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The Texas Rangers drafted Virginia Commonwealth standout Jared Bolden with their ninth round pick on Friday afternoon.
Bolden played three years with the Rams, amassing a career .376 batting average. After hitting .385 and .383, respectively, in his freshman and sophomore seasons, Bolden hit .355 as a junior in 2008. He broke out power-wise this season, hitting 15 doubles and 12 home runs in 45 games. Bolden flashed his speed by swiping 12 bases in 16 attempts.
Although he played first base for nearly all of his collegiate career, the Rangers drafted the 6-foot-2 lefty with plans of moving him to the outfield.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with the Virginia native shortly after he was drafted on Friday.
Jason Cole: How did it feel to be drafted by the Rangers today?
Jared Bolden: It's a great feeling. It's funny because we were watching the draft online. What ended up happening was that we all turned our heads – we were all talking or watching something on TV. Then all of a sudden my girlfriend, sitting next to me, was like, ‘Jared, you got drafted!' So we all turned, we were in disbelief, and we looked again. Sure enough, I saw my name right there with the Texas Rangers right next to it.
Cole: Were you picked about where you were expecting to go?
Bolden: Yeah. I kind of thought that I might go a little earlier, but as things kept going – teams like the Rangers told me somewhere between five through 10 – and I kind of got that vibe that I would go somewhere around the ninth or tenth.
Cole: Had you talked to the Rangers a whole lot before the draft?
Bolden: Not a whole lot. I ran into the area scout my last game. That was actually the first time that I had spoken to him as far as the draft was concerned. My advisor had been in contact with him a couple of times, so obviously there was some talk there with my advisor and them. I received one or two phone calls – they called me last night and asked if I was still signable, if I was still willing to sign and things like that. As I talked to the guy, I kind of got the vibe that there was a good chance that they would be drafting me.
Cole: Have you talked to them since they drafted you today?
Bolden: Just for like two or three minutes. They just called and said, ‘congratulations, we just took you in the draft.' They said they were going to wait until a little bit later to call me and talk to me. They wanted to try and get some stuff done in the draft room for the next couple of rounds. They said they would get back to me within the next day or so.
Cole: Tell me about your approach as a hitter, like what you're trying to do when you're at the plate.
Bolden: I know it sounds cliché, but I want to hit the ball hard. I have always been the type of guy that – I guess some teams say that I don't show a lot of power. But I think I show power when I need to. I think for me, I've always had the approach of hit the ball hard, put the ball in play, and make something happen. I am a firm believer that it is a lot harder for a team to get an out when they have to catch and throw and all that. It's a little bit easier if someone just has to throw strikes to you and strike you out. I've always been a firm believer in trying to put the ball in play.
Cole: You got to play on the Cape last summer and got some experience with a wood bat. How was that and how comfortable do you feel with wood?
Bolden: Now I feel great as far as hitting with the wood bat. When I first got up in the Cape, I was a typical college guy that was used to playing with a metal bat. Going to the wood bat, the swing is a little bit different. It showed. It showed early in Cape Cod. I ended up not playing as much as I would have liked to because I wasn't swinging well.
But as the season progressed along – about halfway through the Cape Cod season – I started getting used to the bat, more comfortable at the plate, and I started swinging a whole lot better. I think I was swinging very well leaving the Cape going into my fall season with my college team. I felt good as well going into this spring. The last month basically, I've been swinging with wood. I haven't touched a metal bat in about a month now. Now, I feel comfortable. I feel great swinging with the wood bat.
Cole: Even though you struggled a bit on the Cape, it seems like almost every hitter struggles there. Your team there last year hit in the .220s collectively. Is it difficult to kind of keep your mind right and realize that almost everyone is going to have an adjustment period out there?
Bolden: Yeah, it definitely is. Especially at that type of level. Cape Cod Baseball, having the prestige that league has. You always want to go there and whoever you are, you want to perform and do well. Obviously all those guys up there have had success at some point in their careers. That's why they're up there. For me personally, being someone that has had success at just about every level I've played at, to get to go to Cape Cod was a great thing.
