As part of Brewerfan.net's third annual FanFest, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Beloit Snappers catcher Lou Palmisano. Palmisano quickly made a name for himself last summer after he was drafted by the Brewers in the third round of the June draft, and then was named the Pioneer League MVP by leading the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, despite missing the last several weeks of the season with a broken ankle. Lou talked to me about how his ankle is feeling now, his nickname, a few game rituals that he keeps close to his heart and his polished approach at the plate.
Brewerfan.net (BF): What are you interests outside of baseball? How would you describe yourself?
Lou Palmisano (LP): As far as interests, baseball is my life. I really don't do anything else but baseball. In the offseason it's training for baseball, all my friends play baseball, my little brother plays baseball, I grew up on baseball. As far as myself, I'm fun, outgoing, always messing around, always down with the jokes.
BF: You mentioned you had a little brother, do you have any other siblings?
LP: (No), he's not really little, he's bigger than me. He plays at my community college that I went to last year (Broward Community College). He's under control by the Pirates right now.
BF: Do you have any pre-game, or game time superstitions or rituals?
LP: I always wear 131 on my wrist, it's my lucky number. No one really knows the meaning. It's part of the superstition, you keep it quiet. It's a number I've worn the past couple of years and it brings good luck. I take the same number of swings on deck, same type of swing, stretching is the same every day. Batting gloves before going into the box, gotta mess with those. It's the same thing every day, it's comfortable.
BF: How does the ankle feel?
LP: It feels great now. The cold weather is brutal, sometimes I wake up in the morning and I can't even move it. It's real stiff, you gotta get in a bath or get a shower in and get some blood going in it, but once it gets warm it's fine. There are no real drawbacks.
BF: What kind of rehab did you go through for that?
LP: I had surgery three or four days after I broke it. I had one week to go home and I was out in Arizona for about two months getting up at 7 o'clock every morning, get into the complex, doing just a bunch of strength and stretching for it. Just trying to get my range of motion back.
BF: I read that your nickname is Sweetness. Is that just for Sweet Lou?
LP: It's Sweet Lou, or Sweet, or Sweetness, everyone has something different. I originally had at in my community college from my centerfielder. He started calling me that out of nowhere one day, calling me Sweet Lou. Then I got drafted and I didn't hear it for about two weeks. Then Jeremy Frost and Justin Barnes started calling me, out of nowhere, it was just a coincidence, they started calling me that. Then I got a couple of bats and they had Sweet Lou on them. It was strange that it came back from there.
BF: We've (Brewerfan.net) been calling you Captain Lou, what do you think about that nickname?
LP: (Laughing) Yeah, it's cool, it's what I've heard and read.
BF: Have you heard that anywhere else?
LP: No I've never heard that anywhere.
BF: What's the best ballpark you've played at?
LP: My whole life? I'd say Legends Field, the Yankees complex, my senior year in high school. Definitely. Amazing ballpark.
BF: What teammates do you room with, and where do you stay?
LP: I have an apartment in Janesville with Greg Kloosterman.
BF: Is the whole team a pretty good group of guys?
LP: Yeah, the team is a real good group. There are no cliques, it's one big family.
BF: Last summer you caught several pitchers that put up impressive numbers at Helena, and now you continue to catch most of those same players here at Beloit. What can you tell us about some of these pitchers? Who has the filthiest stuff?
LP: Filthiest stuff...Luis Pena is pretty nasty. Dana Eveland, Dana has some good breaking stuff. Dan Grybash has some real good run on his fastball, he breaks a lot of bats. I would have to say those three off the top of my head.
BF: Who has the best control?
LP: (Carlos) Villanueva.
BF: Who are you the most natural with?
LP: Kloos (Greg Kloosterman).
BF: Who is the hardest to catch?
LP: I'd probably say Pena, just because his ball moves so much.
BF: Which teammate of yours would you rather not face as a hitter?
LP: I'd probably say Dan Grybash, just because as a hitter you want to have that mentality over the pitcher, you want him to fear you. He's a bulldog on the mound, he doesn't care, he has no fear at all, he goes right at you.
BF: Who's the toughest pitcher you've ever faced?
LP: (Long pause) I don't really know. No one really stands out, no one has been that ridiculous, just overwhelming.
BF: Is that something you try not to focus on?
LP: Yeah, I really don't try to think about it, I'm just trying to hit the ball. I'm really not trying to think who's throwing or what he has. I'm trying to stay focused and keep my mind right. I mean, I've faced a lot of great pitchers, but no one really stands out on the top of my head.
BF: Do you have a song that you like to have playing as you enter the batters box?
LP: It's Machinehead by Bush.
BF: Last year you led the Pioneer League in batting average, on-base percentage & slugging percentage on your way to being named league MVP. Are these statistical categories that you consciously strive to excel at, or does your approach end up being the means of your production?
LP: Yeah, I try not to get too wrapped up in stats, especially last year's. It would it be great to do something like again, but we've got great pitching in this league, and hitting in this cold weather sucks. I just try to go one for three, one hit a day, one for four, one hit and a walk, try to get on base anyway I can and go from there. If I can get my stats up, I'll do it, but I try not to focus on stats or get caught up in it.
