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Feature
 
 
Brewerfan.net sits down with Rickie Weeks & Tony Gwynn Jr.

Ebert
on 10/23/2003

 

It was quite an honor for me to sit down with these 2 incredibly talented young men, the Brewers' first 2 picks in this past June's draft. Meeting Tony was quite the honor just given the fact that his father was always my favorite non-Brewer baseball player during his career. This was the second time I had the chance to speak with Rickie after meeting him at Miller Park the day he signed. Both were extremely nice & grounded young men that have a very bright future ahead of them. Tony & Rickie discussed their approach at the plate, how they get along, and just how special it is to play with one another & with a young man named Prince.

Brewerfan.net (BF): Are you aware of Brewerfan.net?

Tony Gwynn Jr. (TG): I've heard about it. Some of the guys on the team follow it, but I haven't really had a chance to look at it yet.

BF: Do you go online much?:

TG: I haven't had a chance since I've been out here. I go online every once and a while but it's usually not to look at baseball. Just to see how my friends & family are doing.

BF: How about you (Rickie)?

Rickie Weeks (RW): Yeah, yeah, I have. Before the draft people kept calling to tell me to look at this or look at that. To tell you the truth I haven't had the chance to look at it. Like Tony said, I go online to check up on friends & family, check my email, stuff like that.

BF: So much has been made about your (Tony's) father & your (Rickie's) exploits at Southern. Tell us about yourselves outside of baseball.

TG: I really don't do much. Listen to music, hang out with my girlfriend. Other than that I really don't do much. I'm a homebody. I don't like to go out too much, I kind of like to stay at home & just relax. Especially after being gone though this long season, something I've never been through, I'm really going to look forward to getting home & relaxing a little bit.

BF: How much time do you take in the offseason before you start working out again?

TG: It's different, when I was in college because you have to go summer ball, and it lasts all summer, and you get the whole first semester off pretty much. But this year I'll probably only take about 2 or 3 weeks off before I get back into it because there are a couple of things, a lot of things, I want to accomplish this offseason.

RW: I'm pretty much the same as Tony. I'm a pretty laid back person, quiet I guess. I like to stay back at home, a homebody like Tony said, but also I like to spend time with family & friends. There's not a lot of time to spend time with your family. So that's what I try to do most of the time.

BF: Where are you guys from?

RW: I'm from Altamonte Springs, Florida.

TG: San Diego.

BF: How big of an adjustment was it to go from college ball to pro ball?

TG: Big adjustment. Obviously playing every day, the wood bat, that's just something I'm not used to. In college you practice every day & go into the games on the weekends. There's nothing like playing 9 innings of baseball every single day. That's probably been the biggest adjustment.

RW: The biggest difference for me was using the wood bat every day. Coming from college we used the aluminum bat which boosts your stats I guess a little bit. But other than that coming to professional ball day in & day out you have to grind a little harder, using the wood bat it takes a little bit out of you. You gotta to learn to deal with that and try for the best.

BF: What is the key to being successful making the change from hitting with wood bats vs. aluminum and do you think the difference between the wood & aluminum bats are great enough to try & influence college baseball to switch to the wood bats so that young players are able to adjust to the pro's better?

RW: I don't know about that,but I think the biggest key is trying to keep the same swing. If you dive out & try to take a swing with too many tweaks you really won't do as well with the wooden bat as you would with aluminum.

TG: I agree. I think that it would be great for them to change college baseball to change it to wood, but financially it just wouldn't work out. A lot of schools don't have the funds to keep bringing in wood bats because they break. The thing about aluminum is that they're more durable and they last longer. If they could find some way to do it I think it would be perfect because I think the adjustment would be a lot easier to make obviously coming from college to professional ball. Of course the pitching is going to be a lot better, but it's another thing if you get to swing with wood for a whole college season.

BF: Is it basically that your batting mechanics have no room for error with a wood bat?

TG: Exactly. With the wood bat your mechanics have to be so much more intact than it does with aluminum. With aluminum you can cheat & your mechanics may not be as good and you can get away with it. With wood the sweet spot is more important and like you said there is so much less room for error that your mechanics have to be really sound.

BF: Since you're both from college what did you study, and do you seriously consider your path of study a legitimate career down the road with or without a career in professional baseball?

