Padres Prospect Interview: Mitch Canham

SAN ANTONIO, TX: If you get to the park early enough you can watch what Missions' catcher Mitch Canham does before the game.

He's in the cage early with Orv, the hitting coach, then its on to catch multiple bullpens, work on individual catching drills with one of the roving instructors or Terry Kennedy, a former major league catcher and current Missions' manager, conditioning, take BP, infield and then warm up the night's starting pitcher.

Oh yeah, then its time to squat and catch nine innings, which is usually followed by some post-game weight training.

All in all, Mitch's day is rather full.

The Padres drafted the left-handed hitting Canham in the supplemental first-round of the 2007 draft. He was an important part of Oregon State's championship team in 2007, which was immortalized in the video O-State Ballers, which if you haven't seen then you need too.

See O-State Ballers here

The quick scouting report on Canham is that he is very athletic with a good eye at the plate and gap power. The Padres believe he has the tools and ability to become a solid defensive catcher, but right now he is still very much a work in progress. His manager Terry Kennedy stated the key with Canham is that he wants to be a catcher, its not just a place for him to bat in the lineup.

You only started catching when you got to college is that correct?

Mitch Canham: I started catching my sophomore year of college. They asked me if I wanted to do it, and it was like sure.

Before that you played third in high school?

Mitch Canham: No, I played right in high school and kind at the end of my senior year played a little bit of third and first into summer ball before I went to Oregon State. We [OSU] were very talented in the infield, and I wasn't exactly very talented in the infield. So they wanted to find a spot for me in the lineup and I'm a fairly athletic guy so they thought I could handle catcher.

Catcher might be the most difficult spot to play on the field. What is the most difficult part of it for you?

Mitch Canham: It's very physically demanding but also tough mentally. If it's not one thing it's another. I'm just trying to get all of my defensive skills to a consistent big league level, which is a major challenge. I'm kind of in a slump right now catching and throwing, which is what I've really been working on the past few days.

In college, I threw a lot of guys out and I may be worried about too many other things. Its about learning the staff, mechanics, what my offense is doing - although that is definitely secondary right now - my defense now is what needs to pick up. I'm really lucky to have Duff [Padres roving catching instructor] here along with TK who have really helped a lot.

It must be a big advantage playing under someone like Terry Kennedy who caught for about 13 years in the majors.

Mitch Canham: He's real good about being willing to help but not being overbearing. He's just a very good guy to approach. If you ever have a question, he's there, which is all you can ask.

What part of catching do you like the best?

Mitch Canham: The fact that you get to do something on every pitch. You are almost in control of the game. You are the only one that is outside the lines and you get to see everything. I like the physical part of it. You are the guy that is probably going to get mowed over and the most likely to pick up some bruises, and I kind of like that.

I don't think I have ever heard that before from a catcher.

Mitch Canham: [laughs] I was a wrestler and a football player so getting beat up is kind of what I do.

On offense, you always have a pretty good eye at the plate. How did you develop it?

Mitch Canham: I used to strikeout a lot and got better just with experience. Understanding counts, situations in the game who is behind you and in front of you, what the pitcher is throwing...just being aware of the game. Laying off of breaking balls until the count calls for me to swing at one.

In high school when I used to strikeout a lot, I was coming off of football and wrestling when I was dead tired so I just didn't have enough energy. Once I started to focus on baseball and give it everything that I had, it's made it a lot easier. It's all I do now so I'm able to focus much more.

Your power numbers have been picking up a little more. Not in terms of putting the ball over the wall, but in driving the ball into the gaps. Is that something you worked on this winter?

Mitch Canham: You can try to hit some home runs and I have some power to juice a ball, but I want to be on base. The more I'm on base the more runs I'm going to score, and that helps you win. My goal is to hit line drives down and see what happens. I'm just trying to hit low liners.

How did you get to be a left-handed hitter?

Mitch Canham: I switch-hit when I was growing up, but when I hit right-handed it was either going to go a long way or more likely I was going to strikeout; and I don't enjoy striking out. I decided to just go from the left side. I don't mind hitting lefties, my dad wanted me to stay with switch-hitting, but I didn't think it was that tough (to hit lefties).

It must be easier to maintain just one swing as compared to two.

Mitch Canham: Yeah I wouldn't have to be in there all day, its just simplify it. See the ball, hit the ball.

I saw your O-State video on YouTube. Any plans on a San Antonio Missions one?

Mitch Canham: There is a Padres one we did in Spring Training. If you go to My Space, the Divine Legacy Music Group, they told me the Padres play it after wins. We made it and it talks about Hundley and Gonzo and some of the other guys. It's catchy and if anyone likes it they can have at it.

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