The Seattle Mariners had their annual FanFest celebration this past weekend, and a lot of the top talent from throughout the organization was on hand to take questions from fans and sign autographs.
One of the team's top prospects -- left-handed pitcher Danny Hultzen -- took some time to answer a few questions for SeattleClubhouse about what he's learned so far as a pro and what he is looking forward to as he prepares to head to big league Spring Training in 2012.
SeattleClubhouse: Thanks so much for taking some time to speak with me on this very busy day at FanFest, Danny.
Danny Hultzen: No problem at all.
SC: When you were drafted by Arizona Diamondbacks in the 10th round in 2008 out of high school, did you consider signing at all?
DH: I was definitely already set on going to college. It was an easy decision for me. Obviously that was an unbelievable opportunity for me to play baseball, but I knew it was the best decision for me to go to college and get an education while playing baseball and just getting the chance to grow up. I knew I wasn't really ready for the professional ranks. I couldn't even imagine doing this at age 18, so it was an easy decision but I'm definitely glad it all worked out.
SC: What where your thoughts on the level of competition in the AFL as compared to your collegiate experience?
DH: You know there are some really good players in the ACC, but I think the big league thing is the consistent quality of opponent. There were some really good players in the ACC, but down in Arizona, there were those guys up and down every lineup. Your basically facing great hitters every at bat. No easy outs, and I think that was the biggest difference.
SC: What did you learn about yourself or about professional hitters in that time?
DH: It's just a whole different level. You have to bring it every single time you're out there because there are no easy outs. It is still just baseball, and one of the things I learned early on is that you can't let yourself get intimidated. You can't say, "Oh, this guy was on ESPN" or anything. It's still baseball out there and that is something I had to learn really quick because that can get in your head if you think of that or listen to the hype on guys.
SC: I know that the club altered your stance a little bit out of the stretch down in instructs -- Rick Waits mentioned they stood you up a bit -- but have there been any other changes, mechanically or otherwise that you've made since signing with Seattle?
DH: Little tweaks here and there, but nothing major. I had unbelievable coaches at the University of Virginia and I've taken what they taught me up to the professional level, so there haven't been many reasons for any huge changes yet. I've just continued what they taught me.
SC: What has your focus been since signing with the Mariners?
DH: Keep getting better and keep getting stronger. This isn't college anymore where you pitch once a week and only play 70 games. Now it's pitching every five days and it could be 170 games, so it's a lot more physically demanding.
SC: Do you make specific goals for yourself season-to-season and, if so, what are your goals for 2012?
DH: Honestly, I'm not a big goals guy as far as numbers go. I'm the kind of guy that expects myself to give it all I've got every time I go out there. I don't say, "I'd like to throw this many innings" or anything like that, I think that will all just take care of itself. I'm just out there giving my all.
SC: Being that you are on an American League team, are you going to miss being able to get the chance to hit regularly?
DH: Absolutely. Every time I see a bat, I pick it up and take a few swings and someone will joke with me and tell me "those days are over." But I'll miss it.
SC: Last question Danny. How happy were you when you got the call for your invite to big league Spring Training?
DH: I was absolutely fired up. It is a great opportunity to be up there with those guys and I'm looking forward to it a lot.
SC: As is everyone. Thanks Danny.
DH: You're very welcome.