PinstripesPlus: Mario, to start off from the beginning, when did the Yankees sign you and what exactly transpired between you and the organization?
Mario Holmann: They signed me in December of 2002 when I was playing in the Central American and Caribbean games in El Salvador. I was playing there with my country, Nicaragua. Chico Heron, a scout from Panama, saw me playing there, and he liked what he saw. So, then after the tournament he took me with him to Panama to do a tryout because Carlos Rios was going to be there. And then I signed. They liked the way I played and then they signed me in Nicaragua 2 days later.
PP: So, you went on to play the 2003 season with the Dominican Summer League Yankees, correct? How did you perform there?
Holmann: I spent the entire 2003 season in Dominican Republic. I batted .311 for the season and I played very strong defense at second base. I played very well overall even though I don't remember the exact statistics for the year.
PP: After such a strong season, were you expecting to be playing in the United States in 2004?
Holmann: Actually no, I wasn't expecting that because after my 2003 season in Dominican, which I played well in, they sent me to an instructional league in the Dominican and I didn't play very well. So then they sent me again to the Dominican in January to another program. And, in that program, I did very good, so they told me that they were going to send me to play here. So, I was very happy.
PP: We have heard the story about you hitting a home run off Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez during one of his rehab appearances in extended spring training. What kind of moment was that for you?
Holmann: That was the best. I couldn't believe that it actually happened. It was really the best.
PP: In 2004, you were unexpectedly sent to High A ball in the middle of extended spring training. Did that huge promotion catch you totally by surprise?
Holmann: It was a total surprise to me. I was playing in the extended spring training league and I didn't play that game in extended because it was my day off. But before the game was over, one of the Yankee coordinators told me to pack my things because they were sending me to the Tampa Yankees. And, that was great news for me and it really surprised me. But, when they told me they were going to send me there, they told me that it was going to be just for a couple of games because almost all the infielders on the Tampa Yankees were hurt. So whenever they were ready to play, I was going to go back to extended.
PP: You suffered the thumb injury soon after arriving with the Tampa Yankees. Describe that injury for us.
Holmann: It was a very fast pitch I was hit with. I was trying to bunt and it was a high pitch. So, I moved my bat to try to bunt it and I miscalculated. So, instead of hitting my bat, it hit my thumb. I broke it in 3 parts. It definitely wasn't pretty. I was out for like 2 months.
PP: So, when you finally came back from the thumb injury, do you think it affected the way you swung the bat?
Holmann: Yes, the first few games and even all the games of the season that I played after that, I didn't feel comfortable at the plate. I lost my timing and it took me a while to get it back. My thumb was great and I didn't feel any pain at all. But, my timing wasn't there.
PP: Did you attend mini-camp after the 2004 season?
Holmann: Yes I did. They invited me down here in September. I got to work with Andy Stankiewicz. He really knows a lot.
PP: What are your thoughts on possibly playing with Marcos Vechionacci in Charleston in 2005?
Holmann: Yes, I hope we can play together in Charleston. I really like playing with him in the SS-2B combination. He is very young in age, but when he plays he looks much older. He is very mature and when he is in the field he knows what he is doing.
PP: What types of improvements are you trying to make while you are in spring training?
Holmann: I want to keep working on my defense, mostly on my pivots. Then, I want to also work on my offense. I want to try to avoid fly balls so I can use my speed. That way, I will hit a lot of line drives too. So, basically, I want to work on my swing angle. Also, I want to work on my alignment, trying to keep my whole body in good balance.
PP: Each time you come to the plate, what are you trying to do?
Holmann: Every time I go to the plate, I am trying to fight that at bat and get on base any possible way that I can. It doesn't matter how. I just get on base and then try to steal the next base.
PP: Have you always been a great base stealer or is that something you have worked hard on over the years?
Holmann: That's something natural. Of course, here they have gave me some tips to steal bases easier, but I always love to steal bases. I'll try to steal as many bases as I can this year. Every time I get to first or second, I'll try to steal the next bag. Talking in numbers, if I can steal 40 or more, that would be a very good season in stolen bases.
PP: Going back to when the Yankees first signed you, do you think your speed was their primary reason for their interest in you?
Holmann: That was the main reason why they signed me, I think. And, that's why they made me a switch hitter. Before I signed, I hit only right handed. And, after I signed, I started hitting from both sides of the plate because I could use my speed more because you are closer to first base. So, I could get more infield hits and be on base more often.
PP: How tough was it for you to learn to hit left handed?
Holmann: It was very tough. It was tougher at the beginning because I couldn't hit the ball hard and I almost struck out every at bat that I went to the plate. So, I was kind of frustrated. And I even thought about quitting hitting left handed and just hitting right handed. But, then Carlos Rios talked to me and told me that I had more chances to get to the big show being a switch hitter rather than just a righty.
PP: At this point, how would you compare your lefty hitting to your righty hitting?
Holmann: I consider myself much better hitting lefty than righty, now. I have a better swing from that side and I make more contact. But, I have a more power batting righty.
PP: You are not a big power hitter, so do you really enjoy what you do as a leadoff hitter?
Holmann: I don't consider myself as a power hitter. Of course, I like to hit home runs, who doesn't. But, I try to stay away from that because that's not my game. So, yes I consider that a minor part of my game. But, my game is contact and speed. I love batting leadoff.
PP: Mario, how do you think you became such a great defender at second base?
Holmann: Well, since I was kid, I played good defense and the coaches in my hometown helped me a lot to improve my skills. I use to play shortstop in little league and I could catch every ground ball that was hit to me, but I had problem throwing from shortstop to first base. So, they decided to move me to second base and since I was like 15, I've been playing second base. And, then when I signed with the Yankees, all the coaches in the Dominican helped me a lot and the one that has taught me the most about the way the game is played at second base is Andy Stankiewicz.
PP: What is your main goal heading into 2005?
Holmann: I'd like to play well, all around and try to finish the season with the Tampa Yankees. If I do that, then it is mission accomplished.
PinstripesPlus.com would like to thank Mario Holmann for his time and efforts in answering these questions. We will stay updated with Mario throughout the 2005 season.
Spring Training Q&A with Mario Holmann
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