Padres Prospect Interview: Rocky Gale

San Diego Padres prospect Rocky Gale's former teammates said it best. "I owe it all to him," Yankees 11th-rounder Zach Varce said. ""He is the most athletic catcher I have ever seen and makes unbelievable plays look easy."

Congratulations on getting selected by the Padres. What was the feeling for you overall when you saw your name come across that board?

Rocky Gale: It was just relief. I was glad I was getting taken. I did not want to have go to sleep another night thinking about it. I figured they would go to Round 30 and I wanted to get in there. I am also excited to be in the Padres organization and to be in Eugene where I have watched a ton of Emeralds games growing up. We had season tickets there back when Mike Sweeney was there with the Royals. They also have a new ballpark there now, which is cool. I am excited to start the summer and I have waiting for it for a long time.

This is definitely convenient for you. You were in Keizer too, so did you go to a lot of Salem games too?

Rocky Gale: Yes, we lived down in tht area, when we had season ticket to the Emeralds. We lived south of Eugene at that time and we moved up to Kaiser in 2000. I have seen my fair share of those teams as well – in fact, the whole Northwest League in general. It will be neat to be on the other end of it.

Eugene is a bit of an eclectic place and I have a special place for it in my heart. There is a good micro-brewery out there. I love the McKenzie River as well.

Rocky Gale: It is a beautiful area and a good baseball town. They have intelligent baseball fans down there, first with the Emeralds and now with the Ducks.

Talk to me a little bit about your game. Where do you see yourself fitting into this organization? What are the strengths of your game and where do you need improve as well?

Rocky Gale: I have always been a defensively-oriented catcher. I want to help out my pitching staff and make my pitchers look as good as possible. On the offensive side, I have made strides each year and seen improvement. That is where I would like to see my game improve. There is not one area where I would say I need massive improvement if I want to make an impact in the Padres organization.

You mentioned helping out your pitchers. Are catchers really measured by wins and losses?

Rocky Gale: You need to put it in the pitcher's hand. If they like to throw to you, then you have a job. I think you measure it by whether or not the pitchers like you. That is where teams try to win games, with their pitching and defense. It is always nice as a catcher to be part of that equation.

You threw out 41% in 2009. How can you improve in that area as well?

Rocky Gale: I threw out 70% this last Spring. A lot of that has to do with the pitchers being mindful of the runners and holding them and giving you a chance to throw guys out. A lot of this is out of your hands. You need to put a good throw down there and let your middle infielders do some work to help you. Obviously that is another part of the game where you want to continually improve your arm strength and get better with handling the tough pitches.

We always look at catchers and cannot understand why they are not always good hitters. The catchers have a unique perspective, they understand where the umpires is calling balls and strikes, and they look at opposing hitters to see if he is leaning on a particular pitch. Is that an unfair assessment when we are on the outside looking in?

Rocky Gale: No. I really think we can get in the mind of the hitter down there for much of the game. Then you need to go and execute that yourself as hitter. The toll that catching takes is where the hitting experiences a bit of trouble. The wearing down throughout a game and throughout a season takes a toll. That is why the majority of catchers are those large, physical guys, so they can manage the longs seasons.

You are a guy that puts the ball in play. I think that is fair to say. You struck out a handful of times. You walked a handful of times. Do you need to improve in the pitch selection process?

Rocky Gale: That is an area where I have needed improvement. I do not walk much, I do not strike out much. I got better at it this year. I am 6", 180 but I am not putting a lot of fear in the pitchers. There are going to pitch to me, especially if I am down in the 7-8 hole. That can explain why I am not getting a lot of walks. The goal for me in every at-bat is to put the ball in play hard. Get a pitch that I can drive. The pitch selection, the walks, would make me more of a threat as a player so that the pitchers are not coming right after me.

Is there a Major League player you have been compared to?

Rocky Gale: I would not know who others compare me to. I do not get to watch a lot of Major League baseball, but some of the guys that I do like are the Molinas because they do such a great job defensively. Also, Suzuki, the catcher for the Oakland Athletics, does an excellent job behind the plate and swings it very well for them. I cannot say that I match up well with any of those guys, but they are the players that I look up to and admire.

Why did you not say Joe Mauer.

Rocky Gale: He is a freak.

What would your teammates say about you as a teammate and the way you play the game?

Rocky Gale: I hope that they would say that I am an unselfish player, that I want to win, and that is what I put first. They would think that regardless of whether I going well or going poorly, I am the same guy. I hope I can be the player, that whether or not I am hitting, I can help the team win a game.

Have you ever gone to the mound and said something outrageous that just sticks out in your mind?

Rocky Gale: I have been advised to do that sometimes. But I do not get too comical with my pitchers. I will go out and give them a breather sometimes, but I will usually ask them what they want to do with the next guy. I do not say anything too colorful to distract the pitchers or get their minds off of things.

What is the key going to a new organization with new pitchers and having them gain the confidence with you and your abilities.

Rocky Gale: I believe it will be putting my defense first and catching all their prospect pitchers. I want to be the guy to always help them win some games. I look forward to the challenge of the wood bat and hitting at a higher level. That is what I can do - to be the guy that I am and continue to improve.

Is there going to be a transition to that wood bat for you?

Rocky Gale: Early in the summer, there seems to be a few more broken bats. But by a few at-bats, you start to enjoy the wood bat and the difference it makes in a game. Wood bats make the game go a little bit quicker and that makes it easier on the catchers. You won't be sitting there catching a seven run inning because metal bat bloopers keep falling in. It can help us just as much as it can be a challenge.

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