Country Hardball: Q&A with Ryan Haag

You wouldn't call him big or you wouldn't call him intimidating by the looks of him but if Ryan Haag is bearing down on you on the base paths, be prepared for a hit. Even though he may not be the biggest player, he takes a page right out of the book of Pete Rose, David Eckstein, Ty Cobb and even Derek Jeter. With the hustle of Pete Rose, the determination of David Eckstein, the aggressiveness of Cobb and the baseball intellect of Jeter, Ryan Haag makes for one tough ballplayer.

Ryan Haag plays baseball the old fashioned way and many of his coaches and teammates take some serious notice of that. "He sees things, he feels things, that other players don't," Batesole says. "He sees things with pitchers, he sees things with catchers. He thinks ahead. He helps his teammates. He's to the point now where I don't have to coach him, he just plays. And he's a great college player,"  said Haag's former coach in Alaska. Haag has perhaps adopted that style of play from his childhood friend and role model, JT Stotts. Stotts now plays for the Tampa Yankees and he also has become well known for that same hard nose style of play. Everyone loves a good old fashioned ballplayer and you got it in Ryan Haag. Let's find out a little more about him as caught up with Ryan Haag.

PinstripesPlus: You grew up as an Angels fan, right? What was it like for you to be drafted by the New York Yankees?

Ryan Haag: Yes I was an Angels fan but it was a real good feeling for me to be drafted by New York. I knew I was coming into a winning tradition and have the chance to play for a such a great team. I was glad to become a part of that.

PP: Your education is very important to you. How important was the fact that the Yankees agreed to pay for the rest of your education?

RH: It was very important to me. When I get back the degree is something I want to work on. It was so important for me to have that. It is something that they can never take away from me. 

PP: If it came down to it, what is more important to you, baseball or your education?

RH: I would have to say my education definitely. Probably that's because baseball can be taken away from you at any time in your life. You could just get hurt tomorrow and it could be over. But, my education will always be there and it can't be taken away.

PP: What kind of hitter would you describe yourself as?

RH: I'm an on base guy. I like to be a sparkplug type of guy.  I like to get things going. That's usually my job in the lineup.

PP: You and your brother are very close friends with JT Stotts. What does the possibility of possibly being teammates with him in a MLB uniform mean to you?

RH: Oh, it is a real good feeling. I grew up with JT and I've been around him since I was ten years old. Me and my brother are going to be his best man at his wedding this fall. It was just a good feeling when I got drafted by the Yankees and I knew he'd be in the same organization.

PP: How important are his teachings and advice to you?

RH: It is real important to me, everything he has taught me over the years he was a big role model for me. I learned a lot of from him over the years. I guess one thing big I learned from him was to always play hard and that's the type of player I am now.

PP: Take us through your approach to every at bat, starting when you are in the on deck circle?

RH: Well ,it varies for every at bat. If there is a guy on first base,  I am going to look  for a pitch on the plate to hit the ball through the hole in the right side. If I'm the leadoff man in the inning, I want to see what the pitcher's got and my approach changes a little. Also, if maybe a corner infielder is playing back, I'll even lay down a bunt or something.  It all varies but I am always looking for each situation.

PP: What is your strongest trait as a player is?

RH: I would say my energy and aggressiveness.

PP: What were your feelings after you were demoted earlier in the season?

RH: Well, it wasn't a very good feeling. To be honest, I was pretty [angry].  I wasn't happy at all. You know, I wanted to show that I wasn't the type of player that I showed when we first started out.

PP: What do you think was the biggest roadblock in your career that you have to overcome?

RH: Probably the biggest roadblock has been my size and stature and people saying that I wasn't big enough to do one thing or another.

PP:  What was the experience like playing in Alaska? How has that experience made you a better player?

RH: Oh, it was a great experience. It was a lot different because it just never got dark outside. I'm a big fisherman and a a big outdoorsman. I went fishing every night and it was a lot of fun.  

PP: You have been describes as doing all the little things right and going all out on every play. Some say you play the game like Derek Jeter. Do you take a lot of pride in playing the game like this?

RH: Yea I take pride in that. I am not 6'6" and I'm not 230 pounds. So, what I have to do is do the little things right and that's what will get me to the next level.

PP: You have been said to always be watching opposing players whether it be catchers or pitchers. How does this make you and your teammates better? What do you look for in the opposition?

RH: I come out here every day whether I'm playing or sitting on the bench. You can learn something every day from this game and it is important to watch the opposition. I take a lot of pride in doing that.

PP: Sum up your philosophy on playing the game of baseball the way you think it should be played.

RH: My entire philosophy has a lot to do with confidence. In order to be confident means you have to get your work done. You got to work hard all the time and if you don't have your confidence all the time in yourself, you aren't going to perform. would like to give out a special thanks to Ryan Haag for his time and efforts in answering these questions.

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