Padres Prospect Interview: Allan Dykstra

FORT WAYNE, IN: To say that this season hasn't gone as the Padres 2008 first-round draft pick Allan Dykstra, 22, had hoped, is a pretty significant understatement.

The former Rancho Bernardo High School star out of Wake Forrest University appeared to be living the dream when San Diego, the team he had grown up rooting for, made him the 23rd-overall pick, but that is when his luck began to change.

A hip injury from suffered in high school concerned the Padres enough that they delayed his signing until late August, as San Diego put him through a battery of medical tests.

In the Padres Instructional League, the team also adjusted his swing, specifically getting him to stride more toward the pitcher instead of the plate so he wouldn't be as vulnerable to the inside fastball. His development was further set back by off-season wrist surgery, which prevented him from fully incorporating the changes.

The end result? A player that didn't get enough time to work on the adjustments to the professional game and has struggled.

Despite the tough times, Dykstra's spirits are still high, and, so far in August, he's having his best month.

We have heard quite a bit about how the Padres have changed your swing this year, what exactly have they done?

Allan Dykstra: I've done a whole bunch of different things. It first started with trying to make sure that my stride was straight and not closing off the plate. From there it kind of worked up because everything was kind of twisted. It started with my feet and changed some hand positions. Basically, it's a combination of some new things and what I used to do.

Not to make any excuses, you seem to have had some buzzards' luck recently. In the games, that I've seen you have the ball pretty hard, just at right at people.

Allan Dykstra: I have been feeling better. The other day, I had a home run robbed from me in Peoria and a few balls to the deepest part of the field with the wind blowing in. There is nothing you can do about it now and it will all even out in the end. That is what they say, and I really hope its true [laughs].

Not to get you in any trouble with the umpires, I was talking to your hitting coach Tom Tornincasa, and he was stating that the reason you are second in the minors in walks is that you have a really good idea of the strike zone. It also hurts you in that quite a few borderline pitches get called strikes.

Allan Dykstra: You go up there and you have a pretty good idea of the strike zone and one pitch can change an entire at-bat. Its a huge difference between 2-1 and 1-2. These guys are learning too and it can get frustrating, especially when things aren't going your way. However, you have to forget about it and understand that they are about the same age that we are and trying to improve too.

Is it difficult to not try to expand the zone when you are struggling? Obviously, you want to put up good numbers, but at the same time, you don't want to get away from a strength, which is understanding what a strike is.

Allan Dykstra: I've always been that type of hitter and I look at it that if I swing at some of those pitches I'm not going to hit them well anyway so there is no use swinging at them. If they are going to call them a strike, I'm going to have to deal with them. It's a the point now where I am just worried about hitting my pitch hard and not worry about stats.

You played in the Cape Cod League, have you always been pretty comfortable with wooden bats?

Allan Dykstra: Yeah, I've always felt pretty good with wooden bats, but I really don't think that has been my problem this year. Early in the year, there were a lot of different hitting tips that were going through my mind, and I didn't really have a chance to get my swings in during the off-season because I had surgery on my wrist. So, I kind of felt lost at the plate in the beginning, and I was thinking a little too much about mechanics when I was swinging.

Things haven't gone the way you wanted this year, but when I watch you on the field and in the clubhouse, you seem to be having a pretty good time.

Allan Dykstra: It's obvious that this year hasn't been the way I wanted because no one wants to be hitting .200 at this level. There are certain things you can't change, which is why you try to not get to high when you are doing well or too low when they aren't going your way. I hope I would be the same even if I was playing well. That is one thing I really learned in college that when you are playing everyday you can't come in one day really high and the next day not think you have a chance.

Since we both grew up in San Diego, what was it like playing in the Cape Cod League. It seems like a very different experience from the West Coast. I keep thinking of that baseball movie, Summer Catch.

Allan Dykstra: I loved it and went back for two summers. I had a chance to play on Team USA my second year, but I told my coach that I wanted to come back to the Cape. My host family was great and it was a good situation because it reminded me of home, being right by the beach. The water is a little colder and of course there are some great white sharks in the area, which can scare you [laughs]. The whole Cape came out to watch the baseball and its just a great environment.

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

Allan Dykstra: Just picked up the bat that way. [laughs]. I've always swung left-handed and never considered batting right. Some parents try to make their kids bat a certain way, but my Dad never did that. My younger brother bats right-handed and it was just whichever way we were comfortable.

What is the biggest thing that you are trying to work on to improve?

Allan Dykstra: Right now, just getting hits! [laughs]. Right now, I think my swing is all right and I have some friends on other teams that come up to me and say, "Man, I'm sorry..."

Hopefully, it's all out now. I think you have to look at it that hopefully I will be playing for a long time and can take this year as a learning experience. I think I've made the adjustments I need and it should be better from now on.

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