A lot of players would have given up after missing almost two full seasons of their career due to injury, but not Matt Antonelli. The former 1st round pick and top 50 prospect stuck it out through injuries, rehab and being non-tendered by the only team he had ever played for, the Padres. Now, he's killing the ball in AAA Syracuse, hitting .364/.430/.545 in 21 games. Matt is an avid blogger and one of the most approachable players in the game and was kind enough to answer some questions for me pertaining to both him and the draft. Thanks again, Matt!
1) As a former 1st round pick, what advice do you have for Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin, the Nats' three 1st rounders this season?
Well I wouldn't do anything different just because you are a high round pick. The way I looked at it when I got drafted was that every player in the organization is now in the same boat, and the guys that will ultimately make it to the Major Leagues will be the best players and the guys that can help the big league team win ball games. No matter where you are picked there is still a long way to go before you reach your ultimate goal, so you have to continue to work hard each and every day.
2) What do you attribute your early success to in 2011? Does it have anything to do with finally being healthy after being plagued with injuries over the past few years?
Well, it has a little bit to do with being healthy and a little bit to do with me really working on my swing over the past few years. I would attribute more of the success to my swing and not my health, but it was tough at times to hit with some of the pain I was experiencing in my hand. Basically I had gotten into some really bad habits in 2008 and the little bit of 2009 that I was able to play in. After the 2009 season I worked really hard with a hitting coach that got me out of those bad habits and helped me regain what I was doing earlier in my career. So far I've been able to repeat a lot of those things and hopefully will be able to continue to do so.
3) While you're not known for your power, you did hit 21 HR in in the minors in 2007. Should we expect similar power in the future, or was that outburst more of an outlier?
Yeah, I've never been a big power hitter. I'm more of a line drive hitter who usually has a good amount of doubles. I'm just looking to get a good pitch and put a good swing on it. If the ball happens to go out of the ballpark then that is just a bonus.
4) How would you describe your future with the Nationals? Did they tell you "you need to hit ________ to get called up" or anything like that?
I get asked this question probably about ten times a day from people. The truth is whether it is moving up or down from Single-A, Double-A, Triple-A, or the Major Leagues you really have no idea why, when, or how it will happen. Our job as players is just to go out and play as well as we can. That is really the only thing we can control so that is the only thing we worry about.
5) What does a typical day look like for you, from waking up to going to sleep after a 7 pm game?
When we are home in Syracuse my typical day will be to wake up around 10 AM and eat breakfast. I will relax around my apartment for a few hours, watching TV, writing on my blog, maybe reading a book. At around 2 PM I will pick up lunch and head to the field to eat. At about 3 PM is when my actual baseball day will start. I will stretch out and hit in the batting cage around then. At 4 PM I will go out on my field for an hour or so of batting practice. From about 5:15 PM until about 6 PM I like to eat a snack and relax in the clubhouse. At 6 PM I will start getting ready for that night's game. I'll jump in the hot tub to loosen up, take a shower, then start to stretch out. At 6:40 PM I will head out to the field to loosen up again for the game which starts at 7 PM. Usually the game ends around 10 PM when I will shower up and either eat dinner at the field or head out to eat. I usually get back to my apartment around 11:30 PM or so. By this time I'm pretty tired so I'll get on my sofa with my computer until around 12:30 or 1 and then start to fall asleep before I wake up the next day and do it all over again.
6) As a supplement to that, what do you and your teammates do to hang out and stuff?
Well, I hang out with my teammates a lot more on the road than I do at home. When I'm on the road we will eat together a lot. I love movies so a group of us will usually try to catch a flick after a Sunday day game. Other than that we do pretty much the same stuff that everyone else does when they hang out with friends. We are at the field for the majority of the day so most of the time we spend with each other is there.
7) A lot of people who follow the Nationals are wondering if 2B could be a long-term fit for 1st round pick Anthony Rendon. How difficult was the transition from 3B to 2B for you?
Well, I went to Wake Forest to play middle infield but had to move to 3rd because we didn't have anyone to play over there. I think the transition was easier for me because I grew up playing SS throughout most of my life. I guess it all depends on the player, how athletic they are, how big or small they are, and what positions they have played in the past. I've seen some guys that can play anywhere on the diamond and I've seen some guys that can't. It all really depends. I think a lot of people believe that baseball players can play any position on the field, but when it comes to playing a position in the Major Leagues that really isn't the case.
8) How does it feel to see Nationals infielders struggle in the big leagues when you think that you can do better yourself?
I actually don't worry too much about how the guys ahead of me or behind me are doing. I really can't control how anyone else plays but myself, so I try to worry about that and that's it. If I play well and handle my business then everything will work out in the end.
9) To this point, what is your proudest accomplishment in your baseball career?
I guess I would have to say making my Major League debut. That is something I had wanted to do since I was young, and when I got drafted in 2006 that was obviously my goal. Now I want to get back to the Major Leagues and have a successful career. That is my main goal right now and what keeps me working hard everyday.
10) What is your favorite road city to play in, and why?
Well I loved San Diego. I think that is one of the best cities in the country for sure. I also really enjoyed playing in DC when I was with the Padres. When it comes to Major League cities there really isn't much to complain about. This is my basically my fourth full season in the minor leagues and you end up playing in a lot of interesting places. Playing long enough in the minors will make you really appreciate any city in the MLB. Thanks for the questions and thanks for reading!