TigsTown: The off-season always seems to fly by, and spring training is right around the corner. What has been keeping you out of trouble this winter?
BD: This off-season I was fortunate enough to be able to work out with the Rochester Community Technical College baseball team. When Northern Iowa dropped their baseball program at the end of last season I was kind of hung out to dry without a place to work out. After the season I contacted Coach Steve Hucke and he welcomed me with open arms. I kind of got my feet wet I guess in the coaching department. Coaching has been a part of my family for years and years and being able to help those guys out a little and share some of the knowledge I've acquired throughout the years was a great feeling.
TT: Are you going to be heading to Lakeland soon for some extra work?
BD: I was invited to the Tigers Minor League Spring Training Mini camp again this year. I will be leaving Saturday February 13. I'm definitely looking forward to getting out of this COLD weather!
TT: Let's start at the beginning of your pro career, looking at the draft and signing process. The Tigers picked you in the 11th round of the 2008 draft, how did it feel to have the chance to be a Tiger?
BD: I had only talked with the Tigers a few times before the draft. When I saw my name come across the computer screen I went crazy. The Tigers are one of the oldest franchises in baseball and have great history. It didn't truly hit me until I walked into the minor league club house in Lakeland, Fl. When I walked in I immediately saw plaques of past Tiger greats. Then I walked over to my locker and to see your name on the back of the jersey was something I will never forget but the best part was turning the jersey over and seeing that "old English" D on the front. I think then I realized that my dream of playing professional baseball had come true. Now the next part of that dream is making it to the big leagues.
TT: The Reds had drafted you the previous summer. What went into the decision not to sign with Cincinnati in 2007?
BD: I think I just wasn't ready. Coach Heller and I talked a lot before and after the draft about what I was planning on doing. We went over the previous year and things he thought I needed to work on. These things included not just physical things but mental things as well. The reason why I decided to go back to UNI was because I just felt like I wasn't ready. I was taken in the 32nd round and I thought if I could become more consistent in the field and at the plate I could improve my draft status and get taken a lot higher. It was a gamble to go back but I think I did the right thing because I had one my most productive years at UNI.
TT: Once playing in pro ball, the Tigers moved you to second base from shortstop. Were you on board with the move?
BD: Totally on board! I had never played second before so I knew it was going to take some time. Some people might say that it's not a big deal moving from one spot to another but they don't realize that as simple as it may sound to move, the angle of the ball is different, you line up in different spots for relays, etc.
TT: How difficult was it to make that position switch, on the fly, while trying to adjust to the pro game?
BD: Really the only thing difficult was knowing where to line up for relays. The great thing about this organization is the coaches. They realized I was in a new spot and they worked with me. Kevin Bradshaw took time to go over every situation with me and it helped out a lot and that made the transition a lot easier.
TT: Do you miss being a shortstop, or have you become pretty fond of the keystone?
BD: I do miss it, but when I see Gustavo Nunez play short, I can't believe I ever played there! I mean that guy could field a baseball if it was shot out of canon! The things he does defensively is incredible!
TT: After you signed with the Tigers you had a bit of a whirlwind tour of the minor league system; stopping in the GCL, Oneonta, West Michigan, and even Double-A Erie. What was that experience like?
BD: Crazy would probably be the word I would use for my first year. I truly got a taste of what it was like being called up and sent down. It felt like every two weeks I was being sent somewhere else. When they tell you that you're being moved up or sent down you don't really have a lot of time. You pretty much pack and then you're at the airport. Going to Erie was probably the most interesting trip of them all. I was in Brooklyn, NY with Oneonta; our game went into extras so we didn't get done until 11:30pm. I was told I was going to Erie soon after the game was over. I packed up and headed to the airport at 2am. My flight was at 5am. I didn't get into Erie until 11am. I got MAYBE 30 minutes of sleep before I had to be out on the field for batting practice. Tom Brookens asked if I had gotten any sleep and I told him about a half hour, he says, "Good you're in the lineup."
TT: Did you have time to recognize the major differences in the level of competition you were facing, or did it all just happen too fast?
BD: Sure did.
Rookie ball versus short-season, the pitchers are usually young guys and they tend to leave a lot of stuff over the middle of the plate. In the Penn League you see a lot of college pitchers who located better and don't tend to leave pitches out over the plate.
Short-season to Low A, I didn't really see a difference.
The biggest difference I saw was going from short-season to Erie. The pitchers could locate A TON better. They rarely made any mistakes and the velocity was better. The strike zone was a lot smaller and on defense it seemed like the opposing hitters squared balls up more often. It seemed like if the pitcher made a mistake and left a breaking pitch up, it got hammered. So I defiantly saw a huge difference in Erie
TT: The 2009 season saw you settle in with West Michigan for the entire year. Was it nice to get comfortable with one team and one group of teammates?
BD: I kind of have mixed feelings about it. I would have loved to have moved up but I was glad that I was able to be in Grand Rapids and play in front of such awesome fans. Every night they came out and supported us.
TT: You turned in a heck of a season in Grand Rapids, despite missing some time with injury. What took you out of the lineup and put you on the disabled list?
BD: I pulled my groin trying to make a play on a slow roller.
TT: Having had the opportunity to see you in the Fall Instructional League, I can say without hesitation that you looked completely healthy there. I assume that is still the case?
BD: I can honestly say that I'm 100%. It's been awhile since I've been healthy and being healthy just adds even more excitement heading into spring training.
TT: Between what I saw, and what several within the organization told me during the fall, you turned in quite a performance during FIL. Where did that performance come from?
BD: Because I missed so much of the season I saw this as a huge opportunity for me. I wasn't quite at 100% but being able to practice and play in front of some of the coaches in the Tigers minor league system along with people in the front office was a great opportunity. I wanted to show the people who might not have gotten a chance to see me play during the regular season that I can play.
TT: After succeeding in West Michigan last year, it seems natural that you will head to spring training with a chance to go to Lakeland, or even higher. Have you thought at all about where you might end up in 2010?
BD: I haven't given much thought to that simply because of what I learned my first season. Things can change in a hurry. Nothing is written in stone. Casey Blake, whom I talked to before I got drafted, gave me some pretty good advice, which was "control what you can control." I can't control where I get placed after spring. It's not my decision so I choose not to worry about it. What I can control is how I go about my business. I play as hard as I can every game and I let whatever happens happen.
TT: What did you learn during last year's spring training that you can apply to this year and possibly make you more prepared?
BD: I think the biggest thing is just knowing what's going to happen. Last year I went into spring training not knowing what to expect and now that I have that first year of spring training under my belt I feel like I'll be more relaxed.
TT: There's not a competitive person out there that doesn't have goals. Have you set some for the 2010 season, and can you share those with our readers?
BD: For the most part I try to stay away from goals such as, hitting .300 or having x amount of doubles, triples, etc. I just don't want to put myself in a position where I'll start pressing at the plate or in field. I do want to have a good year, I feel like if I do play well I could have a season that resembles my first, moving around a lot!
TigsTown would like to thank Brandon for taking the time to talk with us, and wishes him well in his 2010 season!