RW: Well with me it was business management. I have 2 or 3 semesters left in school, but hopefully down the road sometime I can get back into that, sports management, business on the side of sports. But hopefully the baseball thing works out, so I'm going to stick with that for right now.

TG: My degree is in criminal justice. I'm considering going back to try to go to law school sometime soon, but like Rickie said baseball's my main focus, I want to focus on that right now. But certainly if baseball doesn't work out that is my option, go back to school. I'm going to finish my degree here in the next couple of years to get my bachelor's. But after that I'll try to play baseball and if that doesn't work out maybe go to law school.

BF: And do the Brewers help out with tuition, is that part of your contract?

TG & RW: Yes.

BF: How does the pitching here compare to the pitching you faced in college?

TG: It's not even close. The pitching is so much better in the Midwest League than it was in my league especially. There's a couple of guys pitching in the Midwest League who were in my league or on my team and even they are much better than they were in the Mountain West Conference. So, it's a whole new ballgame. Maybe it's not like this in all of professional baseball, but the pitchers aren't really throwing anymore, they're pitching. The pitchers know how to hit their spots & know when to throw certain pitches in certain counts, and it makes a big difference because now you can't just sit fastball a whole at-bat and know you're going to get one. Now you gotta make adjustments to what the pitcher's doing.

RW: Like Tony was saying, now the pitchers throw a little harder, they hit their spots a little better and they're better pitchers. The main thing from college to professional ball is that the pitchers are a whole lot better so you have to concentrate more & pick your spots trying to figure out where they're going to pitch you.

BF: You both have joined the mighty Prince Fielder in the Snappers lineup, and now the 3 of your are the big draw to this team. Does it feel like you're part of something special, do you guys feed off of one another & does it feel cool to be a part of it?

TG: It's definitely cool to be a part of it. I definitely try to feed off both of them. Especially with Prince, you know he's so young. For somebody to understand the art of hitting & strike zone as well as he does at that age and to be that big & to do what he does, the power (plus) average, whatever you want to call it it's fun to watch. I got here right when the second half began. I've learned from him more than anything just watching the way he approaches pitching out here. I tend to ask him more questions more than he would tend to ask me questions, you know being that I'm older than him. It's so amazing as far as us three guys (in the same lineup), they're both very talented players so I would be stupid not to try and feed off of them.

RW: Of course, Tony & Prince, they're great players. Like Tony said I try to feed off them too because you got Prince, who is a phenomenal hitter, a power hitter, a first baseman who can really swing the bat. You got Tony, who is a very good defensive centerfielder who can also swing the bat for average and also gives you some speed. A lot of times I take things from both of them & hopefully those are things that will help carry you for the rest of your career.

BF: Do you guys all get along?

RW: Oh yeah, yeah.

TG: Yeah.

BF: Does your dad (Tony) come out & hang out with Prince's dad to talk & watch baseball?

TG: I haven't seen Mr. Fielder since I've been out here. My dad came down right before I started playing because he was in Chicago to do the All-Star Game. I'm trying to get him out here for a couple of these playoff games but I don't know if it's going to happen, I'm kind of reaching right now.

BF: He's a busy guy too.

TG: Yeah.

BF: How about your (Rickie's) parents, have they made it out yet?

RW: Yes my parents and my girlfriend they came out to Miller Park that day (the day he signed) and for one of those games they came out to Beloit to see that. Hopefully I'm going to try to get them in to see another game in the playoffs.

BF: Speaking of your father (Tony) you probably hear these questions all the time, do you feel any pressure given the connection & do you do anything to make you into your own ballplayer?

TG: I try. I certainly try to make myself my own player. I really didn't feel any pressure, and to be able to do that you have to stay out of the papers, you have to stay off the computer and all that kind of stuff. I picked up a paper today and there were some ratings in there on all three of us and of course I had the lowest rating out of all of them. Stuff like that is kind of discouraging, that's one of the reasons why I really don't read too much into papers, the internet & stuff like that because people are going to voice their opinions and they're going to say what they believe, and I may not feel that way about it. So instead of getting upset about it I just choose not to go into it.

BF: We've heard that your father (Tony) wants to have all three of you out to San Diego this offseason to work out together. Is that something you plan to pursue?

RW: Oh yeah.

TG: I think we discussed me, Prince & Rickie and a couple of other guys from other organizations would get together with my dad before heading out to spring training. I think that's a done deal, I think that's going to happen.

