2010 MLB Draft Q&A: Garin Cecchini

Emerging as the top hitter for a loaded Team USA 18U squad last year, Garin Cecchini is garnering 1st round consideration in this year's draft. We sat down with the sweet-swinging lefty from Barbe HS in Louisiana to discuss his college commitment, his favorite baseball team, and what it was like playing baseball in another country.

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Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Do you play any other sports besides baseball?

Garin Cecchini: No. I used to play football but I gave it up back in my freshman year because of injuries. I just play baseball, try to have fun with it, and that's about it.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Correct me if I'm wrong, but if I recall correctly from when Carmen Angelini was drafted, Lake Charles is in very western Louisiana on the border of Texas – is that right?

Garin Cecchini: Yes, it's in southwestern Louisiana, 30 minutes from the border.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So for readers not familiar with that area of Louisiana, your town is more similar to what we up north would typically associate with Texas?

Garin Cecchini: Oh yeah, no doubt.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Are your height and weight still 6'2", 200 lbs?

Garin Cecchini: Yes.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: As we were just talking about, you're from the same high school as 2007 Yankee draftee, Carmen Angelini. Did you guys play together?

Garin Cecchini: I was actually a freshman, I was playing second and he was playing short. It was fun playing with him, a great experience to play with a great player, and I loved it. He's a good guy and he taught me a lot about baseball.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So you guys were turning a lot of double plays?

Garin Cecchini: Yep! The Italians: Angelini to Cecchini!

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I have to ask because it just seems so random to have two extremely talented baseball players with very distinctively Italian names coming from the same school in Louisiana within three years of each other. Is Lake Charles the Little Italy of the South?

Garin Cecchini: [laughs] No, there's actually not any Italians, there are Cajuns. Carmen and I work out together, and we laugh all the time about it. The Yankees actually are always coming to see me we were talking about that, and he was saying "dang, it would be awesome if you were drafted by the Yankees because they really do like Italians up there!" People think there are Italians over here, but there really aren't – we're like the only ones!

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What drew you to LSU and coach Mainieri?

Garin Cecchini: Of course the winning really drew me there – they're national champions, and I really wanted to go to a winning program. If I didn't go to a winning program it would have been a big change for me because our high school program at Barbe always expects to win, so going to a winning program was number one for me. The second factor was the coaching staff, and they're great. I love them all, they're great coaches and they're honest with me. They told me I'd be able to compete for a position, that they're looking to give everyone a fair opportunity, and I'm ready to compete for it. That's what I really wanted to hear, because I didn't want them to guarantee me anything, or anything like that. So the coaching staff is the best bar-none, they're national champions, and then they're in my home state so it's kind of hard for a Louisiana kid like me not to go to LSU.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How much have you thought about the draft?

Garin Cecchini: You know, this year I'm trying to worry about helping my team win and hit. I can't really worry about the draft right now, whatever happens, happens, and it's in God's hands. Worse comes to worst and I don't even get drafted, I go to LSU, so it's really a good situation. Yeah, I would love to get drafted because it's always been my dream to be a professional baseball player, but I've dreamt of playing baseball as an LSU Tiger, so I have a win-win situation, and I really thank God for that.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is the image you have in your head when you do allow yourself to dream about being a professional baseball player?

Garin Cecchini: Actually, it's very ironic that I'm doing this interview with you, because my favorite team is the New York Yankees. My bathroom is all pinstriped out, I have Yankee pictures and posters all over my room, and I love Derek Jeter, so I would have to say hitting at Yankee Stadium – hitting a HR at Yankee Stadium to win a game or something. I've always wanted to play in pinstripes, but whatever happens will happen - as I said it's in God's hands…but I would love to be playing in Yankee Stadium for all the Yankee fans around the nation.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You said earlier that the Yankees were always coming to see you – have you met Damon Oppenheimer?

Garin Cecchini: Our area scout, Andy Cannizaro actually just called my father, who is the head coach at my high school, and they said they're coming in the next few days with the brass. So whatever that means I'm not totally sure, but it's going to be more than just an area scout. They've really showed a lot of interest in me - they came over for a home visit and all that good stuff. Anything can happen, but I'd love to see myself in pinstripes.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How many teams have you heard from?

Garin Cecchini: I've heard from around 25.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How would you describe yourself as a hitter to a fan of the team that drafts you?

Garin Cecchini: I guess you could say I have power potential, but I like to characterize myself as a pure hitter. I'm gap to gap, I'll take a homerun once in a while, but I get the barrel on the ball and try to get the contact that makes the perfect sound. I try to hit it up the middle, use the gaps, and if they go over, they go over. I just love to hit and get good barrel on the ball.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is your approach at the plate?

Garin Cecchini: Aggressive, but with my pitch. So, I'm aggressive and trying to take the pitcher's head off back up the middle, but it's selectively aggressive – I'm waiting for my pitch. I'm not really trying to hurt the pitcher, but just trying to hit a line drive right up the middle. If you make a mistake and I'm late it's in the left-centerfield gap, if I'm early it's in the right-centerfield gap, and if I'm right on it it's right back at the pitcher's head. That's my approach.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Where do you hit in the lineup for Barbe?

Garin Cecchini: I hit first. Actually our coach puts the best hitter first, the second best hitter second, and so on.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You said your dad is the head coach earlier, right? That lineup construction is really interesting because people interested in analyzing it statistically have been clamoring for that type of order for years. Has it always been like that?

Garin Cecchini: It's always been the tradition and it's worked out – 5 state championships and a national championship, and that's how he's done it, so I'm like "ok, I'll hit first!" He tells me that I'm only a leadoff hitter for the first at bat, the rest of the game I'm just another hitter.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What's your personality on the field?

