Here is the second of two interviews with Jay minor leagues players that we were able to get through contact with agent Michael Bonanno of Oak Sports Management (www.oaksportsmanagement.com). The first interview, with Randy Schwartz is here.
Brad McElroy was born in London, Ontario and played high school ball there. He went on to Kellogg Community Colleges, hitting .407 over two years there. He transferred to the University and North Carolina Charlotte, where he was All-American and set the team batting record with a .401 average.
The Jays drafted him in the 25th round of the 2008 draft. In his couple of years in the Jays system Brad has made nice progress up the ladder and has hit well at each stop. He started this season at Lansing and hit .326/.409/.533 with 4 home runs and 8 steals before being moved up to Dunedin about 3 weeks ago.
Brad has played all 3 outfield spots and has been playing mostly CF for Dunedin. He has been hitting mostly in the second spot in the order there. He runs well, steals bases, takes walks, has good gap power.
Hugo supplied the questions. We'll put the answers in bold.
I understand you recently got married. Congratulations! Can you talk a little bit about how you and your wife deal with the reality of you being on the road for so much of the year, and the ups and downs of minor league baseball?
Married life is actually been easier then when I was just dating. I guess because it is more concrete, with the long distance, but also because my wife decided to quit her job and follow me on the road. It was a tough decision, but we decided that it would be best for us, and the money isn't important to us. We would rather be closer together.
She actually had her flight booked before I was moved to Lansing, then we had to cancel the flight and get her another one to Lansing. We lived at a host family's house, which worked out really nice, because we didn't have to pay rent and we pretty much had the whole basement to ourselves. Then about a month later I was moved again so I flew out, Lindsay drove home, which was only a three-hour drive and we got her a flight a week later. Now she lives out in Florida with me and we share a three-bedroom place with two guys from the team. It is amazing having her out here with me.
You've had some impressive success at several different levels across the minors and are currently playing at advanced A ball in Dunedin, FL. What are some of the biggest differences you've seen at different levels of minor league ball? How much different is Dunedin to Lansing?
The biggest differences found with the different levels is the mind game within the game. When I first started pro ball and was in the GCL, I found it very difficult, because the mind game was almost completely taken out of the game. College ball is all about adjusting to pitchers and sitting different pitches, The Gulf Coast league was all about just talent. I was used to see all different types of pitches in different counts, but in the Gulf Coast, they mostly just throw fastballs and have no control. It was very hard for me to not over think and just sit fastball. It took me a while to adjust. Also, now the wood bat is in your hand and the guys are throwing a lot harder.
After my first year, I knew I needed to work on my swing, so I really worked hard in the off-season and came to spring training ready. I switched my stance to a more upright position, so I could hit the fastball easier. When I came back that next year, I was ready and played well in extended. Then from extended they moved me to Dunedin, which is three higher then where I was. It took me a bit to get used to it, but Dunedin is like college ball, where it is more of a mind game. Then Lansing is pretty much the same, but you see more fastballs in fastball counts. They mix it up a little more in Dunedin.
What are your goals for yourself for 2010?
My goals are to just have fun and try not to think about the politics side of the game. That stuff can really clog up your brain. I have no idea what the Jays will do with me, all I can do is play my game and let the numbers speak for themselves. I know I can play at whatever level they put me at.
Having grown up in Ontario, how much of an effort did you have to make to pursue baseball as opposed to other sports that other athletically inclined kids might have pursued? What other careers did you consider other than baseball?
I always loved Baseball and Hockey. I actually wanted to be in the NHL more then the MLB, but I wasn't as good at hockey as I was at baseball. At the age of fifteen I was asked to try out for triple a hockey, so I did. I didn't make the team and that was when I decided to go all out for baseball. From then on, my life was baseball and I did everything I could to make myself better. I worked out five times a week by myself at the gym after school. Then my dad past away when I was seventeen and I used baseball as an escape.
I just always was competitive in anything thing I did and I always wanted to be the best. I have an older brother and I always played sports with him and his friends, so I think that helped me become better because they were three years older.
I never really thought about anything else.
UNC Charlotte, where you played your final two years of college ball, is a great school that has graduated some solid major leaguers. How did playing there help you focus and develop your career?
UNCC is an amazing program and so is Kellogg Community college. I started in Kellogg and they helped me so much. We worked so hard at the school and I loved every minute of it.
When I went to Charlotte I really learned how to hit. They taught me how to hit the ball to the opposite field. That made me a threat to both fields and made me a better hitter. I could get away with pulling everything at Kellogg, but not at Charlotte, because the pitchers threw harder and stayed outside.
Both programs were amazing and helped shape me as a person and ball player. I also learned how to win in both programs.
Who were some of your favourite players growing up? Did you make it to many Jays games?
When I was growing up I always watched Jays games on TV. I actually didn't' go to many, but watched them all the time. I used to yell at the TV. I wouldn't just watch the game though, I would go through the at-bats with the hitters, sitting on different pitches and learning from them. I always loved watching ball and the mental game is what sucked me into the sport.
I never really had favorite players, I just loved the game.
Thanks for doing this Brad. Great answers. We'll be cheering for you.