RC Interview with Ben Swaggerty

On Tuesday, the Royals announced that they had signed Ben Swaggerty, a fifth-year senior from Tusculum College, to a professional contract. Swaggerty, a 24-year-old southpaw, posted a 5-0 record with six saves and a 1.69 ERA for Tusculum this spring. He will report to Idaho Falls when the club opens its season later this month. RC spoke with Swaggerty on Friday afternoon.

Royals Corner: First off, Ben, congratulations on signing your first professional contract. How does it feel, and do you know much about the Royals' organization?

Ben Swaggerty: It feels like a dream come true. It's great. I know a little bit about the Royals, but not too much. I'm just glad to begin in an organization that wants to win.

RC: Did you have a sense during the season that the Royals were interested in you, and were you drawing a lot of interest from other teams as well?

BS: I filled out a lot of player information sheets, which is the standard thing they do. As for the Royals, I figured they were pretty interested after the scouts came a couple of times, and then they brought a crosschecker. So I had a pretty good notion.

RC: Could you talk a little bit about the program at Tusculum, and how it prepared you to take the next step in professional baseball?

BS: They have a great coaching staff here. There have been a couple guys here recently who have been drafted and got a chance to play professional baseball. They come back in the offseason and work out. We talk to them, and they give us some pointers and tell us how things are done in the pro clubs.

The program's really taking off. We're starting to win, and we've put together three 40-win seasons. We've appeared in [inaudible] regional tournaments the last five years, which is really good considering the region we're in. Right now, the World Series for Division II, we've got Tampa -- they're defending the national title again, and that's pretty much who put us out of the region this year.

RC: Your statistics this past year were excellent, and definitely an improvement over last year. To what do you attribute your success this past season.

BS: That dedicated coaching staff just believed in me. They saw some skills that I had, and they tweaked some little things. Mainly my mechanics, and we worked on that a lot on that during the offseason, because I didn't really go anywhere to play other than here and the Southern Collegiate Baseball League over the summer. I worked with them too. But I've got to give a lot of credit to the coaching staff here.

RC: Let's shift gears a bit and talk about your pitches. Can you describe your repertoire, and what speeds you generally work at?

BS: I throw a fastball, slider, I'm working on a new changeup, and a split-fingered fastball. The fastball is usually around 88-92. The curveball is about 79-81. The ‘splitty' is about 81-82. I usually throw a two-seam -- I don't really have a four-seam, because they all run the same anyway.

RC: What would you consider your best pitch? What do you use generally as your out pitch? Does it vary depending upon whether or not the batter is a righty or a lefty?

BS: My out pitch this year has predominantly been my slider, and usually the fastball for a lefty. And for the righty, it's usually been the split-finger or the fastball. Sometimes the slider, but we usually keep it for the lefties.

RC: What would you say needs the most work? Have the Royals told you what they're going to want you to work on? And are you going to Idaho Falls?

BS: Yeah, I'm going to Idaho Falls. I haven't really talked to the organization much about what to work on. But the pitch that will need the most work will definitely be the changeup. Like I said, it's a new pitch to me. All through high school and everything else I was just a fastball/slider guy, and then I added the split-finger. But I need to work most on locating the changeup and the ‘splitty'.

RC: How do you see yourself as a professional pitcher? Will you be coming out of the bullpen in Idaho?

BS: Yeah, that's what I want to do. I want to keep coming out of the bullpen. I've started here in Tusculum, and I started in high school. Last year here at Tusculum, about midway through the season, Coach sat me down and told me he thought I'd be a better fit for the team if I came out of the pen. I usually get warm really quick. I'm pretty lucky, because I've got a pretty often good arm that gets warm quick, so starting is really not a good fit for me, in the past anyway.

RC: You grew up in Knoxville. What team did you grow up rooting for? Are you like a lot of those other southern kids, growing up rooting for the Braves?

BS: See, that's where I'm a little different. I've always been a follower of the Yankees. My grandfather liked the Yankees, and my dad likes them as well, so I'm a Yankee man.

RC: Are there any players in particular that you grew up idolizing, and maybe patterning your approach after?

BS: Well, Randy Johnson for a long time, because he was a lefty. But here recently, I've really started to like Dontrelle Willis. I like the way he pitches, because it seems like he gives it his all every time he goes out, and that's kind of the way I see myself.

RC: Thanks for talking with us, Ben. We're looking forward to seeing you pitch out there in Idaho -- we'll be out there in July -- and we're looking forward to watching your professional career unfold.

BS: Thank you, I appreciate it.

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