Garin Cecchini: I lead by example most definitely. I try to keep quiet, but if I have to say something I will, but I'm not going to be flashy and all of that. I'm just going to play the game hard and play the game the right way with no off-the-field distractions. I like to play calm but with intensity – that's my approach.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Do you pitch at all?

Garin Cecchini: No, I don't. Ever since I had rotator cuff surgery when I was 12 my mom won't let my dad let me pitch [laughs].

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Wow, how did you end up with rotator cuff surgery at 12?

Garin Cecchini: Football. I was the youngest kid to ever have rotator cuff surgery in Dr. James Andrew's history. I'm perfectly fine now, but I was a case study for him because I was the youngest kid ever. It was because of football, and that's why I eventually gave it up.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So you were obviously the quarterback?

Garin Cecchini: Yeah, but I was playing free safety on defense when it happened. Everyone else was kind of scared to hit this one guy. Coach brought me in, I hit him, and my shoulder kind of went back.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You're a SS now but some scouts project you as moving over to 3B because of your size, what do you think about that? Also, the National18U team had you listed as an OF – what can you tell me about that?

Garin Cecchini: Yeah, I played leftfield, too. My position is not for me to decide, I don't care where I play, I just want to hit. I try to take my defense very seriously, just like my hitting. I don't care where I play – third, first, left or right – it doesn't phase me, I'm going to do my best to be the best that I can be at that position.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Do you know what LSU's plans are for you?

Garin Cecchini: Yeah, they're talking about third.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What was the Under Armour game at Wrigley like for you?

Garin Cecchini: Awesome. It was great, I mean I had the best time of my life with all of those special athletes, there were some really great kids out there playing the game. Then you get to play in one of the crown jewels of baseball, and that was amazing. Ever time I took a breath I tried to feel all of the guys that had played there, from Ernie Banks all the way up to Albert Pujols when the Cardinals come in. You're like "gosh!" You just have to take a breath because of all that history, I mean you're playing on the same field as guys who are now in the Hall of Fame. I just had so much fun playing in that game.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What was it like traveling to Venezuela with Team USA's 18U team?

Garin Cecchini: It was crazy. Venezuela is a different country, but it was the experience of a lifetime. I know I won't take the United States for granted ever again, because it's one of the greatest countries, if not the greatest country I think, in the world. Once you step foot in Venezuela you see how things are totally different with their socialism. The people in Venezuela loved us, but you could tell the government didn't. They like good baseball, and we played good baseball down there, so the fans loved us.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How did you fare as a team and individually?

Garin Cecchini: We went 8-0 and won it all. I actually did really well. I played left and think I led the team in six hitting categories. I had a good tournament and was happy with it, but most of all we came back with the gold.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Did you notice any differences in the international pitchers?

Garin Cecchini: You know what, it's funny you ask that because we were discussing it the other day with my parents. It wasn't too much different, but you could tell the Cuban pitchers threw more curveballs, almost like they were throwing the curveball every single time. Sometimes you'd think, "do you even have a fastball?" The Venezuelan pitchers were the same, but they threw a lot of changeups. The mechanics were the same, but the stuff was definitely a little different.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: We spoke a little Yankees earlier, have you been a fan your whole life?

Garin Cecchini: My whole life. My whole family got me into it. My grandpa could have played for the Yankees. They had the Yankee guy come and tell him that he could pitch for them in the minor leagues, and he was going to go play, but my great-grandpa said he wanted him to go to college; to be the first kid in our family to get his degree. So he could have played for the Yankees, he's always told me that story, and he was a big Yankees fan so I became one, too.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Was this down in Louisiana?

Garin Cecchini: No, California, that's where my father is from.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who are the players that you look up to in terms of their skills or the way they play?

Garin Cecchini: Derek Jeter, without a doubt. The way he handles himself both on and off the field is very deserving of the credit a kid like me gives him. I'll praise Derek Jeter until…I mean I just love that guy. He runs out every ball, he plays the game hard, he dives in the stands, I just love the way he plays. I respect everyone in the Major Leagues, but I have greater respect for guys that play the game hard 162 games a year.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Have you ever heard any comparisons from scouts of you to other players?

Garin Cecchini: You know, they say I could play a lot of positions like Mark DeRosa, but they've never really said anything about my bat. They ask me who I compare myself to, but I say, "that's for you to decide."

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: As a left-handed hitter do you try to model your swing after anybody?

Garin Cecchini: Griffey [laughs]. I have pictures of me in his jersey when I was young trying to model his swing.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If you could steal one tool from any other HS senior in this draft class, what would you take and from whom?

Garin Cecchini: Tony Wolter's hands. I mean, I have good hands, but from a defensive perspective that kid's hands are ridiculous. On the offensive side I'd say Bryce Harper's power.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What's the biggest thing you want to focus on going into this season both as a team and individually?

Garin Cecchini: As a team, without a doubt I want to win a state championship again. As an individual, just square up balls, that's all I want to do. I don't care if I get hits, I just want to hit the ball hard, square it up, and wherever it goes, it goes. If I can do that, and be productive for my team, we'll win. If everyone can do that we'll win a state championship.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Finally, what's this whole process like for you?

Garin Cecchini: Like I said, I have a good chance to get drafted, but whatever happens this year is going to happen. Someone upstairs has a plan for me and I cannot change that plan, I just have to follow it. What I'm going to do is just have fun and not worry about anything because it's my senior year and my last time playing for my dad, so it's a great moment, but also a sad one. If I worry about anything from the college or professional standpoints it won't be as fun. So what I'll try to do is go out there, have fun with my friends and my buddies because I might not get to play with them ever again, and these are the kids I've played with my whole life. Try to have fun, respect the game, and hit the ball hard – that's all I've got to say! [laughs].

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