Q&A with Robert Villanova

Robert Villanova was drafted in the 15th round by the Yankees in the 2004 Draft out of Iona College. Villanova had some struggles in 2004, but he still appears to be a valuable looking prospect with a lot to offer. Not to mention, Villanova will never disappoint with his work ethic, as he takes a page out of the book of Paul O'Neill. Here's a Q&A with Robert Villanova.

PinstripesPlus: What team were you a fan of growing up?

Robert Villanova: Since I was a fan of baseball, I've been a fan of the Yankees. My family would have it no other way.

PP: Have you always been an outfielder?

RV: Well growing up I played all the positions just like every other kid, I used to love to catch and pitch, but I always played the outfield because I loved hitting. But, eventually it became obvious that outfield and hitting was going to be my career that is if I had a chance to even have one.

PP: Were you scouted at all out of high school?

RV: No way. I did a lot of maturing at Iona College. Back when I was in high school I was a good player, but not great. Not to mention, I weighed about 160 lbs, there's no way I could have been able to swing a wood bat. You know you really do a lot of developing in the college years, physically and mentally.

PP: What were your expectations going into this year's draft?

RV: Well, you know there were a few teams interested in me, so they said. But, for some reason I just couldn't let myself get too excited or ahead of myself because deep down this all felt way too good to be true, especially the Yankees. That would have been something I could have never even dreamed of.

PP: So, had Yankee scouts approached you before the draft?

RV: Yeah, I was approached by Cesar Presbott, they contacted me a bunch of times, and also invited me to a pre-draft workout at Yankee Stadium.

PP: Did you get a chance to see Jon Poterson at that workout?

RV: Oh yeah, I remember him. He was the one hitting bombs into the upper deck from both sides of the plate. When I saw that, I knew he would be a 1st or 2nd rounder for sure, and I was right.

PP: Were you expecting to go to Staten Island when you were first drafted?

RV: Yes, but that's only because that's where the scout that drafted me told me I'd probably end up.

PP: Do you think you profile as a center fielder more so than a corner outfielder?

RV: Well, that's not really up to me. I'd pitch if that's what the Yankees thought I should do.

PP: What do you think was the toughest adjustment for you as a pro?

RV: There were a few things that were tough. One would obviously would be the wood bats. That always takes getting used to. Also, the pitch speed was consistently faster and better, but probably the toughest thing was just doing it everyday. I was the same thing day after day. But I've got to say that I love it more than anything else. There's nothing I'd rather be doing and nobody I'd rather be doing it for.

PP: Were you surprised at all by your promotion to Battle Creek in 2004?

RV: Yes, completely. They never actually told me why. But believe me, I came up with a million good and bad reasons why they did it. But I would assume it was because they needed another outfielder. A lot of times, I was the only lefty off the bench up there.

PP: What is the main thing you are going to try and improve upon for next season?

RV: Physical strength and hand speed are among the top things to improve on in the off season, but its a never ending process. I could improve in every area.

PP: What do you think is your biggest strength?

RV: My biggest strength is my work ethic. Anyone who knows me, knows that. I worked my butt off to get here and this is just the beginning. Everyone can appreciate a hard working kid. There's always a spot for one.

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

RV: Well, being a lefty hitter I would absolutely hate to face Sean Kramer, the left handed side arm slinger. Now, I did go to college with him, so I have faced him before so I'm speaking through experience. He's a tough one on lefties and righties.

PP: If you had to compare your style of play with an MLB player, who would it be?

RV: I would say a guy like Paul O'Neil, not only was he a great player, but probably my favorite Yankee. I really appreciated the love and intensity he had for the game. That's one thing that I think that we share, minus the crazy outbreaks, and he's just someone I've always loved as a player. I really want to meet him one day too.

PP: What was the leadoff hitting experience like for you in Staten Island this year?

RV: Yeah, actually I led off like the first 10 or 15 straight games, which was new to me, because I was never a lead off hitter. I can steal bases, but for some reason I was never asked to steal much. Maybe it was because throughout high school and college I wasn't on first too often. (laughing)

PP: What are your thoughts on the lack of offense in Staten Island in 2004?

RV: It was too bad because it was such a great place to play. I played there a few times in college, but it's a lot nicer when you're actually a Yankee.
PP: Did it take you a while to find a wood bat that you liked?

RV: I think I just found one that I like about a week ago actually, so the answer is oh yes. I tried like 100 different models throughout the season. You name it, I tried it. I just couldn't stick with one for a long period of time.

PP: Which model did you pick?

RV: I got this Louisville Slugger C331 with an extra flared knob like Barry Bonds has. And, it's maple. I'm really loving it right now.
PP: Have you been hitting a lot in the off season?

RV: I have a batting cage down in my basement. I'm pretty fortunate.

PP: Who were you most impressed with (offensive players) in Battle Creek?

RV: I was impressed with Matt Carson. I really liked his approach, and his mechanics were just about flawless.

PP: Does the idea of being traded bother you at all?

RV: No it doesn't bother me. Of course I would like to stay with Yankees forever, but I realize that sometimes it's not in your hands and that's part of the game.

PP: What was it like playing for Tommy John?

RV: Oh, it was great. He's a legend and a great guy.

PP: Is there any significance to you batting lefty and throwing righty? Did you have an ambition to be a lefty hitter?

RV: Nope, god just blessed me with that. And, yes I do look at that as a blessing. (laughing)

PP: Have you had trouble with lefty pitching at all?

RV: Not as much as I get used to it. I'm getting better and better every year. You see more of them, so you have no choice but to get more comfortable against them.

PinstripesPlus.com would like to thank Robert Villanova for his time and efforts in answering these questions.

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