BF: Are you going to work out with the Aztecs?

TG: I don't know if we'll work out with the Aztecs, I think it's more so that we'll work together a month before spring training & he'll work with all three of us.

BF: What are your individual strengths as ballplayers?

TG: I would say my strengths are strong defense and getting on base. I'm not going to hit too many home runs. When I'm swinging the bat like I'm supposed to be swinging the bat I'll hit a lot of doubles. I won't hit too many balls off the scoreboard, I have more of a line drive swing, so I don't try to hit the ball far too much, if it happens it happens, but normally I just try to go up there & just try to put the bat on the ball and play a good defensive centerfield.

RW: My whole thing is, average, home runs, stuff like that, if that comes it comes. My whole main idea is to try & get on base. When you get on base you make things happen, steal a base, passed balls, just stuff here & there, you'll score runs. The main thing is to get on base, the average is going to come the power is going to come, eventually, hopefully, the doubles and stuff like that, all that's going to come. But if you keep getting on base, working the count, getting walks, you're going to make things happen. I think I'm doing that pretty well right now.

BF: Is that how both of you approach the plate, wait for your pitch, and if you don't get it take the free pass knowing that the extra-base hits will come?

TG: I personally let the pitches dictate the action. The more I sit up there & try to do what I want to do the more I'm going to get out. I don't know what he's going to do, so I let him dictate the action, and I go after what he's doing. If he's throwing me breaking balls, then I have to hit a breaking ball, if he's throwing me fastballs in, then I have to hit the fastball in.

RW: Just like every hitter you have to look within your zone, whether it's fastball, curveball, slider, change, whatever it is if it's in that zone, if it crosses the plate for a strike you gotta hit it. The pitcher can go up there & throw you three straight curveballs but you've got to hit it. You gotta go up there and find a pitch, like Tony said, whatever he's throwing up there for strikes you've got to go up there & prove you can hit it.

BF: Who is the toughest pitcher you have ever faced, at any level?

TG: The toughest pitcher here...I really don't know these guys names. The toughest pitcher (outside of the Midwest League) I've faced is Tim Stauffer, he was the number four pick this year by the Padres. He's by far the toughest pitcher I've faced because of his velocity & his ability to locate. He's right-handed and he's got that 2-seamer just like Greg Maddux (he throws) that pitch on a left-handers hip & then run it back. For me, I have never seen anything like that, except on TV. He's probably the best pitcher I've faced overall. I'd tell you some of the best pitchers I've faced here but I haven't learned all of their names yet.

BF: Is there one with a certain team? Do you have a bigger problem with lefties being a lefty hitter?

TG: Lefties I always have an issue with for me, being that I'm left-handed. I'm working on that. I would say the best overall pitcher is a guy on this team (the Timberrattlers), I think his name is Fulmer.

RW: Fulmer?

TG: Yeah. He's the guy pitching tomorrow. He comes out, he's kind of like Stauffer, except he's a little taller, and he throws at the same velocity, he has a changeup and he knows how to locate it really well. I think he's probably the best pitcher I've faced here. A lot of the pitchers here are just throwing, he knows how to pitch. That makes you have to work that much harder to get on base.

RW: I've been here 20 games maybe, and I really don't know the names. Overall last year with Team USA there was this pitcher from Japan. He was a little left-hander, about 5-7, 5-8 maybe, throwing 94 with a slider, changeup, split...I don't know what you called it. He was throwing everything up there he was just hitting his spots & we just couldn't touch him.

BF: Now you both have mentioned the toughest pitchers you have faced was during your stints over the summer in the Cape Cod League & with Team USA respectively. Is that the toughest competition you have ever faced.

RW & TG: By far.

BF: Is that competition pretty close to what you face here in the Midwest League?

RW: Yeah.

TG: That's the best competition I ever had. The idea of the USA teams that you have the best players in the United States and they're going across the country to see other people play and get to play against other people. As far as me being on the Cape, that's the best competition I've ever faced.

BF: How does that level of baseball compare to professional baseball?

TG: I would say it's probably close to low A or rookie ball. You're going to get the pitching, and everybody's good that goes to the Cape. You look at some of the best guys and number one picks have struggle up there.

BF: Who were some of your idols growing up in sports & life in general?

