2012 MLB Draft Q & A: Sam Gillikin

Outfielder Sam Gillikin is our next interview in the Rays Digest 2012 MLB Draft Q & A Series. Gillikin hails from football-powerhouse Hoover High School in suburban Birmingham, Alabama where he was also a star quarterback. Frankie Piliere currently has him ranked as the #81 draft prospect and he is considered to be one of the fastest prep players in the country. Inside is our exclusive interview.

Rays Digest: First of all, I've read a couple of scouting reports on you, but I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit yourself as a player. Could you tell me a little bit about your game?

Sam Gillikin: Well I definitely think that I'm a confident player out on the field. I'm more of a mature player for my age. I bring a lot of speed to the game. That's one of my biggest assets in the game – speed. I guess I'd say that I swing a pretty good stick. I can hit pretty good.

Rays Digest: You have a commitment to Auburn. What made you decide to choose Auburn over other schools?

Sam Gillikin: I committed my sophomore year of high school, so I committed pretty early. I've grown up an Auburn fan. My grandfather was a professor there. I'm third-generation there. My parents went there. My grandparents went there. Just having those deep roots really helped. Most importantly though, the coaching staff there is just fantastic. Coach Fox [Assistant Coach Scott Foxhall], the recruiting coordinator, Coach Pawlowski, the head coach, Coach Link Jarrett, the hitting coach, they're all fantastic guys. I established a great relationship with Coach Fox, the recruiting coordinator early on and I've gotten to know Coach P. a lot. I just really like the way they do things on and off the field there and thought it was a great fit.

Rays Digest: Obviously the draft is less than a month away and your name is out there as being a high-round pick. Have you and your family discussed what it might take for you to sign with a major league team as opposed to going t Auburn? What kinds of things would you be looking for from an organization?

Sam Gillikin: We've definitely been talking about it and doing a lot of research. We've just been trying to see what type of organization might fit well. But as far as right now, we're just trying to take this process day-by-day. I know the draft is a month away and we've been discussing it. But we really haven't come to a final decision as far as what I'm going to do.

Rays Digest: Do you have representation? Do you have an advisory group that you're working with?

Sam Gillikin: Scott Barber at CSE [Career Sports Entertainment]. They're based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Rays Digest: Are you planning on doing any pre-draft showcases or are you scheduled to do any workouts for any teams?

Sam Gillikin: Not any showcases, but I'm doing a bunch of workouts right now. It's been kind of crazy, because a bunch of teams have been calling. We're trying right now to get everything on paper. Some of the workouts are stacked right on top of each other. Like yesterday, I had two workouts on the same day. So I had to choose which one to go to. So we're kind of just going through that. We're trying to figure out who might be the best fit and who has shown the most interest. We're trying to pick the best workouts, because you can't go out and do them all. We're just trying to pick the best workouts for me right now.

Rays Digest: You were a multi-sport star at Hoover High School and a pretty good football player. Can you tell me a little bit about how baseball became your main sport?

Sam Gillikin: Here at Hoover football has such a rich tradition. Pretty much the whole school year revolves around football. Baseball is kind of like the second sport to football, and really, all the sports are the second sport to football. I noticed the interest started coming in when I was a sophomore for baseball and Hoover being such a rich school for football, it's pretty hard to play varsity as an under-classman. So I wasn't playing as much. My junior year I was sidelined with some injuries and this past year, midway through the season, I broke my collar bone. So I couldn't even finish out the year.

The reason why I kind of chose baseball was that I think baseball fits my personality more. I think it's just more the person that I am. I'm more of baseball guy - a laid-back guy. But don't get me wrong, I'll hit somebody and I love football. I just grew to see baseball more as my love than football.

Rays Digest: So did there come a point where you just kind of knew that baseball was where your future was going to be? Did that help accelerate your decision a little bit?

Sam Gillikin: My sophomore year the colleges started coming around. But really, I think this summer was what brought things to light in my eyes. Doing the East Coast Pro Showcase, that was a big deal. Then I got an invite to Wrigley Field for the Under Armour Game. Just interacting with all the scouts and all of that, I think that really pushed my decision.

Rays Digest: Who have been the people that have helped you along the way? Like your parents or coaches? Who has helped mold you into the player and young man that you are today?

Sam Gillikin: I always got to start with my parents. They have been there for me and they've supported me. All those baseball tournaments when we were little, they were driving us all around the country and the Southeast. It didn't matter what they had to do, they just wanted to support me and be there for me. They've helped me with on and off-the-field stuff and just being there and teaching me life lessons.

As far as other people – it would definitely be my high school coaches. Coach Davis, he's our head coach. Coach Irvin, he's been a real big help. He's the hitting coach at Hoover. I have a really good relationship with Coach Irvin. He's really helped me with the offensive side of the game. Not only that though, but he's helped me with off-the-field stuff. There's been times where I'd call him and we talk for 30-40 minutes. That's just the kind of person he is. He's been a great role model for me and is somebody to look up to.

Rays Digest: That's awesome to have somebody like that in your life. Who are some MLB players that you look up to or model your game after?

Sam Gillikin: I'd definitely have to say Josh Hamilton. Just because of what he's been through and all his struggles and how he's come out on top. You see him right now and he's producing like crazy, his stats are off the roof. I just love the way he plays the game. He does what he has to do and at the same time he is struggling with all that adversity. I think that's pretty special.

Rays Digest: Yeah he definitely is an inspiration to a lot of people. You're being talked about as being one of the fastest prep players in the draft. What is your approach at the plate? Do you try and utilize your speed a lot on offense? When you're in the batter's box, how do you approach each at bat?

Sam Gillikin: With each at bat, your approach changes pitch-to-pitch. That's one thing you gotta focus on when you're asked that question, because that's a pretty broad question. That's one thing that this year I matured at compared to my first two years of high school. I'm just not trying to go up there and hit home runs anymore and try to do too much. I just really wanted to go up there and slap it around a little bit and hit gap-to-gap. Just not trying to do too much and stay within myself and be selective up there at the plate.

Rays Digest: What about defensively? Do you like playing defense and is it something you take pride in and work hard at?

Sam Gillikin: Every aspect of my game right now needs improvement and will always need improvement. Defense is a huge part of the game and you gotta respect it. You always have to go out there and work hard. Defense is probably the part of my game that I need to improve on the most. But I definitely think it's a huge part of the game.

John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at raysdigest.com@gmail.com.


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