BF: Is there any extra pressure from being a league mvp?
LP: I don't know. I guess some people expect things, I try not to think about it too much. Being the most valuable player in the league is difficult to do. I didn't expect it to happen last year, I just kind of took it as it came along. It would be awesome to do it again, but if I don't, that's ok, I'm just trying to have a productive year.
BF: What is your basic approach to hitting?
LP: Stay quiet and relaxed at the plate, just trying to recognize the pitch. Get my hands to the ball and stay through, try to hit it back up the middle.
BF: You think that way, up the middle and to the opposite field?
LP: I think up the middle and to second base. Right in there, that's my comfort zone.
BF: When you hit home runs, are you more of a pull hitter?
LP: Last year I hit six (home runs), two to left, two to center and two to right. I don't try to hit them, I take them when they come. I'd rather have four doubles in a game than four home runs. Home runs are rally killers.
BF: What are some of the things the Brewers specifically want you to work on? What are some of their organizational philosophies?
LP: I don't really know what the Brewers in general want me to work on. As far as hitting, based on my scouting report, I try to stay relaxed, don't get over-anxious, and not to wrap my hands around the back of my head when I hit. Better leads and better jumps off bases.
BF: We've heard Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin & Farm Director Reid Nichols talk about certain objectives players must reach before they are promoted to the next level. What are some of these objectives, and do you expect to get bumped up at some point this season?
LP: If I get bumped up, great, if I don't, that's fine. If I get bumped down, you take it. I just try to play wherever I can. If I stay here all year, I'll try to do my best, try to win here. Same if I go to Helena, I'll play in Helena. If I go up, I'll play wherever I am. As far as organizational things we have to do to move up, it's common sense basically: Strive for improvement, do the things you need to do to help the team and also being a professional off the field. Just trying to be the best ballplayer and person you can be.
BF: Were there any teams out there that you thought might take you in the draft, or were you fairly confident that it would be the Brewers all along?
LP: I thought it was going to be the Angels. I had a pre-draft deal with the Angels in the second (round), and we had money in both the second and in the third. Actually at like one o'clock in the morning before the draft there were rumors floating around that my arm was hurting because I had shoulder surgery my freshman year in college. That caused everyone to panic and therefore I wasn't taken in the second, it was the Brewers in the third.
BF: Did the Brewers show a lot of interest in the spring?
LP: They didn't during the season, they kept kind of quiet about it. I flew up to Milwaukee for their pre-draft workout, just for a physical to see if my arm was alright. And that was it really, the Brewers did show a little interest towards draft day, a couple of days before. But I was almost positive that the Angels were going to take me.
BF: Did you have a good relationship with Brewers area scout Larry Pardo?
LP: Larry's a great guy, awesome guy.
BF: What were some of the things he was looking for from you and in general?
LP: I don't really know what they're looking for. Well-rounded players? I don't know. Someone that can help the organization I guess. I talked to him a couple of times a week, he just wanted to see if I had a good head on my shoulders. He always told me it's a marathon, this game, this lifestyle, don't worry about what happens today. Just take it and go with it.
BF: Why didn't you sign with the White Sox after being drafted in the 21st round out of high school?
LP: I think I was third catcher they had drafted that year. I was out of high school, I was young, I needed to mature more, I wasn't really comfortable with a wood bat yet. I had a chance to go to UM (University of Miami) out of high school, and I also had my community college. The biggest things were the maturity issues, I needed to grow up more, to get ready for a life of baseball. I'm still learning, but I've learned a lot since high school.
BF: Who has been the most influential person on your life both as a person and as a ballplayer?
LP: As a ballplayer, my dad. He was the one dragging us out to the park, me along with my brother, throwing us grounders and BP (batting practice). Hundreds of balls, whenever we wanted it.
BF: What do you think your greatest strengths are as a hitter?
LP: I'd probably say getting a pitch I want to hit. Working the count. Trying to get the pitcher to throw me something I want.
BF: Biggest weakness?
LP: Getting too anxious, getting too pumped up, and not recognizing my pitch. Swinging at pitches that they throw me and not the one that I want to hit.
BF: Same for defense, what's your greatest strength?
LP: I'd have to go with blocking (balls in the dirt).
LP: I don't know. Sometimes maybe rushing the throw, not getting my footwork down.
BF: Your head coach at Broward Community College, Robert Deutschman, told me that your father is a big Green Bay Packers fan. Are you a Packers fan as well, and were you and/or your family happy to learn that you were drafted by Wisconsin's baseball team?
LP: I'm not really a Packers fan, I like the Packers, but I don't really have a favorite football team. My dad is a Packers fan, since high school I guess, for as long as I can remember. Loves the Packers. He'll put the Packers on the TV and he won't move, sits on the couch all day. He did say something, I guess he did bring it up when the Brewers drafted me. I'd love to get him to a Packer game, he's never been to one I don't think, he's gotta get up to Lambeau.
BF: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today, I appreciate it. Best of luck today.
LP: Thank you.
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