Riders Media Day
It was a cloudy and wind filled day in Frisco on the morning April 7th. This writer was filled with anticipation as he drove to Dr. Pepper Ballpark to be a full fledged media member for the Frisco Roughriders Media Day. Although, I didn’t quite know what to fully expect, the idea of the unknown was proving to be quite a rush. Upon meeting my cohort and fellow SDI leader Mr. Billy Casey at the ballpark, he hands me my fresh media pass for the season. It was legit. I was allowed to cover this team for real. We made our way inside and met up with other big name columnists like Anthony Andro of Fox Sports Southwest, Gina Miller, Stefan Stevenson of the Ft. Worth Star Telegram, and Lonestar Ball’s Tepid Participation was naturally in the house showing us around. Everyone begins to stroll down to the field as Alex Vispoli instructs us that that’s where the interviews will be happening. He proceeds to bring out the big guns right away. Joey Gallo, Jorge Alfaro, and Nomar Mazara begin to make their way from left field right in front of me, and all I’m thinking is “Damn Joey is a large human being”.
With that, the trio separates to their respected positions for interrogation and the masses naturally flock to Gallo, who is in a supportive boot after heel surgery. Mr. Casey and myself hung around him first to catch what he had to say and answer anyone’s questions.
Gallo was immediately quizzed by Anthony Andro about the pain he felt in the heel that led him to getting it checked out:
“The Pain? Anytime I put pressure on it, felt like someone was like putting a knife in my heel. I was like I couldn’t even walk. We got to get an MRI or something, just to figure out what it is. Then obviously they figured it out what it was.”
Andro followed up by asking Gallo how long the heel had been bothering him before they got it looked at:
“Probably like five days? We thought it would just go away, it just didn’t go away. So [we] just figured out what to do.”
Stefen Stevenson got in on the action by asking Gallo if the ankle had ever given him pain before, or if it had just come out of nowhere.
“No, no. Yea, they said it’s just an extra bone back there and I must’ve did something to jar it loose and then after that you either gotta inject it or take it out. So, decided to take it out.”
Stevenson followed up by asking if he had gotten close to Beltre during big league camp:
“Yea, yea, I got closer than I thought I would. He’s nicer than I thought. Yea he’s quiet but he was awesome. Him and Prince were great to me, Elvis everybody was really nice, so Im excited.”
Stevenson went for the three point play and quizzed Gallo on his thought process during big league camp and whether or not he let himself think he had a shot to make the big league squad:
“I didn’t, I mean I knew I wasn’t going to make it. I kinda set that in my head, ya know no matter how good I do, I wasn’t going to make it. So when I did get sent down, it wasn’t a big deal, I understood it.”
That about did it for the real media folks, that’s when SDI’s own Billy Casey gets in on the action by asking Gallo what he thought of Kris Bryant’s spring? Laughing, Gallo responded:
“It was ridiculous. I mean, he’s unreal.”
Casey’s follow up was naturally what Gallo thought about how the Cubs handled the Bryant situation:
“Yea I mean obviously you kind of figured it would happen. It just kind of sucks, it sucks for baseball that that happens. A guy who’s probably one of the most exciting players in baseball is going to Iowa to play in front of a couple thousand people instead of on TV and promoting the game. It sucks, ya know. But obviously I think he’ll be up there in what, two or three weeks. It’s tough for him to do that and then have them say you’re going back down to the minor leagues.”
That was about all we had for Gallo, who was very friendly and had no issues talking with anyone and answering everyone’s questions. So with that, I made my way over to the second guy I wanted to hear from, and saw he was standing alone by the dugout with nobody around him. As I approached him, I did get a little nervous because I only prepared to talk to Riders center fielder, Chris Garia. I honestly had no idea I would be talking to the big dogs. So, I composed myself and began to ponder what I should ask before I engaged him. After about 30 seconds, I introduced myself to one Jorge Alfaro, and began to fire away with what I had. He is a bit of a quiet young man, and I had to hold my mic closer than I would like. Of course he had no idea who I was or what SDI is, but he will know soon enough. I hear that the more he gets familiar, the more he will open up with you. I had little issues understanding him, which surprised me as well. He speaks better than you think.
So with my first question to ballplayer as a media member, I asked him what he was specifically trying to improve on defensively and Jorge responds:
“Get better [at] Receiving.”
