Conger Hammerin' His Way Up The Draft Board

One of the top catching prospects in the nation, Hank Conger is also one of the best pure hitters in the country as well. He also has quite a baseball upbringing that can even be traced back to his name. Now, we'll take a closer look at how Conger has been 'Hammerin' His Way Up The Draft Board' as the 2006 MLB Draft draws closer.

As they are for just about all highly touted high school prospects, the months leading up the amateur draft are rather hectic for young Hank Conger. There will be scouts at all his games, constant reports on his progress in various publications, and in-depth analysis of each one of his games.

So, how does a high school player deal with all the attention? For most, it may be extremely difficult, but for Conger, playing in meaningful situations is nothing new.

"I've played so many games, and big time games even when I was little," Conger told in a recent interview. "So for me it is pretty easy to just focus on the game. And, I try to not let the draft or scouts affect the way I play."

"It's pretty early right now, but by hearing so many things about the draft, it's hard," he continued. "But, for now I'm going to see how the season goes and go from there."

So, what exactly makes Conger do desirable to so many MLB organizations? They like his ability behind the plate, they like his poise, and they like his makeup. But, what sets Hammerin' Hank apart is his "light tower" power.

"I think some things come natural, such as speed, bat speed and arm strength, although you can improve these things," the switch hitting Californian explained. "But, I could definitely notice my strength increasing through my high school years, and my workout regiment had become better and more consistent. So, I believe that my power is somewhat a natural talent, but most of it has come from hard work."

For every switch hitter that has ever played this game, the question has always been the same. And, make no mistake, it isn't any different for Hank. Is he stronger from the right or left side of the plate?

"I feel that I am stronger from one side than I am from the other," the 18-year old catcher explained. "When I was younger, I was actually a right-hander, but my dad actually switched me to left-handed after noticing I had done some stuff left-handed, like golfing. So, I would say my lefty side is stronger, but I started switch hitting because my dad told me that I indeed was a right-hander."

Conger has quite a weight on his shoulders as a high school player this spring. However, that weight is not only produced by the pressures of the draft, but also from his new role on his high school team.

"Going into the season, I feel that I'll be physically ready to play," Hank explained. "But, the one thing I want to improve on is team leadership. And, my coach has been a big influence on me. He's influenced me to strive to do my best and show leadership."

As odd as it may seem, the future wasn't always so clear for Hank Conger. He wasn't always the top prospect that he is today and he wasn't always even considered the best player in his youth leagues. But, as all great players do, he made the adjustment and now views those days as the turning point of his young career.

"As a 12-year old, I was already put out into the baseball community, and entering my 13 and 14 year old ages, I really struggled, with just about everything," Conger reflected. "People would say that other baseball players were catching up to me, and were more physically advanced and all that. And, it was miserable to go out there knowing that you could do better, but things just weren't going your way. Now, looking back, getting through those years, truly made me realize that I can get through anything as long as I stick to it. I can be a player who takes his game to a new level every time something challenging comes in the way."

It took quite a bit of inner strength along with other intangibles for Hank Conger to get through the tough years of his young career. Perhaps, without those challenging times in his career, he wouldn't have been the player he is today. Scouts are always infatuated with his offensive potential, but what is always taken into account is the tremendous makeup he developed at a very young age.

"Over the years, I would hear people say that I had good makeup," he revealed. "And, I didn't really know what they meant by that. But now, I feel that my makeup really separates me from other players, and I really try to take pride in how I act."

Baseball names don't come much more "built in" than Hank Conger's, who has already earned the nickname of "Hammerin' Hank." But, his original birth name is "Hyun" as he is of Korean descent. And, he has someone else to thank for supplying him with the means to be tabbed with his well known nickname.

"When anyone brings that nickname up to me, it always reminds me of my grandparents because Hank Aaron is my grandpa's favorite baseball player of all time," the young catcher explained. "When he was living in Georgia at the time, and he couldn't pronounce my name, he thought Hank would be easier."

So, since then, Conger has been Hank. And, if being named after the most prolific home run hitter of all time holds any significance, Hammerin' Hank could very well have a fantastic future ahead of him.

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