Former Kentucky Wildcats baseball star Alex Meyer spoke to Wildcat Blue Nation this week. Meyer, a Minnesota Twins pitching prospect, is currently at the Twins spring training camp.
Daniel Solzman: Alex, thanks for joining Wildcat Blue Nation today. How are things treating you at Minnesota Twins spring training camp in Fort Myers?
Alex Meyer: So far, it’s been awesome. It’s been a really good experience getting to be around some of these big leaguers and trying to take in as much information as I can and learn from them. It’s been awesome and it’s been a really good first week.
Daniel Solzman: What was the experience like with Hagerstown and Potomac last season?
Alex Meyer: It was awesome. Last summer was probably the most fun of playing baseball that I had. It was just—I played for really good managers and I was around a really good group of ballplayers. It was getting my feet wet with the whole club experience but it just made it really fun and exciting. It made it a really enjoyable summer.
Daniel Solzman: Last year, you were named to play for Team USA at the 2012 All-Star Futures game. What does an honor like that mean to you and what was the whole experience like?
Alex Meyer: When I was told, I was kind of surprised a little bit. That’s never really something you think of being able to do but when I was told that I was going to be going, I remember my manager Brian Daubauch told me. I just shook my head and said it was a really big honor and enjoy it. Finally, when I got the opportunity to go to Kansas City and to do it, it was just awesome to play on the same field with some of the best talent in the world. To be able to be on the same field and be recognized as a potential (inaudible), it speaks for itself. Those are what made it a really fun experience for me.
Daniel Solzman: You were drafted in 2008 by the Boston Red Sox in the 20th round and then again by the Washington Nationals in the first round in 2011. When did you find out that the Nationals were interested in selecting you?
Alex Meyer: I had a really good meeting in the fall while I was at Kentucky with a Nationals scout. There was some interest in me. They told me about the experience for everything. They were excited for the season to get there so I went out and threw. After I threw against Vanderbilt in my junior year, they called a couple times and made the whole process for me exciting and interesting. It just so happened that I fell into their lap and was able to be with them.
Daniel Solzman: In being a first round draft pick, do you feel added pressure to get to the big leagues quicker or are you just going to take it one day at a time?
Alex Meyer: You do, but at the same time, it’s also where, like you said, you’re taking it one day at a time. Just because you’re a big first rounder doesn’t exactly mean you’re also close. You know they think highly of you but you have to go in there and do your job. You got to be able to get guys out. Right now, that’s main thing I am trying to do and work on those things that I did in college for that part and grow in it. Once that stuff happens, it all takes care of itself.
Daniel Solzman: How did you find out that you were traded to the Twins in the offseason?
Alex Meyer: I was leaving the gym and the director of player development from the Nationals called me and he asked me what I was doing and what I had been up to. I said that I was leaving the gym and getting ready for spring training. He told me, “Well, you’re about to be up to a lot.” My mind was racing through a million things of what he could have possibly meant. He told me that I was traded. For me, at the time, it was a little bit of a shock and a little bit of a surprise.
When I look at it now, I really do believe it was a good thing for me, personally and for my career, so when you’re with the team for one year and you feel like you finally starting to figure things out with them and get traded. It was kind of—I don’t want to say reality check but at the same time, it’s always something that opens your eyes. Well, I have to do this again? (inaudible) It just made me a little more anxious to get started.
Daniel Solzman: What was your first TwinsFest experience like?
Alex Meyer: It was great! I got to meet a lot of the guys. Joe Mauer’s up there. Josh Willingham. I got to meet great guys that I was playing or using on video games. That they were in the same room with me, but I was a little bit of star struck at the time but also, it was just a neat experience to be around those guys.
Daniel Solzman: Did you get to meet or talk any of the Hall of Famers?
Alex Meyer: I did not but I know Bert Blyleven and Goose Gossage were up there there. I didn’t get to talk to them. I saw them. I talked to higher ups. It was just awesome just being in the same room as those guys. Some of the (inaudible) got the opportunity to acquaint themselves more with them. It means a lot. It honestly doesn’t mean that you’re there but makes you feel good to be included with that group of people.
