2012 MLB Draft Q & A: Dane Phillips

Today's interview is with the first collegiate player in our 2012 MLB Draft Q & A series, catcher Dane Phillips. Phillips attends the NAIA school Oklahoma City University and is ranked by Frankie Piliere as the 2012 draft's #86 prospect. Inside he discusses why he has attended three colleges, his immense passion for the game, his favorite thing about catching and much more.

For scouting video of Phillips, see: 2012 MLB Draft Scouting Video: Dane Phillips

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Rays Digest: You've kind of had an interesting journey as a college player. You started out Oklahoma State – and I'm not exactly sure what happened – but then you transferred to Arkansas and that didn't work out, so then you ended up at Oklahoma City [University].

Dane Phillips: That's exactly right. You're right on cue.

Rays Digest: So exactly what was your whole thought process about initially transferring to Arkansas? Was it because you wanted to play for a different school or did it have to do with your Major?

Dane Phillips: When I switched from Oklahoma State to Arkansas, basically I wanted to switch to a FBI degree. They didn't offer that at Oklahoma State. Then I switched to Arkansas, and when I got there, I got denied my eligibility. I decided that I just wanted to play ball this spring and go into the draft and start my professional career. So that's why I made the switch from Arkansas to Oklahoma City. But Arkansas was a wonderful place, I really enjoyed it there.

Rays Digest: So is going into the FBI something that you want to do when you're playing career is over?

Dane Phillips: That's definitely a possibility. Right now I'm just focused on baseball, but somewhere down the road I think that would be a really interesting thing to look into. I took a couple of classes that I thought were really, really interesting.

Rays Digest: What kinds of things are you and your family looking for from an organization to go ahead and sign rather than go back for your senior year? Is it a money thing? Is it a thing of trying to find the right fit?

Dane Phillips: I'm not trying to get into any money wars. The biggest thing for me and my family is just playing baseball. All I want to do is play baseball. Basically, the first team that drafts me, I'm going to give it my all for that organization. I'm not looking for any specific fits or anything. I'm just looking for a team that would like me to play baseball for them.

Rays Digest: You've actually already been drafted once. I believe it was out of high school in the 49th-round back in 2009 by the Mariners. Obviously this is a lot different, because this time you're being looked at as a high draft pick. What did you learn about the draft process then that you can take to this year's draft?

Dane Phillips: The one thing that I can learn from that draft is that it is unpredictable. You never know what's going to happen. You don't when you'll get picked where. The best thing you can do is hope for the best and hope that the right organization picks you.

Rays Digest: A lot has changed since then too. Have you or your representatives looked at the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and strategized about how that might change decisions? There are all these rules now about teams getting penalized for going over slot and stuff like that.

Dane Phillips: I've been over all the rules. I've seen all the rules. For me, the biggest thing isn't necessarily the previous slot, the biggest budget, the space in-between or any of that. The biggest thing for me is getting a team that wants to draft me. I just want to go play ball and I don't really want to get too caught up in the money stuff.

Rays Digest: Could you tell me a little bit about yourself as a player?

Dane Phillips: The biggest thing that somebody would want to know about me as a player is that you'll be hard-pressed to find somebody that loves to play the game as much as me. I like to treat the game with respect, hustle and I say that's the biggest thing about me as a player. It'll be hard to find somebody that loves the game as much as I do. Also you'll be hard-pressed to find somebody who is a bigger student of the game.

Rays Digest: So do you like reading scouting reports and stuff like that?

Dane Phillips: I like to read books from legends like Ted Williams, Willie Mays and all these great baseball players. You can always learn something from anybody. I can learn stuff about baseball from you. I can learn stuff about baseball from anybody. I just do whatever I can to become a better baseball player. Mentally, physically, just anything I can do.

Rays Digest: Catching is a very demanding position – probably the most physically-demanding position. What kinds of preparations do you make in the off-season to get your body ready for the grind of a season behind the plate?

Dane Phillips: I like to work-out a lot. A couple of weeks before the season starts, I like to catch a lot of bullpens to get into catching shape. I believe the biggest thing is to stay fresh and stretch all the time. Stretch before and after you go to the baseball field, stretch while you're watching TV and always stay loose.

Rays Digest: You played in the Cape Cod League last year and you hit really well there. Can you tell me a little bit about your experience there and how that kind of competition helped you as a player?

Dane Phillips: It was an absolute blast. I loved playing for the Chatham Anglers. That is a great organization. Jay Grenier, the head coach, is a great guy. There isn't a better place in the country to play summer-ball than with the Chatham Anglers. Competition-wise, I believe that the biggest part of baseball is making adjustments and I think I made the adjustments that I needed to make for that level of competition. Luckily, the adjustments I made worked out for me.

Rays Digest: You said you like all aspects of the game, but do you like hitting more? Do you like receiving more? Do you like calling a game more? What things do you enjoy most about being a player and a catcher?

Dane Phillips: That's a tough one. I guess my favorite part about being a player is going out and competing. I love a lot of sports, but to me the greatest feeling is when it's the ninth inning of a ballgame and it's me versus the closer mano-a-mano. When I'm catching, [it's when] a runner is on third base and I know the pitcher is going to throw a hammer in the dirt. Those are my favorite times as a player. I love the greatest level of competition.

Rays Digest: Who have been the people in your life who have inspired you along the way and helped you develop as a player and as a human being?

Dane Phillips: First off, my father, David Phillips. He taught me how to hit and how to play growing up. In college ball, the coaches at Arkansas helped me tremendously. Dave Van Horn and his staff just did a great job.

Rays Digest: One of the things that doesn't get talked about as much with catchers from a scouting point of view, and quite frankly is a little hard to quantify, is handling a pitching staff and game-calling. Is that something that you try to work at? Is it your goal to make a pitcher better on the mound?

Dane Phillips: Actually, that is one of my favorite things about catching is working with pitchers. Every pitcher is different. Every pitcher pitches to a different tune. I love finding a tempo for each pitcher and figuring out what they like to throw in certain situations. We all know that pitching is the most important thing about the game of baseball, so any way I can make my pitchers do better I'm all for doing. It's funny you say that, because I really enjoy that too.



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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