Simple, and to the point.
I follow up and ask if that’s his biggest challenge right now:
“Yea. I had a lot of passed balls the last few years. So Im trying to get better at that.”
Next, I asked if he worked with Pudge and if the two worked on his game specifically. Alfaro paused for a moment to think of who I was referring to, smiled and said:
“We talk a lot. We talk about the mental game. Like the finer points of my game. Like the mental progress for myself that’s coming.”
I mention the jump from Single A to Double A is one of the biggest in the business, and asked him whats the toughest aspect of that offensively for him to pick up and he replies:
“Here they know how to pitch. Like they have more movement. And control, like get ahead and pitchers know sequence. You know what I mean? They don’t miss too many spots. They hit their spots. So its tougher.”
My final question was if he would prefer to stay here to work on his game or if it mattered:
“Doesn’t really matter. The only goal that I have is Big Leagues. Doesn’t matter where, just gunna try to play hard. Keep workin hard.”
I laughed, and asked him if that was a stupid question and he just looked at me, smiled, and said:
“I just want to play.”
Pretty chilling response from #TheLegend. I thanked him for his time, and left to find Nomar Mazara, but he was busy and then Mr. Alex Vispoli, the Roughriders play by play man and media relations guy, said that Jake Thompson was on his way. So, I prepared to bombard him immediately. He walked up and a few other reporters approach with me, and begin to interview.
He was first asked when they brought up the young crop of guys from AA who were placed in big league camp, did it cross your mind that you’d be one of them?
“They didn’t really hint to me that I would be. Obviously I would have liked to be but it was good for me to be in minor league camp.”
He then was asked what he wanted to work on and he replied
“Still work on the normal mechanics stuff. Threw my changeup a lot more. Didn’t throw very many breaking balls. Kind of an excessive amount of changes.”
Did you see any improvement on the changeup?
“Yea it’s a whole lot better this year. Whole lot better. I can actually throw it for strikes. I can throw it for a strike when I want to as opposed to last year when I hardly threw it and I didn’t know where it was going.”
I then asked my first question by inquiring who really helped him transition in the clubhouse after the trade last year:
“Joey [Gallo]. He was the only one I had met before from the futures game. Starting pitchers like Chi Chi [Gonzalez] was a big help too. Everyone was really really good about it.”
Pretty awesome to see that those two top guys already display some early leadership qualities by helping the new guy adjust in the clubhouse.
I then asked if he intends to continue relying on the slider to get outs or if he was going to try and mix in the change more for punch-outs and he says:
“I mean. Go to sitiatuon and I got to get someone out. Still gonna throw the slider. But this spring I only threw about 10 sliders total. Really working on my other pitches. But yea the slider is still my go to.”
He knows what his bread and butter is. He still needs to really focus and develop that changeup if he intends to get big league hitters out the third time through the order.
Finally, I ask if they talked about an innings limit with him, and if he had one:
“I haven’t been told a number or anything. My first couple of years I was having to skip starts to not rack up too many innings. Im not gonna do that this year, so got a bit more leeway this year.”
After some good stuff from Thompson, I thanked him for his time and found Billy to see what was next on the agenda. He was finishing up a big interview with Cody Buckel (which I’m looking forward to reading about). Everyone was wrapping things up, and people were deciding what to do for lunch. I decided to linger around and chat with Tepid Participation and Billy.
At that moment, Roughriders owner Chuck Greenberg and Gallo wonder over and we all strike up a friendly conversation for several minutes. You can just see for your own eyes the makeup that scouts dream about when talking about Gallo. He was the first one out to talk, and the last one to leave. He opened up immediately, and I asked him about the car he hit back in the Futures Game. He thought you were encouraged to hit it and if you did you would win the damn thing. He would have gladly taken it, and fixed the giant dent the ball made from his bat. After 20 minutes or so Billy, Tepid, and myself decide to check out the new amenities that Greenberg added to the ballpark – our own sneak peak at the things to come.
SDI got one of the first initial views of all the cool new things such as the team store, the sports bar, and new kids area with Mr. Greenberg as our tour guide. Needless to say, it was a heck of a way to cap off the afternoon. The 2015 season is here, and I am amped up to cover it from this new and improved park as much as possible.