Drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 10th round of the 2009 draft out of the University of Hawaii, Jackson Generals' left fielder Vincent Catricala currently ranks third in all of minor league baseball in hits and doubles, fourth in total bases, fifth in batting average, sixth in extra base hits and 15th in RBI.
He took the time to talk with SeattleClubhouse's Rick Randall about his career, his breakout season and his future.
SeattleClubhouse: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today, Vinnie.
Vinnie Catricala: You bet, happy to talk to you.
SC: Going to kick things off with a draft question for you. You enjoyed a very good statistical final season at the University of Hawaii. Were you at all surprised or disappointed that you were drafted where you were (10th round), or were you given indications that was about where you would be selected?
VC: I'd say yes at the time, but looking back now it seems like talking with players, scouts and agents it was about what I should have expected. It didn't really matter though, because when I heard that my name had been called, I was still just as excited to go and play as I would have been if I had gone earlier.
SC: You certainly haven’t performed like a “mid-round” pick to this point in your career. Do you draw any motivation from that tag?
VC: Yes and no. One of my best friends growing up was Lars Anderson, now in Triple-A with the Red Sox, and he was always projected to be a top-round guy, so I was always a guy that kind of flew under the radar. Scouts were there to watch him, but me being seen by them is what enabled me to go to Hawaii.
SC: What is your primary source of day-to-day motivation as a ballplayer?
VC: The summer before my junior year I worked construction and it was pretty much the worst thing ever. Just everyday being told what to do, working hard with manual labor, ya know. That motivated me. I figured if I have a chance to play baseball for a living, it doesn't get much better than that. Family and friends motivate me, too, because I am making them proud--that pushes me.
SC: On that note, how old were you when you fell in love with playing baseball and what age were you when you thought that a career in baseball was a real possibility?
VC: Actually I'd say after my freshman year when I was honored as a Freshman All-American. That kind of opened my eyes, like, "OK, you do have the talent and the abilities to do this," and I think that's when it started to click with me. I really started to try and get every ounce of information I could from my coaches at that point. Then I was like, "OK, let's try and make this happen."
SC: Prior to college, did you play in summer leagues, attend camps, play on travel teams, etc., while growing up?
VC: See, that's the thing is, growing up, I played year round with travel teams and what not, but I didn't go to Perfect Game or anything like that. Like I said, I was kind of under the radar. I was actually on my senior trip when I got a phone call saying I was drafted out of high school (50th round by Cleveland) and I was like, "What are you talking about?!", ya know? Added it to the list of celebrations on that trip.
SC: Growing up in Sacramento where you played high school ball, and going to the University of Hawaii for three years then this season you have played in Adelanto, California and Jackson, Tennessee – do you like playing in the hot weather?
VC: (laughs) It's funny, because it is always hot in Hawaii, always sunny, but there is always a nice breeze so it isn't bad. Clinton was certainly hot and humid, and High Desert can get hot, but here (Jackson) has been especially bad. But I feel like that makes you stronger. Like if you can play here you can pretty much play in anything.
SC: Having grown up on the West Coast, have you been up to the Seattle area before?
VC: Yeah I have. The summer after my freshman year at Hawaii I played in a summer league up there--the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League--I played on the Wenatchee Apple Sox and on one of our off days I got to go to Seattle. I love that place--reminds me a lot of San Francisco. I haven't been back since, but hopefully I can be there again pretty soon.
SC: Being that you have a lot of ties in California, was the mid-season promotion to Jackson sort of bitter sweet for you in any way, despite the fact that you were moving up?
VC: Absolutely. I'm not gonna say that the fact that I was playing six hours from home wasn't nice. I went home several times on off days and I got the chance to see friends and family a lot. Being that I went to Hawaii for three years, I am used to being away from my family, but it was still a little bittersweet. Now I don't really see them at all, basically just resort to Skype. But that's the lifestyle.
SC: So do you consider yourself a left fielder now?
