A couple weeks ago (actually the day before he left for Spring Training,) I was able to spend a few minutes interviewing Twinkie Town’s number 15 prospect, and 2018 second round draft pick for the Twins, Ryan Jeffers. Jeffers is a catcher who was drafted from the University of North Carolina, and made it all the way up to Low-A Cedar Rapids last season, after hitting the cover off the ball at Elizabethton. Through no one’s fault but my own, and some technical difficulties, it took me a little while to get this published, but Ryan was a great sport about some of our goofy interview questions, and seems really excited to be a Twin. If you want to follow along with him this season, his twitter profile is Ryan_Jeffers8.
Twinkie Town: What was the biggest adjustment for you, going from college and amateur baseball to the professional game?
Ryan Jeffers: Every level, the level of play just gets much crisper. In high school and college, everyone seems like they’re really good, then you go to the pros, and it’s just like wow, the game just constantly changes, gets faster, everyone can play now. Everyone is better, and it’s just a better environment for baseball.
TT: What are your goals for yourself this year? Any particular goals as a hitter or a fielder that you are working towards achieving?
RJ: I don’t really have any statistical goals, or anything specific that I need to achieve, but I’m just always trying to improve myself behind the plate and hitting, just kind of working on every part of my game. That’s what I’ve always done, and has always worked for me; not really working on any one specific thing to do great that day, but to do everything great that day. Basically, you have to put everything together to be successful, so that’s what I’m trying to do, and what I’m trying to be the best at.
TT: Everyone knows baseball players are superstitious in general, do you have any superstitions you follow, any rituals, anything like that?
RJ: I don’t really, I’m not a guy who wears the same shirt everyday, or does some of those different things, but I have a very set routine, walking to the plate routine that I do, going up to bat. I’ve built a very strict routine at the plate that keeps me checked in, and then after a bad pitch or a bad call, I have a very set routine to kind of flush that and get back on green as we call it.
TT: Can you elaborate a bit on what that routine looks like?
RJ: Yeah, like every time I finish swinging on deck, and walk to the plate, I always carry the bat by the barrel, it’s part of a good body language mentality. When I get to the plate I kind of clean the box of every single time. It’s always with the same footwork. If you watch videos, it will be same from college all the way to now. It’s just something that kind of checks you into your rhythm, if you miss a step, you feel weird. It’s just something that makes you slow the game down. Then if I have a bad swing, or a bad call, I’ll step out of the box, undo my batting gloves, find a focal point somewhere in the stadium, like a foul pole or something, restrap my batting gloves, and get ready for the next pitch
TT: One more question in this vein: What’s the craziest superstition you’ve ever seen from another player
RJ: This is a tough one, I feel like a lot of them are a kind of behind closed doors kind of thing, the crazy ones. A lot of people probably don’t want people to know. Like, I know a guy who wears the same pair of athletic shorts under his baseball pants every single game, that’s probably the weirdest one for me.
TT: The Twins had a reliever (Ryan O’Rourke) a couple years ago who was known for throwing up in the bullpen before appearances, that’s the kind of thing where maybe you don’t want people to know, because when it gets out, people are making jokes about you
RJ: Right, like a lot of times, they don’t even want their teammates to know, it’s their own thing that works for them, and no one really knows, it’s kind of on a need to know basis.
TT: What’s your game day routine? What does a game day look like for you?
RJ: I try to get there a little bit before time, and get to my locker, and hang out a little bit. Then depending on how I’m feeling that day, I’ll take a little bit of extra batting practice in the cage beforehand, and then get ready for BP. Usually there’s some sort of bullpens, or something that us catchers have to do prior to batting practice, so we’ll knock that out, and get our batting practice. Then after batting practice we’ll come in and just kind of hang out, sometimes if it’s a hot day, I’ll grab a shower pregame, so i’m wearing fresh undershirts, stuff like that. Then I get with the starting pitcher pregame and run through our game plan, and get after it.
TT: Who would you say is the best player you’ve ever played with, and played against?
RJ: I don’t know. I’ve played with so many people, so many great arms, some of them are better at different things, but there’s not really one best player. You run into these guys along the way, and you’re like wow, he’s got a really good slider, or his fastball is really good, or he can really swing it, but there’s not like really one that pops into my head.
TT: Who’s been the biggest influence on you as a player?
RJ: My college coach played a really big role in my development as a person and as a player, and I kind of look up to them as an influence on the baseball field, because I learned a lot about how to carry myself and play the game the right way. They teach you a lot about how to be a good person and to be a good man.
TT: Since you’re from North Carolina, obviously there’s not a pro team right there in that area, so who was your team growing up, and who was your favorite player?
RJ: I guess I was a San Francisco Giants fan, because I loved to watch Buster Posey catch.
TT: What’s been your experience with the Twins organization so far, I know you’ve been in the organization for about a year now, a little less, but any first impressions, anything that stands out to you about the Minnesota Twins system?
RJ: Ever since I got drafted, everyone’s been telling me about how good of a system I’m in and just how developmentally-oriented they are, and that they really take care of you as a player, and they put their best effort into making you the best player that you can be. That’s just kind of shown throughout process, and the trust they’ve shown in me just continuing to grow and becoming the player they see me being. It’s been awesome, and I’m really happy with how they are and the Twins organization as a whole. I didn’t know much about the Twins coming out of the draft, but I’m really happy where I landed, and it’s a good spot for me.
TT: Is there anything else you want the Twins fans know about you, or is there anything we should know as you come up through the system about who Ryan Jeffers is?
RJ: They should just know I’m coming, I’m a hard worker, and I’m going to keep working hard to get there one day, and I’ll be the next big-time catcher and I’ll be there for awhile. I’m ready to work, and get my way up there, I’ve still got a lot of baseball ahead of me to get there, but I’m going to do everything I can, just keep working, and try as hard as I can to get there.
TT: If you could have any super power, what would it be and why?
RJ: I think it would be awesome to fly. That would be a pretty sweet super power. I think it would be a nice thing just to be buzzing around, not have to worry about roads, or driving. It would be pretty cool, you could get to places that no one has been to
TT: Last question, and this one needs a little explaining. It goes back to when Daniel Palka was a prospect, and we used to ask people if a hot dog was a sandwich. When we asked him, his reply was “is an Oreo a sandwich?” So, in your opinion, is an oreo a sandwich?
RJ: An Oreo is a sandwich cookie. I don’t think a hot dog is a sandwich, because it doesn’t need to have a bun, but an Oreo is a crème sandwich
This transcript has been edited slightly for readability, but the core of the interview should shine through! Thanks again to Ryan for taking some time out of his busy schedule to talk to me, and for some great answers. As I mentioned, give him a follow if you’re on Twitter.