The Texas Rangers selected a number of NCAA Division II products during the recent 2011 MLB Draft, but their highest D2 selection was catcher Joe Maloney, who comes from Limestone College in South Carolina.
Maloney, a native of the Philadelphia area, went south to play his college baseball and spent three years at Limestone. After playing well as a sophomore, the 20-year-old took off as a junior and was named an NCAA Division II All-American, batting .308 with 14 doubles, 16 homers, and 61 RBI in 52 contests. He posted a .308/.417/.654 slash line.
As Maloney mentions in the following interview, he was happy with his power production but felt his batting average could have been better.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound backstop was listed as a right-handed hitter by Major League Baseball but a switch-hitter on his Limestone College profile. Maloney says he has done some switch-hitting in the past, although he was mostly just a right-handed hitter in college. He would like to give switch hitting another try this summer.
Best known for his strength that translates into solid raw power, Maloney has already signed with the Rangers for a reported $90,000 bonus. He has reported to the club's minor league complex in Arizona, where he will begin his professional career with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers this summer.
Jason Cole: What were your thoughts on getting drafted by the Rangers?
Joe Maloney: It was awesome. It was probably the best day of my life so far. But yeah, it was awesome. We were waiting all day. I watched pretty much every pick of the draft up until they called me. Me, my dad, and my brother were just sitting here and watching. They called my name and I got all excited. I jumped up and down. I was pumped up.
Cole: Coming into the draft, did you have really any idea of where you'd get selected?
Maloney: Yeah. I talked to Chris Kemp, the scout from the Carolinas, where I go to school. He said they were thinking from rounds 10 to 15––in that area. So I kind of had a range at where somebody would possibly call me.
Cole: You were drafted at the very beginning of that range. I'm guessing that helped the nerves a bit.
Maloney: Yeah, it definitely did. Definitely.
Cole: You mentioned Chris Kemp, the Rangers' scout in that area. How much was he seeing you or talking to you this year?
Maloney: He was at a lot of games. He's the one that actually put me into the draft, I believe. He was at a lot of the games, watching my BP round and stuff. He's a good guy.
Cole: As you prepare to fly out and begin your professional career, how much do you already know about the Rangers' organization?
Maloney: I know that Nolan Ryan is the owner (laughs).
Cole: You're from Pennsylvania, right?
Cole: Did you grow up as a Phillies fan?
Cole: What part of Pennsylvania are you originally from?
Maloney: Aston. It's like right outside of Philadelphia.
Cole: How did you end up going down to South Carolina for your college ball?
Maloney: I went to a couple showcases up here during my sophomore and junior year. I went to a Baseball Factory one, and they videotaped everything and put it on their website. And then my coach down there saw it, and he called me up for a visit. I thought it was cool because I could go down south and play where baseball is more prominent.
Cole: How nice was being able to go and play in a warm-weather climate where you can play all year?
Maloney: It was awesome. I went down for my official visit in December, and I got to work out in shorts and a t-shirt outside. It was awesome. And when I was trying to fly back, we couldn't fly back because the airport in Philly had too much snow there.
Cole: I'm going to guess that helped you commit right away.
Maloney: It was that and––it was between a couple other schools, and they wanted me to walk on. I was getting a scholarship to go to Limestone. It all worked out––going down there is better baseball and better weather.
Cole: What were your thoughts on your performance as a junior this season?
Maloney: Coming into the season, I knew I had to have a good year because obviously I wanted to get drafted and everything. So I knew I had to have a good year. I thought I had a decent year. My average could have been a little better, but my power numbers were up. I have 16 home runs and 61 RBIs.
Cole: Did you feel that you were able to boost your stock this year?
Maloney: Yeah, definitely. I definitely thought I boosted my draft status.
Cole: On the Limestone website, you're listed as a switch-hitter. But MLB.com listed you as a right-handed hitter when you were drafted. Which one is correct?
Maloney: Well, all through college, I hit right-handed. But in BP, I just like switch-hitting sometimes. I had a workout with the Rangers in Carolina––a pre-draft workout. I told them that I've been trying to work on my switch-hitting, and I hit pretty good left-handed. So I guess I'm going to try it. I mean, I'm not right away because I haven't seen a live pitch in a competition or a game left-handed. But I think I might try to switch.
Cole: How long have you been messing around with that in BP?
Maloney: In high school, I switch-hit. I switch-hit in the fall of my freshman year, and then I wasn't doing so hot. I was struggling a little bit left-handed, so I went into the season hitting right-handed and it has been right-handed since then during the games.
Cole: Tell me about your general approach at the plate. What kind of hitter do you see yourself as?
Maloney: I like to see myself as a power guy––driving the ball to the gaps, hitting home runs, and just racking up the RBIs and stuff like that.
Cole: How long have you been catching?
Maloney: My senior year in high school was the first year I started catching.
Cole: What did you play before that?
Maloney: I was a shortstop.
Cole: What went into the decision to initially move you behind the plate?
Maloney: My junior year, we had an All-County catcher, and he was ahead of me pretty much all my life. He was a year older than me. I caught a couple games here and there when I was younger, and they were timing him at a high school practice at the end of the season. I was like, ‘I think I can beat his times.' So I got up there––I asked my coach if I could try a couple. They said that I looked good doing it, and I had good times. So in my senior year, I tried catching. Because we had a decent backup shortstop, but we didn't have a good catcher. So I volunteered pretty much to catch.
Cole: Since you had only one full season of catching before you went into college, what were some of the bigger challenges of learning the nuances of the position kind of on the fly?
Maloney: I always had a strong arm, so the throwing wasn't that hard. And I pretty much picked up quickly how to call a good game––how to call games behind the plate pitch-wise.
But the hardest part for me was blocking. Because as a shortstop, I was using my glove to pick the ball. My first full season, I had a real hard time jumping in front of a ball because I would usually use my glove and either backhand it or get around it or something like that. Blocking was probably the hardest part that I had to get used to.
Cole: I was going to ask what the best moment of your baseball career has been, but I'm assuming that was a couple days ago when you got drafted.
Maloney: Yeah, definitely. That, and earlier this year. Being announced a first-team All-American was pretty good.
Cole: Have you talked to the Rangers at all about where you'll be going? Are you going to be in Arizona or Spokane?
Maloney: Yeah. I'm going to rookie ball in Arizona. In Surprise.
Cole: As you look forward to working with professional coaches, can you talk about some parts of the game that you're looking forward to working on this summer?
Maloney: There's always room for improvement, no matter who you are. I just think that defensively, I definitely need to improve on my blocking skills some more than I have. And I'd like to become more of a switch-hitter. I'd like to add that to my repertoire and hit better from both sides. I've always been taught to learn as much as you can about the game from everyone. You'll never know everything about the game.
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