VC: (laughs) You know what? I just consider myself a baseball player. When Rich Poythress went down I played first. When Martinez gets a day off I play third. When I come to the park I'm prepared for whatever the challenge is that day. Like, look at the lineup card, OK, I'm in left field. Let's go to work. Get my BP in and play the game.
SC: Have you been given any indication from the Mariners what their plans for you defensively going forward are?
VC: I think they look at me as a corner outfielder. Maybe occasionally an emergency infielder if they need me. Defense was my strong point growing up in high school. It kind of got away from me in college as my game shifted to the offensive side. Not that I don't work at it--I work my tail off at it. The game just changes as you move up the levels.
SC: How would you rate yourself defensively as an outfielder?
VC: You know what, actually considering how little game time, practice time and instruction I've actually had, I'm...I'm not bad. Not trying to be cocky, but whatever I may lack in speed and experience I think make up for in arm and instincts.
SC: Speaking of speed, it seems like you've added a bit more of that to your game this year. Has anything changed in your workouts or approach to make that happen or is it just situations presenting themselves better?
VC: I think it has to do with my offseason workout change that I did two years ago. Working on like basketball and football stuff; running form, agility drills, explosion, that kind of thing. Outside of that I think it comes down to picking my spots. I know I'm not the fastest guy, and other teams may think of me as a big left fielder or first baseman, middle of the order type so they don't expect me to run, so I can sneak one in every now and then. I work out at Capital Athletic Club during the offseason. My trainer Jeff down there kicks my butt. Anyone around Sacramento that wants to get better at what they're doing, I'd strongly recommend them.
SC: After hitting .349 as a senior at Hawaii, you have hit .301 or better at every pro stop thus far while also showing good power. Would you call yourself an average hitter or a power hitter?
VC: It's funny, but I don't think I'll ever consider myself a power hitter. My preseason goals are always going to be the same. It's just a matter of me understanding my swing, understanding my approach and learning pitcher tendencies and things. I remember my first day of pro ball--first day hitting with a wood bat--and I look at how far I've come and I'm just blown away. But I still don't consider myself a power hitter. I still surprise myself sometimes. I just try and hit the ball hard and whatever happens, happens. You try and do too much and you'll get yourself out.
SC: This season has been an impressive one for you, particularly in the batter’s box. What would you say is the biggest difference in you as a hitter this year compared to years past?
VC: I'd say number one is just consistency. I think after the All-Star break in Clinton last year, it kinda clicked with me with what I needed to do to get in my perfect hitting position. I had a great run that month, and I have a little journal that I write down when I have any special note or idea. Just knowing what I need to do, and then the consistency that comes from that, from being comfortable and being able to trust it even after an O-fer.
SC: You've certainly taken a step forward in your plate discipline this season. Was that an offseason goal or something you've consciously worked on, or has it come naturally?
VC: I think it has come just with more at-bats, understanding my strengths and my weaknesses. I think it boils down to me trusting my work, trusting my swing and learning and understanding those pitcher tendencies.
SC: Who do you consider your biggest influences on your baseball career?
VC: My dad, growing up he was always my coach, so he was always one I could fall back on. Now it is kind of out of his realm of knowledge for the baseball side, but he is always there for me on the mental side, if I get an 0-4 or something. In high school I had an assistant coach--he was actually the boss I worked for on that construction job-- his name is Bill Bavay, big baseball guy back in Sacramento. We talk baseball all the time, what I'm feeling, scenarios, stuff like that--he keeps me sharp when I'm back home. My swing aspect of things I give a lot of credit to my college hitting coach Keith Komeiji. The summer going into my junior year, I decided not to play baseball but just focus on building up my strength. When I got back I didn't do so well. After that year I stayed in Hawaii and talked about my swing, talked about my approach and we just spent tons of time working on all aspects of my swing. Whenever I have struggled, I always go back to, "What would Keith say I'm doing right now?"
SC: Well Vinnie, I really appreciate the time and I appreciate the in-depth answers. You're a great interview.
VC: No problem, take care.