Brewerfan.net was able to track down Brewer third base prospect Adam Heether recently, and Adam politely agreed to answer several questions for us. This is the latest of many in our series of "Brewerfan.net
sits down with..." Q&A sessions, and while I enjoyed my cross-country phone visits with Adam, I will admit to not sitting down directly across from Mr. Heether for this conversation, although I was seated while typing the final draft you see here, so technically we can run with the article title...
Adam was drafted by the Brewers in the 11th round in 2003, and is coming off a breakout campaign at high-A Brevard County in the notoriously pitcher-friendly Florida State League, where he was 7th in the league in batting average (.305), 2nd in on-base percentage (.386), and 17th in slugging percentage (.450). He was 11th in the league in OPS at .836, and earned a two-week stay in AA Huntsville to end 2005, during which he hit .314 while continuing to exhibit increasingly stellar defensive skills. Adam celebrates his birthday this week (January 14th), turning 24, and has now cracked the top 20 in Toby Harrmann's Brewerfan Power 50 prospect rankings. We're happy to bring you our conversation with a Brewer farmhand that deserves your attention for 2006 and beyond:
Brewerfan (our questions are in bold): Adam, the Colorado Rockies selected you in consecutive years (31st round in 2000 when you were 18 years old and again in 2001, 28th round). Were you a draft-and-follow candidate each time, or were you offered a contract to sign, perhaps after draft day 2001? Was the lure of a college career at Long Beach State, a solid program that consistently pumps out pro prospects, too much to pass up? C'mon, admit that you just had to be a "Dirtbag" (the Long Beach team name). What it was like to play on the same team as fellow pros Jeremy Reed, Jered Weaver, Abe Alvarez, Neil Jamison, Cesar Ramos and Troy Tulowitzki?
Out of high school I was a no doubt draft-and-follow. I am from a small town and school in California and the Rockies wanted to give me a year to develop. Now that I look back I never experienced any kind of failure in high school, hitting in the high .500's my junior and senior year. I am glad I went to Modesto Junior college. I didn't sign the following year and was re-drafted by Colorado. Midway through the year after signing with Long Beach, I was convinced that I wanted to play for Long Beach and transferred. I wanted the experience and wanted to play against better competition. Throughout my Long Beach stay I had a great experience and made many different friends. All those guys were down to do anything it takes to win those games. It was something I never experienced until I got to that level. They all loved the game. We wanted to win. Again I made many friends and most of them are still playing today. Jered Weaver was actually in my wedding. In attendance was Abe Alvarez (Boston), and Tim Hutting and John Bowker (both San Francisco).
Upon signing with Milwaukee in 2003 and after three quick "get acquainted" games with the Arizona Brewers, you jumped past Rookie League Helena and went directly to Beloit as a 21-year-old. Can you talk a bit about the transition to pro ball and wood bats during your two-year stay in Beloit? Didn't you play a bit of second base during your Beloit tenure as well?
I remember the '03 season as an exciting year. After a full season at LBSU including the super regionals at Stanford, and then a summer of pro ball, your body goes through a state of fatigue that I really never experienced before. At junior college we consistently used wood bats, but I hardly touched one at Long Beach. The wood was a difference, but the main thing was playing on an everyday basis. In 2004 I was more focused and determined to show I have a little bit of power. I felt good about my pop, but I knew I had to change some things to be a complete hitter. And yes I did play a few games at 2nd base. At Modesto JC I was a shortstop -- I transferred to Long Beach to play all positions. I had multiple starts at center field and left as well.
Something obviously "clicked" during your Brevard County season last summer, Adam. The media reports out of the Florida State League are infrequent compared to those for the other Brewer affiliates, so we know little beyond the numbers we saw - a .305 average, .386 OBP, .450 SLG (.836 OPS, among the FSL leaders) - fantastic numbers in a pitcher-friendly league with spacious stadiums and heavy air. You also struck out only 48 times in 338 at-bats. Is there anything in particular you attribute your sweet offensive season to - increased confidence and maturity, or something more technical in terms of batting philosophy and mechanics?
My focus going into the 2005 season was to be a better hitter by the end of the year. I wanted to prove that I can hit the ball the other way. It was a combination of more of a mature approach to every single at-bat and a lot of hard work. At times the FSL got frustrating, as I never knew how much the humidity could kill the ball flight of well-struck balls. This again helped me to maintain my approach of using the whole field.
Local Wisconsin Brewer fans who saw you play third base in Beloit raved about your defense. What role did former big-league All-Star third baseman and then-Beloit Manager Don Money play in that regard? Is it difficult to maintain top defensive consistency all season long?
I have a good time on defense. I feel like its my time to take a hit away. When I first signed Don Money and I had to change some things mechanically. I learned a lot from him and the way he goes about his business. There is always room to improve in this game.
You were involved in a home plate collision that broke your nose last April, yet you came back (with a mask) and jumped back into things after only two days - the opposing catcher missed a month. Could you re-live the play at the plate for us (unfortunately you were out), and talk a bit about coming back so soon?
