Q&A With Rays 8th Round Pick Luke Maile

The Tampa Bay Rays used their eighth round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft to select Luke Maile, a catcher out of the University of Kentucky. Below, the 6'3" 220-pound catcher, who led Kentucky with 13 home runs in 2012, discusses his thoughts on joining the Rays organization, his 2012 season for the Wildcats, what his strengths are as a player and more.

School: University of Kentucky
Born: 2/6/1991
B/T: R/R
HT/WT: 6-2/220

• As a junior at University of Kentucky, hit .313 (68-for-217) with 46 runs, 13 doubles, 12 home runs, 49 RBI, 34 walks, a .424 on-base percentage, .539 slugging percentage and 9 stolen bases.

• Ranked among SEC leaders in slugging (7th), runs (T-8th), RBI (6th), home runs (T-4th) and walks (11th).

• Named a semifinalist for the 2012 Dick Howser Trophy and USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award, both given to the top player in collegiate baseball, and Second Team All-SEC.

• Drafted in the 43rd round of the 2009 June Draft by the Boston Red Sox.

• Played for both the Cotuit Kettleers in the Cape Cod Baseball League.

• Named Kentucky's Mr. Baseball and First Team High School All-American by MaxPreps.com in 2009 while at Covington Catholic (Ky.) High School…First Team All-State selection in 2008 and 2009 and was a three-time Northern Kentucky Player of the Year.

• Off the field, was a member of the 2010 SEC All-Freshman Honor Roll and has earned the Mt. St. Joseph College writing award and the Northern Kentucky University writing award.

• His father, Rich, played football at University of Kentucky and grandfather, Dick, was an All-American basketball player at LSU.

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Rays Digest: What was the moment like when you found out you were drafted?

Luke Maile: I was sitting in the living room with my family, we had the draft on the internet and we were kind of half paying attention and half going about the day. We heard the news and everyone was pretty excited, I got a hug from my mom and dad. It's pretty exciting, there's not a lot of words to really describe it. It's something you've been looking forward to all your life and when it happened it didn't really sink in, so I'm still waiting for that part to click in.

Rays Digest: Were you surprised it was the Rays? Had you had contact with them before the draft?

Luke Maile: I had been in contact with them a little bit. It wasn't the first team I expected to draft me, but going through the process a few years ago there's not a whole lot of expectations that you can really keep in stone. There's a lot of confusion, a lot of hectic phone calls that are made leading up to draft day. I was really excited, I've heard a lot of good things about the organization and their minor league affiliates, so I was very pleased.

Rays Digest: You just finished your junior year, so you now face a decision to either sign or come back for your senior year. What are your thoughts on that decision? What are you looking for from the Rays in a deal?

Luke Maile: With the way the new draft is constructed and everything is pretty much slotted, I told everybody that if I was selected in the top ten rounds I would sign for slot money, and I'm sticking to that. I'm very excited for professional baseball. If they show that they want me to be their catcher, and it sounds like they do, picking me in the eighth round, I'm ready for it. I want to be a Tampa Bay Ray down the road. I'm new at this, so I'm still learning the ropes as well, but I'm just taking it a day at a time and I'm excited for the opportunity.

Rays Digest: This past season was a very successful one for Kentucky. What was it like to be a part of that? What did you learn from it?

Luke Maile: This was a very special season. Coming from what we were like in 2011, we didn't win many games and weren't very competitive, then we got a fresh group of guys this past year that were outstanding baseball players and outstanding teammates. Sometimes I think it gets long and exhausting playing college baseball. Sometimes you wake up and you don't really want to go to the field because you're tired or school or whatever the case may be, but this year was the exception. Everybody couldn't wait to go to the field. It was overall an enjoyable experience for everybody. To answer the question of what I learned, I learned that anybody can beat anybody. We proved that early in the year and we were upset by Kent State to end the year. So having never been in a postseason run before, that was definitely a learning experience for everybody. We made a good run at it and made some memories and it is something I'll remember forever.

Rays Digest: What are you most proud of from your Kentucky career so far?

Luke Maile: I think I'm most proud of where I started and where I finished. I think that this year especially was a year where I finally came into my own. I started having better at-bats, I felt more confident at the plate and catching as well. If I had to pick something in particular, I'm most proud of hearing what the guys on the team have to say about me. I've gotten some great compliments from my teammates in the last couple days, and to me that's the ultimate compliment.

Rays Digest: What do you think your strengths on the field are? What would a scouting report on you look like?

Luke Maile: I think my biggest strength is my ability to make adjustments. Not having a lot of experience behind the plate throughout my college career, I was able to adapt to a lot of different arms pretty quickly, I think it was faster than most guys. Certainly at the plate I had to kind of learn fast, adjusting to Southeastern Conference pitching. I think I've always done a pretty good job of that. I just go out and have fun. I try to play hard and I try to learn, and I think my best baseball is ahead of me.

Rays Digest: With catcher being a position of leadership on a lot of teams, what else do you think you bring to a team?

Luke Maile: I don't really walk into situations trying to be a leader, I just try to take it a day at a time and do what I can to help the team win. People have called me a leader before, and that's great to hear. I'm happy about that. I don't try to shy away from it. I think it's tough to call yourself a leader, because it's not for you to decide if you're a good leader or not, it's for the people around you. I just try to be a good communicator with the pitching staff and the coaches and make sure everybody's on the same page when we're going through scouting reports or leading up to a game.

Rays Digest: What are you trying to improve in your game?

Luke Maile: I'd like to improve a lot about my game, I think I have a long way to go. I'd like to short up my swing, I'd like to quit missing as many fastballs as I do early in the count, and I'd like to become a better defensive catcher. I think baseball is a constant game of learning, making adjustments and getting better, so every facet of the game has something I need to improve on. I'm really happy that I'm going to have the opportunity to showcase that in professional baseball.

Rays Digest: Is there any player you try to model your game after, or a favorite player you look up to?

Luke Maile: Not particularly. I like watching guys catch and watching catchers in the pros, and I've certainly had some good guys to model myself after at UK and being in the SEC. I've been told by a lot of guys that I resemble Brian McCann from the Atlanta Braves a little bit, kind of being a bigger catcher and maybe not exactly the model catcher in terms of stance, throwing motion, blocking, things like that. Just finding a way to get it done and adapting to my body behind the plate. Brian McCann comes to mind, Joe Mauer comes to mind, but I think that any time you watch somebody in professional baseball you can learn something so I try to watch everybody.

Rays Digest: What would it mean to you to be a part of the Rays organization?

Luke Maile: It would mean a lot. Some of the things that I've heard about the Rays are that they're energetic, they play up-tempo baseball, they're aggressive and that's something that I love. I love being a part of that and I love playing multiple positions or trying new things, just some of the more modern facets of the game, baserunning, stealing, and things like that. I'd love to be a part of an organization like that. I'm told that they're one of the best at it.



Eric Vander Voort is the Hudson Valley beat writer for Rays Digest You can follow him on Twitter at @ecvandervoort.

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