To struggle there, I actually learned more from struggling there than I would have from being successful. I think I developed a whole lot more as a player just from understanding that experience of struggling. This is like playing in the Major Leagues. You see guys playing in the Major Leagues that go 0-for-28, they go 0-for-30, 0-for-40, but they still come out the next day and they're still taking their hacks the very next day. I think me struggling in the Cape, that gave me more of that ‘it's okay to fail'. It's how you respond to the failure that will make you the player you want to be.
Cole: What were your thoughts on how you played with VCU this year?
Bolden: Up and down. It was one of those seasons that I think I did very well in not dealing with the draft. That's one of the biggest things always for any junior or senior – more so for a junior. When their draft year comes up, it's worrying about the draft and wanting to do things for the draft. I think I did very well for the majority of the season not worrying about the draft. I just kind of let it happen.
I struggled a little bit. I actually ended up going in a 0-for-28 slump. At that point, when I started slumping, I started worrying about the draft a little bit. But I picked things up as it got closer to the end of the season. I think I proved power numbers to everybody, that I can hit for power. I think I proved that I can steal bases. It's not just one thing out of me. You're not just going to get a guy that can only hit home runs. You're going to get a guy that can hit home runs every now and then along with a guy that can hit for average, along with a guy that can steal bases for you and score a lot of runs for you at the same time.
Cole: I notice that the Rangers drafted you as an outfielder. I saw you guys play when you came to Austin early in the college season and I believe you were playing first base.
Bolden: That's the first thing I said when I saw it. I was like ‘outfield, huh?' It is weird because nobody has ever seen me in the outfield. At least not in college. I played one or two games out there, but I think even when we were in Austin, I played like three innings in the outfield before I was back at first base. Talking with the scout, he asked me how I felt about playing in the outfield. I told him that if I had to choose a position, I would probably prefer outfield. I feel like I'm a better outfielder than I was first baseman. I've played outfield my entire life except for the last three years in college.
Cole: Did you have a lot of teams talk to you about playing in the outfield?
Bolden: It was kind of back-and-forth. A few teams said ‘you're a first baseman, we'll just keep you at first. Then if first base doesn't work out, maybe we'll try outfield.' A couple of other teams were like ‘you're a first baseman, but you run too well to be at first base and your body is not typical for a first baseman.' I think some teams wanted to draft me as a first baseman but still stick me in the outfield. I guess what Texas is going to do is try me out as an outfielder and if that doesn't work out, they'll move me back to first base.
Cole: Is there a big league player that you try and model your game after?
Bolden: Two guys. They're both from New York, ironically enough. One is from the Mets and one is with the Yankees. Jeter and Jose Reyes. I model my game after them because they play hard. That's actually one of my quotes that I always use and everybody always messes with me about it. I always use the quote ‘play hard or go home.' I'm a big believer that you get out of it what you put in. If you don't put a lot of effort into it, you aren't going to get anything out of it. I've always been a big believer in playing hard and let whatever happens, happen. If you lose, you lose and if you win, you win. But as long as you know that at the end of the day, you gave your best effort, then that should be good enough.
Cole: What would you say has been the best moment of your baseball career so far?
Bolden: Definitely getting drafted. It is right up there. My college team won the conference championship last year, so that was a good time. But definitely I think getting drafted is probably the best moment. It has been one of those things that I have been talking about my entire life. I was the typical four or five year old kid who told his dad that I was going to play professional baseball. For this day to finally come 17 or 18 years later, to get drafted and start on another journey, it's just like another chapter in a book. This is one small step, but I'm willing to take it and I'm excited.
Cole: Being a junior with the option of returning to VCU for your senior season, can you talk about the chances of you signing versus going back to school?
Bolden: I think there is a good chance I'll sign. Talking with the scouts and communicating between them and my advisor, they kind of know what I want as far as money is concerned. I was telling them top five rounds I was signing – there wouldn't be any problems with me signing. Anything after that – which obviously the ninth round is after that – I was looking for somewhere close to fifth round money. They know what I want. I don't think it's going to be a problem as far as me signing. I think that if it comes down to it, I'm willing to hold off a little bit depending on how much they're willing to offer and how much I want as far as it being close to fifth round money. But I don't see it being a problem that I can't sign a contract with them, especially before the signing deadline.
Q&A with Rangers 9th Round Pick Jared Bolden
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