Grooming of a Star: Q&A with Jon Bertschinger

When the Yankees draft you once, it is an honor, but when the Yankees draft you twice, you may be destined for stardom. Jon Bertschinger is a recipient of this honor. Although he is not signed, the Yankees hope to let him develop his skills at Navarro Junior College in the Spring of 2005 and then sign the potential future star.

As much as the Yankees hope to sign Jon Bertschinger, he truly controls his own fate. But, the Yankees will certainly make a push to sign him before the 2005 draft. However, he has no shortage of options laid before him. In fact, he has signed a commitment to play at the University of South Carolina. Will he go with a dream and sign with the Yankees before the draft in 2005? From what Jon has to say, it seems like a distinct possibility. There is certainly a reason the Yankees and their scout, Mark Batchko have chased him for two years. He is seen as an impact, lefty hitting bat that could add some much need punch to the Yankees' farm system.

On draft day in 2003, Jon Bertschinger was not oblivious to the fact that the Yankees had an interest in him. Mark Batchko had watched him play before, and needless to say he was impressed. They arranged a private tryout in which Bertschinger hit three balls out of the park at Keller High School. But, by the second day of the draft, Jon started to wonder if he would be drafted at all. Just when he had given up hope, he was picked up in the 46th round. As most of the late picks are, he was a talent that went undiscovered by most teams. But, despite his worries about being drafted and his pure joy when he was selected, Jon and his family thought it would be better for him to attend Navarro Junior College for a season, at least. Even after a good season there in 2004, he did not sign with the Yankees and elected to enter the draft again. Again, he was drafted by the Yankees, and again, he was the ideal candidate to be a draft and follow that the Yankees could sign in the Spring of 2005. This time, it appears to be a strong possibility that "Berts" will sign with the Yankees after another season of developing his skills at Navarro. But, don't think for a second that the Yankees don't know what they are chasing. As a level headed, intelligent young man that also possesses one of the sweetest swings you'll ever see, they are chasing someone who couldn't fit the mold of a true Yankee any better.

PinstripesPlus: Jon, tell us how you performed at Navarro in 2004? What were your statistics?

Jon Bertschinger: I did pretty well. I batted .446 with 5 home runs and 40 RBI.

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

Bertschinger: I'd say I'm definitely a contact hitter. I do have power but contact is more my regular game. I think I could add some more power in the future but my true game is making contact and taking the ball to all fields.

PP: So, does the short porch in Yankee Stadium intrigue you at all?

Bertschinger: Oh, yes, definitely. As a lefty hitter, it is very intriguing. With all the other lefty hitters that have succeeded there, it could definitely add to my power. I'd like to have a chance at hitting there someday. But, really it wouldn't change my approach. I like to take the ball to all fields and I'm really not a dead pull hitter at all.

PP: Now, how much of an option is attending he University of South Carolina in the Fall of 2005?

Bertschinger: Well, going to South Carolina is really all up in the air right now. I did sign a letter of intent but a lot of things are going to happen from now until then. It really depends a lot on how my season goes at Navarro this year. If I do well and feel comfortable with my development, I may decide against it. But, if not, the extra development could be worth it at South Carolina. But, it depends on my offer that I get from the Yankees too. Basically, if I feel comfortable with my progress and how I feel about my game I could pass it up to go with the Yankees offer. Like I said, I'm not really leaning one way because it is up in the air. My season this year will be important.

PP: What kind of improvements have you made in the last year?

Bertschinger: I'm always working hard and there is always something I can improve on. That is just the way I think of it. But, I have gotten stronger. I work with my hitting instructor and I think I'm improving my offense all the time.

PP: Yankee scout, Mark Batchko has been hot on your trail for two years. Does he still keep in routine contact with you?

Bertschinger: Yeah, he comes down sometimes and we talk. We haven't talked so directly about the Yankees in a few months. But, we have had conversations about the Yankees and I think they are a strong possibility for me. We haven't directly had conversations about where'd I'd stand in the organization. But, we talked more after I was drafted but not quite as much now. We still talk though.

PP: What can you tell us about your defensive skills?

Bertschinger: I think I've played good defense in left field. I have about average speed but I cover good ground. But, I have done a lot of work on my throwing arm and I think I have made a lot of progress there. Even though I play a lot of left field at Navarro, I started off as a first baseman in high school. That was my full time position in high school actually. But, this year I think I'll be doing a lot of left field, first base and DH. I feel comfortable at first and left field though.

PP: Are you aware that first base is position the Yankees are badly lacking prospects in?

Bertschinger: Oh really? No, I wasn't aware of that. Like I said, I can play both and if I do end up with the Yankees, I'd be more than willing to play what they needed and wanted me to do. If that is first base, that is fine. I am comfortable playing there. I'm about the team so if that is what they wanted, that is great too.

PP: What kind of expectations do you have going into your 2005 season with Navarro?

Bertschinger: I like to set my expectations pretty high for myself. My number one goal is to be the best team player I can be and help my team to the best of my ability. The team goal is to try and get to the Junior College World Series this year. We came up a little short last year. I put those goals ahead of my personal statistics. But, in order to help my team, I'd like to hit at least .350. Hopefully, I have another good season like last year. Most of all, I want the team to be the #1 seed though.

PP: Switching gears for a moment, what can you tell us about another potential Yankee draft and follow and your teammate at Navarro, Jamarkus James?

Bertschinger: One thing about James is that he is a very big kid. I mean, he's really big. He just has extremely big potential. He has absolutely great speed, too. The one thing with him is just that he has to develop his arm and outfield skills. But, he definitely has a lot of potential. It is no wonder he went pretty high in the draft for a draft and follow candidate.

PP: What kind of offer are you looking for when you talk to the Yankees again?

Bertschinger: I'm thinking top two rounds type of money. I don't really know. I know the Yankees think a lot of me, but they're not real clear on just how highly they think of me. But, I know in my mind that I think I can can get money that a 1st round or 2nd round pick would get. I've worked hard and it is starting to pay off for me.

PP: Have you gotten attention from any other prominent people about your abilities?

Bertschinger: Yeah, sometimes Brian Hawpe talks to me. He is going to be in the Colorado Rockies outfield next season. One time he told me that I had a really nice left handed swing. He really likes my swing. He knows how hard I work and have worked so I think he is able to appreciate what I've accomplished. We talk sometimes about stuff but I think he takes an interest in me.

PP: You say you are more of a contact hitter, but do you have any desire to add a little more power?

Bertschinger: Oh, yeah, definitely. That is something I've been working on with my hitting instructor. But, I don't think I'll ever change my approach. I am not a real pull hitter. My hitting often gets compared to John Olerud and that is a good style for me. I like to make things happen and hit the ball to all fields. That is just how I hit. But, some more power is not going to hurt. So, that will be something I hope to improve on this year. But, it is not something I am going to go out of my game to change. I'm not the type of guy to swing for home runs and hurt my batting average.

PP: Have you had a chance to use a wooden bat yet? If so, did you find it more difficult or something difficult to adjust to?

Bertschinger: Yeah, I played a little with the wood bats up in Kansas this summer and in Dallas later on. It was definitely an adjustment but something I am glad I was exposed to. I am a guy that uses my whole body in my swing, especially my lower body. So that helped me in my adjustment. I am glad I got some experience with it though.

PP: If you were a scout, how would you scout yourself?

Bertschinger: Well, I am not the type of guy that is really going to talk about myself that I am really great or anything. It is up to the teams I play for to tell me what they think of me. That is what matters to me. But, I do think I am a slightly above average player. I know the Yankees think highly of me and hopefully I can end up with them. I know they've scouted me and think highly of me.

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

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