It’s not easy moving from life as you know it and going to a place (that’s kinda in the middle of no where) and starting a career. It’s even tougher when you 18 to 22 years old and trying to accomplish this.
I had a chance to sit down for a round-table discussion with six of the Boise Hawks baseball players and talk to them about life as a rookie. In this interview we look at the transition from college to the pros, life with their host families, and we even discuss life after baseball.
The six players I sat down with include 2B Pierre LePage, SS Elliot Soto, OF Matt Szczur, LHP Eric Jokisch, RHP Aaron Kurcz, and C Micah Gibbs.
When you found out you were drafted by the Chicago Cubs, what was your initial thoughts?
PL: “At first I was just excited to be drafted. Then when I found out it was the Chicago Cubs, I figured it would be a great organization to move up in because we haven’t won a World Series in so long (group laughs). I was just happy to finally make it and get to where I’ve wanted to be my whole life.”
EJ: “I was actually worried. I have been a St. Louis Cardinals fan my whole life and I grew up in Chicago and went to Northwestern University. A lot of my friends got on me pretty good about being a Cardinals fan drafted by the Cubs.”
ES: “I’m from Illinois and I have been a die hard Cubs fan my whole life. I was shocked when I found out.”
What was life like from the time you got drafted to the time you went to Mesa, AZ (rookie ball)?
MS: “My deal was a little different because I am going to be playing football in the Fall. I had to wait for the commissioner to sign off on my contract, so I was actually kinda nervous and worried. During the summer, I was getting paid a salary and I didn’t know if it was going to go through. I just wanted to come out here and get my feet wet so if I come back and play after the football season is over, I know what to expect.”
MG: “I talked to Jim Hendry (Cubs Vice President/General Manager) a couple of days after the Draft and he told me to take a couple of weeks off. I played 63 of 65 games in college and he wanted me to have a rest. I wanted to come out here right away but he told me he wanted me to take two weeks off. A week before I headed off to Mesa, I went lifting, running, and began to hit to get myself back into shape.”
AK: “During the season it was hectic because there were a ton of scouts at every game. Once the Draft and everything played out, things began to settle down. I spent time with family and friends and got myself ready to play ball.”
What has been you general impression of Boise, ID?
EJ: “It’s a very clean city. There are very supportive fans at the stadium everyday and anytime you go out and say you play for the Hawks, they know who you are.”
AK: “When I first heard about Boise, ID I didn’t how big the town was. I figured it would be a town of 10,000 people. But it’s a nice town and there is always a good crowd at every game.”
PL: “It’s more of a populated town as opposed to a city because it is very clean and it is beautiful out here with the mountains. This is a great atmosphere to play baseball. Having all of the fans, it makes the grind easier. We play 76 games with four off days. If we only had four fans in the stands each game, it would be harder to get out of bed and play the game. It makes us have more of a team atmosphere and really go out there and win not just for our team, but the crowd that’s behind us.”
How has the host family program helped you in this transition from home?
MS: “My host family has been wonderful. They make me breakfast in the morning, help me with my laundry, and they even make my bed for me. It’s actually a little better than life at home (laughs). They are great people who are willing to do anything for you, so it’s definitely an awesome thing to have.”
MG: “My host family has been great. Anything I could ask for, they pretty much have it or if they don’t, they get it in a day. They asked me to make a list of things I wanted to eat and I was hoping to get a few things out of the list and they pretty much got everything on there. They have exceeded all of my expectations.”
AK: “It’s a lot nicer going back to a home than a hotel in Mesa, AZ.”
EJ: “Life in Mesa wasn’t as good because you are in a hotel room until it’s time to go play baseball. Up here, there are things that you can go do in the little amount of free time that you have and I think that is necessary to keep you wanting to play the game.”
Do you miss home and how often do you get to talk to your families?
EJ: “All of us went to college, so we have been away from home for quite some time. Right now it feels a lot like summer baseball but next year when it is full-time thing, it will sink in a little more.”
ES: “I talk to my family every couple of days. It’s nice just to talk to them and see how things are gong with them and they always ask me how things are going out here. Due to the time change, I usually try to talk to them in the morning.”
With 13 non-US born players on this roster, how has communication on and off the field been?
EJ: “The game is played the same way pretty much everywhere, so you have faith in your infield and outfield to make the plays. I don’t think the differences in languages or countries should matter.”
MS: “It’s a lot of fun to communicate with this guys and figure things out. We use a lot of hand signals and Kyung-Min Na speaks English and Spanish, so he helps me out in the outfield.”
MG: “It’s been fun trying to learn their language and communicate with them. On the field, we are lucky to have at least one guy in the infield who can help translate some things for me. In baseball, there are some universal words that help out like fastball, curveball, slider, and change up. The hardest part is trying to get signs with a guy on second base. A lot of people want to go with the first sign and they can pick that up pretty easily on second.”
Till next time..
Media Relations Assistant