From what I recall... The pitcher had a no-hitter going into the 7th inning and I was leading off. I went up there set on anything over the plate to drive. I jumped on a fastball and hit a line drive (into the wind) off the top of the left field wall, breaking up his no-hitter with a stand up double. Sweet Lou (Palmisano) was at the plate. I had it in my mind that if I get a chance there WILL be a collision. Lou follows it up by hitting a rocket up the middle and JT (then-Manatees Manager John Tamargo) waves me around. From that point on all I know was I didn't let up for a second. I hit the catcher exactly how I planned, but the problem was that my helmet was a bit loose. Right when I was about to lay into him the helmet slid down and the forehead of the helmet smashed my nose. I knew it was broke instantly. I felt around for the plate and then walked right over to the clubhouse. Instant swelling, blood, and a bit of pain.
Then on May 10th, you suffered a broken left hand when hit by a pitch. This time, the injury forced you to the disabled list until June 3rd. Yet you again continued to produce upon your return - easier said than done?
Actually this was a difficult situation to overcome. It was an injury that limited me to swinging hardly at all for the entire month. Than I returned to the games without seeing any live pitching (we could never get onto the field early because of the beautiful thunderstorms that hit the FSL daily). I would say I just tried to compete and battle for a few weeks until my strength returned. It was a great learning experience that I never want to go through again.
This was the Brewers' first season in the Florida State League, and your home base was the lovely Melbourne area. Was there enough time in the day to enjoy the off-the-field opportunities living in Florida provides? What were training and playing conditions like in the Florida heat and humidity?
The field was HUGE, but great. The facilities were absolutely remarkable. The field was in great shape. The clubhouse was gigantic. It was a little bit different than my previous year in Beloit. Going through the FSL I never expected how humid a place could be, along with raining every single day during BP. Another good thing about it was the travel. We didn't experience any bus ride too long. Nothing that was more than a movie...two at the most.
We should also note that you were a newlywed this past year, having married your wife Jennifer after the 2004 season. Obviously one of the keys to your big 2005 campaign, right?
I feel that Jennifer just adds to the consistency of performing on an everyday basis. She is great about making sure I'm getting solid meals pre-game and post-game. A person that makes my life easier. She is a blessing.
Adam, you were given a well-earned promotion to AA Huntsville for the last couple of weeks of their season, and you seemed to jump-start that club out of some lethargy at that time, as the Stars played pretty well during that final stretch. It was a pretty tough season overall for the Huntsville guys - what was your first taste of AA ball like?
I was excited about the promotion and wanted a taste of the Southern League. My goal was to finish strong and do whatever I could do to help the team win. It's another level and I love the competition. I have always been a player that likes a challenge and I feel it only makes me better.
Here are some quotes from your 2005 Manatees manager, John Tamargo. "He plays the game hard and he's a very knowledgeable player, plus he's got good talent. I expect him to play in the big leagues one day and be an impact player." Hearing things like that must be nice - does it feel like there's a light at the end of this big-league dream tunnel, that with continued hard work, that goal really will be met? Speaking of hard work, we understand you have quite the off-season workout routine. Can you talk a bit about the Brewers' off-season program they've planned for you, in addition to any additional routines you maintain?
I respect John Tamargo as a person and a manager. I had no problem suiting up and giving it my all to win for him. The man is all about winning and he was behind us as players 100%. It was nice to hear some of the things he said about me. It's great to have someone see me and my game the same way as I see myself. As I grow I am understanding what I am capable of and know I just need to do what I do. Go out there and enjoy myself everyday. I feel that my off-season workout routine can match up with anyone's. The Brewers have us on a strict routine. By the time spring training comes around it is obvious who put in the extra work. I am counting down the days. I also will be paying a visit to Tony Gwynn for a few weeks for some hitting instruction. I'm honored to be able to work with a man with such knowledge and ability.
The Brewers have now invested quite a bit in 2005's first-round pick, third baseman Ryan Braun. But your 2005 season clearly placed you on the map as a legitimate third base prospect, and it's been forever since the Brewers have had more than one prospect for the hot corner, long a dry spot in the system. Have the Brewers given you any indication that you'll be focusing on any position other than third base at all this spring, or hinted at where you'll begin the season?
I feel that my season was pretty solid, but I am in no way satisfied. The Brewers gave me the off-season off to come into camp strong and healthy to win a job.
OK, an obligatory Brewerfan question. Are the guys in the clubhouse, or at least some of them, following the goings-on throughout the organization via Brewerfan.net?
I feel that many players in the clubhouse enjoy the site. It's a great place to go to check up on the organization as a whole from the top to the bottom. It's all there at the same place.
The Brewers' Corey Hart was an 11th round pick in 2000. You were the team's 11th round pick in 2003. Perhaps you're helping develop a nice 11th round prospect for the club's future through your clinic work back home in California this winter. Tell us a bit about that.
Hey, Corey set the tone for the 11th rounders and I am just trying to represent as well. I am just glad I got the opportunity to play on an everyday basis. I love the journey as you try to prove you can play with the best. At home in the offseason as I continue to improve my swing and game, I do give some lessons on the side. I enjoy helping younger players understand the swing and giving them confidence.
Thanks so much for sharing with us, Adam. You have many fans among the Brewer minor-league followers who are rooting hard for your continued success. We look forward to seeing you in Milwaukee in the not-too-distant future.
Thanks to Scott Brown of FloridaToday.com, Mark McCarter of the Huntsville Times, and Brian VanderBeek of the Modesto Bee for their Heether articles in 2005, from which Brewerfan based some of our own questions for Adam.
You can contact Brewerfan Minor League "Link Reporter" Jim Goulart at firstname.lastname@example.org.