Padres Prospect Interview: Sam Carter

SAN ANTONIO, TX.: In 2008, Sam Carter, 26, received the most at-bats of his professional career and responded with his best year, hitting .282/.372/.456 for the Lake Elsinore Storm.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Carter finished second on the Storm in extra-base hits and home runs while seeing time in left, right and first base. Carter made the Padres as an undrafted free agent out of St. Mary's and to get as far as he has right now is a major accomplishment. Although he did have a good season, he is going to have to fight the stigma of the dreaded, "he's old for the league."

As he did show last year, he does have power potential, but he is going to have to really produce to see time in San Antonio this year with Kellen Kulbacki, Luis Durango, Mike Baxter and Craig Cooper also competing for playing time.

Last year in Lake Elsinore you had your best year of your career. What were the reasons behind this?

Sam Carter: I kind of made a few adjustments and the hitting coach in Lake Elsinore, Shane Spencer and I got along great. He had a pretty good idea of my swing, which was similar to his swing when he played. Really the main thing for me was hitting that right-center gap, and when I was able to do that, everything just came along. I was able to stay inside the ball and pull it when the pitch was there. Just a new approach, which was the big thing.

It seems like this happened pretty early in the season, did it carry you through the rest of the year?

Sam Carter: I started out around 3-for-17, which obviously isn't very good but right around that point I started to get hot. I had a very good first month of the year. A good start is great, but it shouldn't make a difference as long as your mentally strong and confident in your approach. You can't let that affect you when you are hot or when you are struggling, I don't like riding that roller coaster. I try to even it out all the time.

Its easy for us to write about how you shouldn't let the emotions of the game get to you, but how do you keep the mental discipline to do that?

Sam Carter: You definitely have feelings when you are struggling of ‘when am I going to get out of this?' You have to have a plan and routine everyday and trust for it to carry over. If you panic and want the hits so bad it doesn't help. Whatever I do in the cage and BP, I try not to do anything more or anything less. In this game, if you try harder, it will hurt you.

You hit over .400 last year with the bases loaded. Do you try to dial it back a little because you believe the pitcher may be pressing?

Sam Carter: When guys are on base, you see a lot of off-speed, they want you to chase. I try to stay as relaxed as I can. My high school coach taught me that baseball puts enough pressure on you as it is, if you can take some of that pressure off of you the better off you are going to be.

I didn't know I hit .400 last year with the bases loaded. [laughs]. It's really about just letting the game come to you.

When there are runners on base do you have a better idea of what may be coming?

Sam Carter: Sometimes I do, it's not that you sit on pitches but you a better idea of what location they are trying to come in.

Has there been some pressure that has come off you this year. You came to the Padres as an undrafted free agent and to get to this level is impressive. Is there a little more security for you this year after putting together a good year last year?

Sam Carter: I guess you could say that there is a little bit less pressure, but I am at a point in my career where I have to perform every single year if I want to play next year. I want to produce and I like pressure and try to put it on myself. I'm not in the lineup everyday and I believe I can play at this level, so I have to prove to myself and everyone else that I can do it. Also, its not just about playing in the Texas League its about playing at the next level.

Sean McCall, the announcer for the Storm, told me that you had never hit a grand slam before in your life and then you hit three last year. What is up with that?

Sam Carter: I have no idea, it was crazy. [laughs]. Really, it was just weird.

They put you at first base for the first time last year, how did you like that?

Sam Carter: Yeah, I did. I played there a little in high school, but in high school, I was a third baseman. They kind of put me over there because we had a lot of outfielders who were all hitting while our first baseman was kind of iffy. It was kind of like "throw him over there" and I did ok and it was mainly a way to get the fourth outfielder in there. They thought first base was good fit for me.

So you are like the rest of the guys here, if you are in the lineup you will play short.

Sam Carter: Yeah of course although I don't know if TK [Terry Kennedy, the Missions manager] is going to want me there. [laughs]

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