TG: My dad is my idol. Can't ask for much more when you're looking for somebody to look up to. He never got in any trouble. He always was a team guy, and he always went out there & did what he had to do.

RW: For me growing up my favorite player hands down was Rickey Henderson. For all of the things he brought to the table, he could run, hit for power, steal, score runs, walk, he did what he did to get on base & help the team which makes him a team player. That's what I liked about him the most.

BF: Who do you attribute your success to?

TG: My parents. Growing up my dad wasn't around too much, he was always gone and I couldn't travel with him when I was that young. So my mom was my backbone, she was with me all the time. And as I got to the age where I could be around the field a lot more I got to know my dad a lot better. But my mom was almost a single parent while my dad was always playing baseball, raising two kids. My dad just to keep food on the table for his family, provide for his family and doing it the rate he was doing it at was another blessing. So my parents were the people I always looked up to.

RW: For me it's my parents and my faith in God, because without him, to tell you the truth, I don't know where I would be. My parents always took me to church & kept instilling onto me that if I do good things I can't go wrong. I've never had anyone so influential on my life. I could talk to them about anything, go to them and just talk about life instead of just baseball all of the time. I always had people come up to me & talk baseball this & baseball that, but it's always good to have people you can go to talk about life in general.

BF: How important is it for your development to enjoy success in the minor leagues & to play & continue to play with your teammates as you progress up the organizational chain?

TG: Not every team is fortunate enough to have a winning as part of their organization, but it definitely helps. You get to be here, you get to feel the playoff format, (etc.) so I think it's a big help.

RW: Winning definitely goes a long way. To win though you got to go ahead & do what you got to do on the field first. That means defense, hitting the ball, bunting the ball, just trying to do the little things. And when you do that as a team as well as individually you're going to go a long way.

TG: I think it's definitely easier to develop kids when you're team is winning. They want to get better. When you're losing it's like you're going through the motions sometimes. Fortunately I've been blessed to come to this team and we've been winning so it hasn't been an issue. Especially since I'm coming from a team that really didn't win much.

BF: Do you two, and Prince included and any of your other teammates, talk about moving up together to either High Desert or Huntsville? Is that something you hope & strive for?

RW: We talk about it. We would like to, of course, me, him & Prince. Move together through the ranks and hopefully have a long career in Milwaukee.

TG: That would be another blessing, that would be great, but there's not guarantee that's going to happen. If it does, like I said, that's great. But if it doesn't we still have prove ourselves as individuals. I'm sure it would be a lot easier on all three of us if we did move up together. If we don't, we still have to work hard & do what we have to do to get to Milwaukee as soon as possible and everything else will take care of itself.

BF: Do you have goals as to when you would like to arrive in Milwaukee?

TG: You do, but you don't like to discuss them. You always have it in the back of your mind, but you don't really want to discuss it.

BF: (For Weeks) As soon as you walked onto the field at Southern you enjoyed a tremendous amount of success, hitting for an extremely high average, hitting for power, stealing bases & scoring runs. How did your talents & skills go unnoticed to the point that not only did you go undrafted out of high school, but only two small schools offered you the chance to play baseball for them?

RW: I wasn't big enough I guess. Coming out of high school I went into college ball just trying to get a little bigger & stronger, work on your defense, stuff like that & hopefully get better from there.

BF: (For Tony) Was there any a doubt in your mind that you wanted to go to college, or how close were you to signing with the Braves out of high school?

TG: You know it was a weird situation. When I was drafted obviously I played centerfield and obviously they had a dude named Andruw Jones in centerfield. So when they started talking to me they told me that they wanted to try and take me three through five (rounds in the draft). There it's hard to turn down that kind of money. At that point I was ready to go. I knew I wasn't ready, mentally. But $400,000 is a lot of money, so at that time I wanted to join. But, it didn't work out, they ended up taking me in the 33rd round and at that point it wasn't really the money, it was the just the principle of being drafted that high for me, because my family was pretty good financially. So that wasn't a really concern for me. So after I got drafted in the 33rd round I was ready to go to school. My dad kind of put a bug in my ear that maybe when he got done playing baseball that he might want to retire (& go into coaching). That was the main reason for me to change my mind from going to Cal State Fullerton to San Diego State.

BF: Because you knew your dad might end up being the coach?

TG: Because there was a chance.

