and that is tough when you are trying to improve every day.

It seems like you've had some experience with doing too much?

Chase Headley: At the beginning of September, I hit a wall. I was really worn out and felt like I was swinging a club up there instead of a bat. So you have to be smart as far as not doing too much. I'm a guy that is in the cage every day, because that is what works for me. Some guys can fix it on the field; it doesn't work like that for me.

Is it a question for you about taking 20 quality swings instead of 40? Because it seems to me you were more mentally tired than physically tired?

Chase Headley: Baseball in general is just a mental sport. It is just so hard to get ready to play every day. To come out with the intensity that you need to without getting worn out. It is mentally taxing; especially when the team hasn't been playing as well as you had hoped. But you are right; the key is always quality over quantity. You have to go hard and focus on what you are trying to do, which is where the mental part comes in.

For example, the fourteen inning game we had, games are won and lost on something stupid. Whether it's a missed cutoff man or a botched ground ball, being able to stay mentally sharp is a big part of being able to win games like that.

Are you still taking ground balls at third base?

Chase Headley: Yeah, I've definitely been taking balls there. I try to take balls there at least two or three times a week. It is a little tougher on the road because you only have three groups hitting. At home, the pitchers hit so it gives us four groups, which is where I usually get my reps.

I've been staying sharp and in a perfect world I always consider myself a third baseman. It is not that I'm not ok with playing the outfield; I just feel I have more value at third.

You guys always give the same answer, as long as I'm up here; I'm happy wherever I am playing.

Chase Headley: That is always true [laughs]. I just think I am a better infielder than outfielder. That is what it comes down too and they have told me, KT (Kevin Towers) and Buddy (Black) have told me to keep getting my work in there. So, we will see what happens in the future.

Over the winter, the next spring training will be different because you have established yourself. How will your off-season and next spring training be different?

Chase Headley: My off-season will not be much different other than it is going to start a little later. Last season, I think I had about a week and half off because we won the Texas League championship then they called me back up. So I didn't have much time off last year.

This year, I'm planning on taking a little more time off then start doing the same things as I did last year. I'm not going to try to put on as much weight as I did in the past two off-seasons, but I would like to be a little smarter to trim down a touch to gain a step in the outfield.

Spring training, for my mindset, will not be any different. Until you get that first contract and you are awarded a contract, you are always trying to make the team.

You would probably still be the same way if you got a big contract, you would feel that you would screw yourself up.

Chase Headley: I'm not saying I will ever take it easy, but once you get that contract you have some job security. When you are in your first couple of years there is no job security, if you don't perform, you are going back. For me, I'm coming with the same mentality as last year, to win a spot on the team. The only difference that I can see is maybe in the way they will use me. I was playing every day, it seems like the guys that have been around a little longer get to play every other day, but we'll see.

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