TigsTown Q&A: Lakeland third baseman Kody Kirkland

Kody Kirkland was taken in the 30th round of 2001 draft by Pittsburgh. He played with the GCL Pirates 2002, but was then traded to Detroit. He played last season in West Michigan. Now, he continues to work his way up the ladder with the L-Tigers. Lakeland Correspondent Aaron Westgate talked with Kirkland about his experiences so far as a professional baseball player.

TigsTown: You were drafted by the Pirates in 2001, then traded to Detroit. How was your first trade experience?

Kody Kirkland: I had mixed emotions when it happened. It was a weird situation. I was actually traded during spring training with the Pirates, but I didn't find out until three months later. I made the low-A team out of camp. They told me I had earned a starting job, but they had some older guys that they were going to send up first. That was pretty disappointing. I found out later it was because I had been traded. I had just finished a year with the Pirates, figuring out how things work, and then to find out you got traded. You find out one day and you're gone by 9am the next day. Hardest part was leaving all the guys.

TT: Can you compare playing for the two organizations?

KK: Each organization is a little bit different. Little things are different. Facilities, rules, certain philosophies; fielding, hitting. Obviously the game's always going to be the same, it's just little things. I think I would describe Detroit's organization as a little more laid back, but they're on you when it comes times to play.

TT: What was draft day like for you?

KK: It was an exciting day for me. It was graduation day for my high school, so I graduated and got drafted on the same day. Coming from a small town in Idaho, no one had ever been drafted out of that high school before. It was exciting. I went to a year of junior college. I did a draft and follow.

TT: What had you heard from the scouts? Did you feel confident that you were going to be selected?

KK: I had talked to couple scouts on the phone. I had never seen a scout at any of my home games. Our town was so far away from the airport; they only came to see me play on the road. I got lucky because I got to play in a couple of big showcase tournaments and got seen that way. I had a couple people calling me, saying they were going to take me in this round or that round, but after the first day went by, I was a little disappointed that nothing happened. I really didn't know what to expect.

TT: How about the experience of moving down to Fla. from Idaho?

KK: It was hot. I had never been anywhere in the southeast before. I came down right in the middle of summer. It was miserable. That humidity out there in GCL league is rough on people. Once you've gone through it, you really feel bad for those players that have 1:00, 2:00 games down here in Florida. The heat really takes a big toll on you down here. You don't realize it until you are down here for a full season.

TT: Do you set goals for yourself, for your career?

KK: I try not to set numbers goals for myself. Obviously everyone wants to hit over .300, hit a lot of home runs. My biggest goal is to come out and play hard every day, play to win. I've come to realize that all you can control is how you prepare before games and how hard you play during games. Whatever happens after that is out of your control.

TT: What's your strongest skill as a ballplayer?

KK: All around knowledge of the game. I play hard and hustle, that's my biggest asset. Try and go all out all the time.

TT: Is 3B the position where you are most comfortable?

KK: I'm getting used to it, every year more and more. I grew up playing shortstop. It's a little different. Everything happens a lot faster. You have to be a little quicker with your reaction time.

TT: Anything specific you are working on in practice? Are you seeing improvement in your own game? Where?

KK: Little things; little things hitting, little things fielding. I'm probably my own worst enemy. I get in my head too much sometimes. I try and find a solution really quick instead of realizing that some things are going to happen once in a while. It's a long, grueling season and instead of just playing my game, sometimes I try and change things too much. That's one thing I'm trying to work on. Just trying to stay consistent, which is a mental thing.

TT: What's your mental process when you get up to the plate?

KK: Each at-bat just depends on the situation. Runners on? Where? How many outs? I'm definitely a free-swinger, so I'm looking for something hard early in the count. Pitchers want to get ahead early. A lot of times you can catch a fastball or a hanging curve.

TT: Is Lakeland going to win the FSL championship this year?

KK: We have a great shot. We've worked hard all year. We've tried to keep that winning mentality all year. I know we have a good shot to win it.

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