Daniel Solzman: In what ways did Coach Gary Henderson prepare you for the next level?
Alex Meyer: He was really good with the mental part of baseball with regards to letting you know that there is going to be failure at times and helping me realize the ways to overcome that. That’s one thing he was really good with.
Daniel Solzman: Last season, you played for Brian Daubach and Brian Rupp. Did they preach similar or different playing styles?
Alex Meyer: It was a different…the program was a whole lot different than college was just from the fact that in college, it’s more you’re playing to win. Failure in pro ball or minor leagues for that part, you’re not playing to lose but it’s more doing things to help players develop and become better players. You really got to take it with two different philosophies. Both experiences are awesome. I loved college and I loved my time at Kentucky but it’s just a different nature and a different beast when you go pro ball.
Daniel Solzman: What was it like being able to face Ryan Howard while he was rehabbing?
Alex Meyer: (Laughs) I was sitting there on my phone. We were at Delmar at the time, playing the Baltimore Orioles affiliate. Guys were sitting there talking and I’m pitching the next day. We just got to start our last game with them and guys go, “Hey, Ryan Howard’s starting his rehab assignment tomorrow at Lakewood.” We’re going to Lakewood and I was pitching so I knew going into it that I was going to be facing him but to me, it was I had an (inaudible) to be facing player that was an MVP, won a World Series ring, and hit a lot of home runs. It was neat. He got me the first at bat. I kept trying to pound him in with fast balls and finally, he just made it a little bit easier than I thought he would and put one at bat behind me. The second at bat, I was able to strike him out. I made me feel good. He got me once and I got him once. It was a pretty cool ordeal for me.
Daniel Solzman: Who was your favorite player growing up?
Alex Meyer: Ken Griffey, Jr. I loved watching him play. I wasn’t really a pitcher growing up. I was more of a—when everybody is young, they play different positions. I think everybody my age would say the same thing that he was probably their favorite player.
Daniel Solzman: What did you think of Kentucky’s performance this last season and what thoughts do you have as they start the 2013 campaign?
Alex Meyer: Last year was arguably the best year that the program has had in the history of the program, which is saying something. They just had a lot of good leadership. They turned the page. They had let go of what had happened the previous three years and just put that in the rearview mirror and had a fresh start said “You know what, let’s go out there and win.” That speaks upon the coaches, getting ready to go. Motivationally, not to dwell on the past and everything that occurred. It was awesome. I was jealous that I couldn’t be a part of something like that but at the same time, I was rooting like heck for them to go out there. When they swept South Carolina in the first series and when they were going down to the last week of the Southeastern Conference tourney, it was really exciting for them.
This year, I was following them (Monday) on my iPad, watching the game. They were doing it again and starting a comeback. They had a huge comeback, down 4 runs going into the bottom of the 8th, and going out there—they’re doing the same thing as last year, not giving up. In baseball, that’s something you got to be able to do. When they have a lead and have Trevor Gott in the back of the bullpen, I think they’re going to be very good in securing some ballgames.
Daniel Solzman: I was listening to Dick Gabriel on the call. That was an amazing comeback. You’re from Indiana. How about the Colts this past season? Did they exceed your expectations in 2012?
Alex Meyer: I was thinking maybe a 4 or 5 game turnaround. The next thing, they are going to the playoffs with a real chance. They got beat by the Super Bowl champs. When you’re head coach goes out for as many weeks as he did, when you got a rookie quarterback and that’s a very good rookie quarterback—it always helps when you have Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck fall into your lap but I think they went above and beyond. Next year is going to be something, they are going to be a team that other teams are going be watching. I think they are going to be fun to watch. Baseball season is here but football season will be here again before we know it.
Daniel Solzman: Thanks again for joining us and enjoy the rest of spring training. Best of luck this season. Any final words for Big Blue Nation?
Alex Meyer: Go Wildcats. Everybody needs to go out to Hagan, and watch the Kentucky baseball team this year.