Q&A with John Urick

The grandson of the legendary St. Louis Cardinals' manager Whitey Herzog, Yankees' 1B prospect John Urick put together a very good season in Battle Creek in 2004. John sat down for a chat session about his game and gives his thoughts on his fellow teammates as well in this Q&A.

The Yankees selected John Urick out of Oklahoma State University in the 22nd round of the 2003 draft. After spending his professional debut season with Staten Island last year, John was sent to Battle Creek in 2004 where he posted solid numbers.

He's made some very good friends in the organization and has grown closest to another ballplayer with tremendous baseball genes. Enrique Cruz, the son of Jose Cruz and brother of Jose Cruz Jr., and John have become great friends and Enrique was present at John's wedding early in October. John married his college sweetheart, Maggie, on October 2nd of this year.

Aside from his grandfather on his mother's side being Whitey Herzog, John is surrounded by athletes in his family. His father was a basketball player growing up, playing college basketball as did John's wife Maggie. John is still a huge fan of the game, following the Major Leagues just as close as he can.

John is a very nice individual and is very steadfast on reaching his goal of making the Major Leagues. Here's our recent chat session with John Urick:

PinstripesPlus: Tell us what it was like playing at Oklahoma State.

Urick: Stillwater is definitely a baseball town. Those fans down there are awesome. They love their baseball and Oklahoma State has had some great players in their history. Pete Incaviglia was the man when he played there. I believe he still holds the NCAA record for career home runs and of course Robin Ventura played there during his great hitting streak. They are just great baseball fans and I loved playing there.

PinstripesPlus: Who would you say has been the biggest influence on your baseball career?

Urick: My grandfather for sure, Whitey Herzog. I grew up a Cardinals fan obviously and would go to the games with my mom, my dad, and my grandma. It was great. I was really young and don't remember too much, but the parts I do remember I remember I had a blast. I got to hang out in the clubhouse and my grandfather was great. I just really loved the game and it was mostly his doing.

PinstripesPlus: What would you say is the strongest part of your game right now?

Urick: Strongest part of my game? Probably my patience at the plate and my approach to hitting in general. I have a pretty good idea at the plate and how to get my pitch to hit. I'm good in the field but I'd say I have a ways to go defensively. That's the part I need to work on the hardest.

PinstripesPlus: What improvements do you think you need to make to your game to progress through the system? What are your expectations for next season?

Urick: I am trying to improve my agility and quickness to help me at first base and on the base paths. Of course I am looking to get stronger but I am concentrating on running more. I am not too worried about being very big, I just want to get stronger and quicker.

PinstripesPlus: What does it mean to you to be a part of the Yankees' organization?

Urick: I think growing up a Cardinals fan gave me a great sense of the history of the game. I mean, the Cardinals and the Yankees are two of the most historical and successful franchises. Of course it helped that my grandpa was orginally drafted by the Yankees and was friends with players like Roger Maris. I always admired the Yankees and how they were respected all over the world as a great team.

PinstripesPlus: What was it like playing at Battle Creek this past season?

Urick: I had a good time at Battle Creek. We didn't have the biggest crowds but the booster club and the fans were great. I had a really good time this past year.

PinstripesPlus: Who would you compare yourself to at the Major League level? And why?

Urick: I guess I'd say John Olerud. We're both tall, lanky guys that can hit for power and average. Olerud makes everthing look so effortless in his swing and I've been told that I'm that way at the plate. I feel like I can be that type of player in the Major Leagues. I think I have proven to myself and to the organization that I can eventually make that leap.

PinstripesPlus: Among your Battle Creek teammates this past season, who were you most impressed with?

Urick: Erold Andrus, without a doubt. I think he played just about every game this past season and I thought he was very underrated defensively as an outfielder. He was our best clutch hitter for sure, coming up with big hits time after time.

PinstripesPlus: What do you think of the Yankees' decision to move Andrus to first base?

Urick: Well I can't really control stuff like that. There's always going to be competition. We're all trying to reach the same goal. No matter who they put at first, I think I can compete with anyone. I think the only advantage he would have over me is that he's a switch hitter.

PinstripesPlus: Which of your pitching teammates would you least like to face?

Urick: I think it would be Abel Gomez. And not just because he's a lefty. He has a lot of different pitches and he's real wiry. He throws a lot of different pitches and all at different speeds. He's also very deceptive on the mound. It's not easy to pick the ball up when he throws.

PinstripesPlus: What are your impressions of Eric Duncan?

Urick: Duncan's a great ballplayer. He has a really bright future ahead of him. I've never seen a kid his age handle himself so well on and off the field. He's willing to take his walks and singles. He'll do anything to get on base. He has tremendous opposite field power and that's so rare for a guy that young. I've heard the comparisons to Chipper Jones, but I think Duncan's more of a contact hitter than Chipper.

PinstripesPlus: What are your thoughts on Melky Cabrera?

Urick: Melky's got a bright future ahead of him as well. He has a great idea of how to the play the game and he'll keep moving up the system if the Yankees' system if they let him. He's a special player.

PinstripesPlus: Ok, we're going to play a little game now. I am going to name one of your fellow Yankees' prospects and I want you to tell me who you think they remind you of at the Major League level. We'll start with Eric Duncan.

Urick: Hank Blalock. Like Blalock, Duncan can hit for power and average, he can run, and plays solid defense.

PinstripesPlus: Melky Cabrera.

Urick: Hmm. To be honest, I'd say nobody. He's so unique. He's an original ballplayer. There's nobody like him.

PinstripesPlus: Tyler Clippard.

Urick: I'd have to say "Clip" is like Roy Oswalt. They're both long and lanky and they both have the same demeanor on the mound. Neither of them have any fear.

PinstripesPlus: Abel Gomez.

Urick: Johan Santana. They both have the same approach to pitching and mix up the speeds very well.

PinstripesPlus: Brandon Harmsen.

Urick: Woody Williams, definitely, and remember I'm a Cardinals fan. They both trust their stuff so much that they both probably trust it too much. Both will have enough faith in their stuff that they'll groove one right in a batter's wheelhouse.

PinstripesPlus: Estee Harris.

Urick: Well I know Estee would want me to say Ken Griffey Jr. That's his favorite player and he thinks he looks a lot like Griffey. I'd have to agree with him. Why not? I've seen him rob quite a few home runs. He's a great kid. He has a lot of tools and only needs to shorten his swing.

PinstripesPlus.com would like to thank John Urick for taking the time to answer our questions and we wish him and his new bride, Maggie, the best of the luck after just getting married.

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