I want to thank everyone for sending in questions over the last few days. I wish I could have answered every question but I had to pick the first 5 or 6 and answer those. Thanks again!
Matt, growing up you had to have favorite players like Frank Thomas, Griffey Jr, Ichiro, Trevor Hoffman, guys like that. What is it like facing these guys now and being on he same field with them? Do you get a little star struck?
Growing up I was definitely a huge baseball fan, especially of the Boston Red Sox. My two favorite players were Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez. My Major League debut just happened to be against both Nomar and Manny in 2008 when we played the Los Angeles Dodgers. In Nomar's first at-bat he hit a fly ball to shallow right field that I ran back and caught to end the inning. Whenever I make the last out of an inning I always try to find a young kid in the crowd to toss the ball to. For some reason as I was running to the dugout I quickly thought to myself, "I just caught a ball hit by Nomar, I'm keeping this one for myself." About half way to the dugout I remembered that I wasn't a fan today, I was PLAYING in the game. I ended up flipping the ball into the crowd. That was kind of the first time I noticed myself being a fan while playing in a game.
The more you play against the guys that you grew up watching the more you get comfortable in that situation. I remember my first Major League Spring Training game in 2006 right after I got drafted. We were playing the Chicago Cubs and I was playing against guys like Alfonso Soriano, Derek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and all their other great players. I'm not going to lie, when I got onto the field it felt really strange to be playing in a game against these guys. Now in my fourth Spring Training I look at those type of players as my competition and not guys that I watched on TV in high school. It's definitely still cool to play against them though.
How do ya'll occupy yourselves Pre-game in the clubhouse?
Everyone has their own thing that they are known for doing after BP and until the game starts. Usually there is always a group of guys that are playing cards, either Spades or a game called Casino. We have a few guys that like to play Connect Four everyday in the clubhouse. There are also a few guys that like to watch TV. Some guys will make any phone calls that they weren't able to make during the day. Other guys will go on their computers to pass the time or listen to music. There is also a lot of eating going on before the game.
I will usually do the same thing every day after batting practice. We get about an hour and a half before the game starts, so when I get into the clubhouse the first thing I do is sit down for a little while and relax in front of the TV. We will usually have ESPN on a baseball or basketball game. I'll grab some food, usually a bowl of fruit or maybe some cereal to eat while I'm watching. About 45 minutes before the game starts I'll take a quick shower and then start to get dressed for the game. I'll head out to the field about 30 minutes before the first pitch to stretch out again and loosen my arm up before game time.
Who is the best coach that has had an influence on your career so far?
Man, this is a really tough question. I've literally had over 100 coaches in my life, so trying to decide who has had the biggest influence on my career is really tough. I have really tried to take something from every single coach I've had and use that to help make me a better player. Each coach will usually specialize in something, whether it be base running, fielding, hitting, or the mental side of the game. If I can take a little piece of knowledge from everyone I will learn an awful lot.
I guess if I had to pick one coach I would probably say that my dad has had the biggest impact on me as far as a coach. He coached me in little league from the time I was 8 and really got me into the game of baseball. We still work on a lot of stuff together during the off-season and he probably knows my swing better than anyone.
Where does this year rank in your excitement for the season to start?
I am really excited to get this season started. Right now is the most confident I have been as a baseball player in maybe my entire career. After going through a few tough years I want to get back to playing great baseball and making everyone forget about the last two seasons.
Who is your favorite NHL team and who are your favorite players?
My favorite NHL team is the Boston Bruins. I used to be a really big fan of the Bruins back when Ray Bourque and Cam Neely were on the team. Since I have gotten older and have traveled all over the country I have not been able to follow as many games as I would like. Right now my favorite player in the league is Alex Ovechkin. I really love the way he plays the game with such passion and energy. Not only is he the most talented goal scorer in the game, but he will run you over if you get in his way.
What are your options if you don't make the opening day 25 man roster? I imagine you could be optioned to Triple-A Portland, but how many times?
When you get sent down from Major League Spring Training the front office decides what level you will be sent to. The last two years I have been invited to Spring Training I have been sent down to Triple-A. It gets a little bit confusing when you are on the 40 man roster because then "options" get involved. I wish I could explain all that to you, but honestly it even confuses me a little bit.