BF: (For Weeks) It was widely known that you were one of the top talents available for last June's draft. Did you ever have a good idea that you would end up with the Brewers, or did you think the Devil Rays or possibly even someone else would end up selecting you?

RW: To tell you the truth, I had no clue. It was probably up past 12 o'clock at night (the night before). I was wide awake up until three or four in the morning on pure adrenaline. I was talking with family, I had some family down. But to tell you the truth, I really didn't know at all. So when I first got the news, at 12:01 that afternoon, I was very glad, to tell you the truth, I really was, that the Brewers made me their pick.

TG: After I got past the first round it was like one of those things where I just knew in my heart it would be the Brewers just because the scout Bruce Seid. Me & him got along really well. Even out of high school he was one of the good guys around me. I was ready. After I got past the sandwich picks for some reason I just knew it was going to be the Brewers, and if it wasn't them I kind of had a feeling it was going to be the Padres. I was really set on the Brewers at that point. And when it happened it really didn't hit me until hours later from that I actually got drafted.

BF: And which scout or scouts were responsible for scouting & signing you (Weeks)?

RW: Tom Montgomery. He's based out of Houston but he has Texas & Louisiana as his area.

BF: Do you get to know these guys pretty well? Do they come into your homes & talk to your family?

TG: Bruce came into my house a couple of times & gave me the little tests & stuff, but other than that I talked to him pretty much every time I saw him, he came to my house after I got drafted. I haven't had the chance to call him yet, but I'm sure he knows a little bit about us (in Beloit). But yeah, he was a really good guy.

RW: Oh yeah. I think Tom just got assigned to that area in the beginning of the spring semester of the baseball year for college. I got to know him real soon actually, he was always around, on the field at pretty much every game for Southern. We get along really well to this day and hopefully we'll continue that.

BF: Alright, we've already talked about your strengths, what do you think your weaknesses are?

TG: Consistency for me. When I first got here I was locked. There wasn't a pitch I couldn't hit at that point. As of late I've settled down, you start to lose focus, the consistency just hasn't been there for me like I need it to be. These last couple of weeks have been better, but I think consistency at the plate is my main thing. I think I have more walks than I have strikeouts, but I want to cut down my strikeouts, I want to be a 2 to 1 guy, at least. So I think those are the two things I'm really going to try to work on this offseason, be consistent & learn my strike zone a little bit better.

RW: Like in college it would have to be my defense I guess. My footwork has been there by my arm has been a little erratic. My main goal right now is trying to get that to where it needs to be on a consistent basis.

BF: With that consistency is that similar to what we were talking about batting before, is it all about repetitions in an attempt to fine tune your mechanics?

RW: Yeah, exactly. It's all about mechanics.

BF: Any suggestions for your ballplayers out there with aspirations to get to where you're at today?

RW: Do what you want to do, don't let anybody tell you what to do. That's the way I feel.

TG: I think pretty much the same thing. Go out there & work hard. If you work hard nobody's going to ever say anything to you anyway. Just go out there and take care of your business and not try to do too much, stay within yourself. You'll be alright.

BF: What kind of players do you want to be, how do you want to be remembered?

RW: There's not much to remember right now, but the main thing is to go out there & work hard. You're a real hard worker & you do what you got to do to win ballgames and that's pretty much it.

TG: What kind of player do I want to be? I guess I want to be another Tony Gwynn to a certain extent. I want to do everything well, I want to be a player that does every facet of the game well. Whether that's running, hitting, hitting and running, getting runners over, making the routine play, making the great play, I want to do all of those things. That's my goal, to be an all-around good player.

BF: Well, that's all I have for you, I want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me, best wishes in the playoffs, and we hope to see you in Milwaukee soon.

RW: Thank you very much.

TG: Hopefully, I'm looking forward to it.

A big thanks again to both Tony Gwynn Jr. & Rickie Weeks for taking the time out of their busy schedules to sit down and talk with me. The Snappers did go on to win that day's ballgame, game 1 in the Midwest League playoffs vs. the Wisconsin Timberrattlers, beating a very tough LHP named Bobby Livingston. The next day they also went on to win, beating the very pitcher Tony Gwynn Jr. brought up, T.A. Fulmer, and knocked the T-Rats out of the playoffs 2 games to none. The Snappers' season didn't end until they lost to the Lansing Lugnuts in the Midwest League championship series. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me at pebert@brewerfan.net.

 




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