Jan. 22, 2008
You guys were both outstanding players at Butler University. What adjustments have you had to make as you have moved up to face minor league competition?
Jeff Brown: Baseball is a game of adjustments and adjustments are made daily in pro ball because you play everyday, whereas at Butler you had some days off between series and could make some adjustments at practice.
Also, you are representing all of the fans that come to cheer you on, and that adds more pressure to succeed. Your memory has to be even shorter than when you are playing college ball. However, it is still baseball and the game should still be fun every night.
Joe Dempsey: When it comes to the next level in general, it is about application. Knowing and recognizing a situation and then executing it is expected. Coaches are more like military officers than sport teachers. They put the pieces in play accordingly and expect the players to know and do their job, so the better you know the game and your opponent the better off you are.
What I did to help me (and I highly recommend it) was start a journal. Write down whatever you can or whatever you feel you might forget: a pitcher and his pitches, his general velocity and the way he pitched you. If a weakness is found it won't be long until everyone is exposing it. As a catcher, I kept notes on hitters and potential base stealers.
More personally, becoming a more disciplined hitter has been a slow and steady process. The pitchers are more accurate, harder throwers and have better command of their off-speed on the whole. Umpires are more consistent too and have more accurate zones. So learning to lay off those pitches that seemed good or were questionable strikes in college are more often then not to be taken at the next level.
To help me, I've really worked on taking the ball to right or at least telling myself to look to right, which has allowed me to see the ball longer and stay inside the ball too.
Catching-wise, the hardest thing I have had to adjust to is the pitching staff. At college I have good luck to work with guys months before the season get to know the spin and break of their pitches, but this last year that grace period often took place in the bullpen before a start. I had one pitcher this summer who threw a sinker, cutter and slider and nothing else, and he told me to just set up down the middle because he wasn't sure which way some of those pitches were going to go. They were all near or in the zone, but the first outing wasn't the smoothest. Even this year, as I start my first full season, I only have a few weeks to get to know the pitches and personalities of my staff.
The last thing I would say about defense is not to rush, which I think can go for any level. If you've made it to a certain level you are capable of playing at that level so go at your speed. The more reps and experience you have the smoother, quicker, and ultimately faster you'll be.
What is the biggest crowd you have played in front of?
JB: We played in front of 6,500 on opening night and our season finale. Crowds in Traverse City are great.
Fans hear about the long bus rides in the minor leagues. What is the farthest distance you have had to travel for a game?
JB: Traverse City is the farthest team north making our closest game 3 hours and many of our trips over 10 hours. The longest trip we had was 12 hours and that is without any problems.
JD: This past year for Lincoln I missed the Southern Conference excursion so my furthest trip was only about 6-8 hours. This year we start out in Pensacola, Fla., from Lincoln, Nebraska, which is roughly 20 hours.
What advice would you give to a college player who dreams of playing professionally?
JB: If you want to play at the next level you must make baseball important to you throughout college. In school you have a lot of resources from coaches and former players as well as time to work on your game, and you must work hard from day one and improve each day. Prepare physically and mentally and do more than the average player. Avoid distractions and stick to your routine.
JD: Aside from the information above, I'd say to constantly work at it. There's a lot to the game besides taking swings and groundballs. Work at as many aspects of the game as possible to make yourself the best ball player you can be. Remember that you're not only competing against the kid on your team for a spot or a player from another team in the conference, you're also competing with guys from different conferences and bigger schools all across the country, from South America, the Caribbean and from the other side of the world. So be proud of your accomplishments and your successes in your little part of the world, but don't be satisfied. Know that there are guys out there working, striving, like you, to be where you want to be.