Padres Prospect Interview: Mike Baxter

Portland, OR: Mike Baxter, 25, was selected in the ninth round of the 2005 draft out of Vanderbilt University. Throughout his tenure with the organization Baxter has continually proven that he can hit at each level the team has put him, with last year's first half in San Antonio being the best example of what he can do best, hit for average, draw walks and punch the ball into the gaps.

The versatile Baxter plays regularly at both corner outfield slots and can play center in a pinch. One winter in the Arizona Fall League, he caught as well. If anyone embodies the maxim that they are "playing for the love of the game", its Baxter.

Educated at both Columbia University and Vanderbilt, two of the better academic schools in the nation, he has options outside of the game. But the pull of realizing a dream to become a major league player is what keeps him returning to the diamond.

You are having a good year this year, did you play winter ball anywhere this year?

Mike Baxter: No, I was in the Arizona Fall League last year but this year I just went back to Vanderbilt and finally finished up my degree.

Instead of having the story that you worked so hard in winter league and now are having one of your best seasons instead you seemed to have played better from taking some time off.

Mike Baxter: I don't know. Its good to see some carryover from years past. I was around the baseball in the off-season, just kind of interning with the Vanderbilt baseball team. I think that always helps you to stay mentally locked in. But it is nice to be having a relatively decent year right now after taking a bit of a physical break.

I don't think most of us who are not in the game realize how much you put into the day, especially in the minors.

Mike Baxter: Yeah it is nice to have a break but also to see what life might be like without baseball when I'm done playing. It might involve coaching at the college level or even in the pros; so its nice to get some perspective on that.

How was playing third base which you have done a few times this season?

Mike Baxter: Nostalgic [laughs]. I played shortstop in high school but played third in the Cape Cod League and first in college. We were down on some infielders and Terry [Kennedy, the Beavers manager] asked me if I wanted to do it and it was a way to get in the lineup.

The last time I spoke to you in San Antonio we were speaking about increasing your power and then you ended up hitting a whole bunch of doubles before being promoted to Triple-A. This year your power numbers are up again and you appear about the same size is it more of case of recognizing pitches better?

Mike Baxter: Recognition and experience does play a part in it, but I have such a long way to go in terms of where I want to be for power. I talk to Orv [Franchuk, the Beavers' hitting coach] and TK [Kennedy] all the time about it. How to develop power and making consistent contact. How to translate it from pre-game and to become more consistent with it and I am still searching.

I still think home runs come more from a pitcher's mistakes than what I do and want to try to get a little more control over that part of my game.

When you look at your number it seems like your game might not be about home runs but it certainly seems to be about driving the ball into the gaps.

Mike Baxter: I am ok with that type of game but what I am really striving for is more consistency and even this year I haven't been where I would really like to be.

To someone who goes up and down the system Triple-A seems like a different world. There are so many guys with experience in the big leagues who might be there in a different situation and also a lot of guys who just kind of pop in that you haven't come up with.

Mike Baxter: It's different in that respect that you aren't with the guys that you came up with as much. Its more of a mix of guys that you played with against and with. Its also unique because when they sent this team out in spring there were only four guys without any big league experience - me, [Craig] Cooper and [Lance] Zawadzki.

You start to get that vibe that you are real close. You talk to other guys with big league experience and try to figure out how to get there.

It seems like part of your plan is to play as many positions as possible. This year you have played mainly right and first, but you can also play left, center, third and if I remember correctly even catch. What do you do to stay sharp?

Mike Baxter: I really enjoyed the catching but I'm a little old to start that now. Maybe if we were talking in Eugene...[laughs]

Catchers always give guys like you a hard time they say you have a fun time catching but come talk to them after doing it for sixty games.

Mike Baxter: That is a good point. I do have a new found respect for it after doing it a few times in spring training; especially trying to hit. Its a different experience on playing the game because you are in on every pitch especially when you usually play outfield.

Mainly I just try to come out and do some work at all the positions that you listed.

We've spoken in the past that you have gone to some quality schools and obviously have more options than just playing baseball but you are so close now to realizing your dream of being in the majors. How much do you think about that?

Mike Baxter: I kind of got caught in that a little last year hoping that I would get a chance to go up and it didn't happen. So this year I try not too but it is inevitable when you see guys going up but I'm also out here playing every night and Triple-A isn't too bad either.

It is better than working and hopefully one day I'll get the chance.

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