This season I’ll be bringing you Q&As with rising stars and interesting players from the other teams in the Eastern League. For our inaugural edition, I had the opportunity to sit down with Alex Meyer, the 23rd overall pick by the Washington Nationals in the 2011 draft. This off-season Meyer was dealt to the Minnesota Twins organization for Denard Span and is ranked their top-rated pitching prospect.
I was looking forward to you coming though Harrisburg as a Senator, but the off-season trade to Minnesota changed that. Can you talk a little about the Nationals organization and your time in Hagerstown and Potomac last year?
Alex Meyer: It was more than I could have asked for especially to start my professional career. Being with a group of people who collectively want to win and want to win now and they push that and get the most out of their players. Like I said, for starting my career with them it was something I couldn’t have asked for a better start.
No slight to the pitchers in the Twins rotation, but do you think this trade will give you a better opportunity at the major league level?
AM: There was a pretty big roadblock in front of me. Not that there’s not here, but when you have Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, and guys like Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren it’s pretty tough for anybody to crack that. That speaks upon the organization and what they’ve done bringing up their players and going out and getting guys to help them win. Look what it’s done for them as they’re arguably the best team in baseball. For me, the opportunity here is that the Twins have struggled with pitching the last couple of years. That was one of the things I was told right when I got traded is that there’s a need for pitching and they’re hoping for me to make an impact. So for me and my career it was probably a better move. It’s just always hard leaving guys like that are sitting over in that clubhouse (the Senators). Those are some of my best friends over there. But it’s fun, I get to see them here and I get to play against them which makes it fun at the same time.
At least at the Double-A and Triple-A level, Minnesota’s farm teams are in the same league as Washington’s.
AM: I went to lunch yesterday with Steven Souza, Anthony Rendon, and Nathan Karns. I got to hang out with Brian Goodwin last night so it’s just a lot of my friends that I spent my first year of pro ball with. It’s a different scene. I’m over on the other side but nevertheless it’s still great for these guys. They’re going to be playing the game for a long time and hopefully I get the opportunity to too and we get to cross paths again.
One of the perks in Minnesota was your invite and time in big league camp this spring. What did you draw from that experience?
AM: It was awesome. Especially for getting traded and coming over and instantly getting thrown into that. It made me feel good about myself that they thought enough of me that I was ready for that. It was a really neat experience being around the big leaguers and being able to call Joe Mauer my teammate and Ron Gardenhire my manager. It was fun, a really neat experience for me.
Going back to your formative years, you were drafted by the Red Sox out of high school but you turned down the money to go to college at Kentucky. What were some of the factors that led to your decision?
AM: My parents really wanted me to go to school which is completely understandable. If I have a kid, I’ll probably want them to do the same thing. Because I don’t know if coming out of high school would have been really tough for me to do this stuff. Not that I don’t love it. Because I do. Being able to call this my job is something I’m very, very grateful for. It was really in my parents’ hands at the time and being from a small town in Indiana where not too many people had the opportunity to do something like this, we weren’t very educated about it. My agent now, advisor then at the time, really helped me out with the process. They were also super supportive of me going to school so I went with what we thought was best and it worked out well. I got picked up by a great organization and got to start my career off on the right foot.
You touched on this a little bit, do you think from a physical and mental standpoint the maturation of going to college helped you compared to coming out?
AM: Yeah. When I came out of high school it kind of all happened really fast. I was planning on going to Hanover College, a small Division III school in Indiana about an hour away from my home, just hoping to have an opportunity to play baseball there. All of a sudden I got Division I schools coming and talking to me and telling me they wanted me to come and play for them. I didn’t really know too many people I could talk to who went through the situation before, so I just took it in stride and my parents were super supportive throughout the whole time. I really just put it in their hands so it was good to have them there for me.
You’re a big kid (6’9″) who grew up in Indiana. I have to ask. I know you played four years of high schol basketball, but what made you want to be a baseball player?
AM: I always liked it more growing up. That’s what my buddies did too. My buddies were all baseball players and we all played basketball too but we were always a good, little travel team. I played tons of games in the summers and our parents loved it. They always took us and they made it really fun for us. I wasn’t this tall either when I was in high school. I was probably around 6’5″ or 6’6″ but I kept growing once I got out. If I was this tall, you never know but I’m happy with what I’m doing. Like I said, this is a pretty good deal.
Speaking of you’re height – how is life on the road for someone as tall as you with the bus rides and hotel rooms?
AM: I’m doubling up this year. First year in Double-A, we got a lot of guys on the team so I’m one of the guys that has to double up (on the bus). It’s fine. I sit there and listen to my music or read a book. I’m fine with it. I understand that I’ve got to put my time in. There are guys that have been here and done it. Definitely my back can be a little sore sometimes, but it’s fine. It’s all good.
Your roommate is fellow pitching prospect Trevor May who goes my the name DJ Hey Beef when he’s performing. Do you like his music?
AM: Everybody asks me about this. I had no idea what EDM music meant. It’s electronic dance music is what it is. All of a sudden he comes in and he’s got his door closed to his room and I hear all this music going. It’s neat because he’s good at it. He throws some stuff together that I like. I don’t know what it is, but it’s good. It’s pretty neat.
You worked as a substitute teacher in your hometown this past off-season. What motivated you to do that?
AM: My first off-season after the Nationals drafted me I went down to instructional league in Viera and after I got home I had four months or however long you sit there and do nothing. For two weeks I did that and I was about to drive myself insane. So, my mom works at the superintendent office at the community schools. She threw the idea on me because I always wanted to get into teaching whenever my career is done. So she threw that on me and I liked it. It was good for me. It put some money in my pocket. Just the opportunity to be able to wake up before 10 o’clock. I get to go see all my old high school coaches because they’re still teaching which makes it fun. It’s a social thing for me. I get to go see all my buddies.
What are some of your goals for this year and beyond?
AM: My ultimate goal is to get to the big leagues at some point. I know it’s not in my control. All I can do is go out there and try to get people out every time I go out there. I guess you could say that’s part of my goal. Just make sure I go out there and continue to build on things that I learned last year, that I’m learning this year, and take it one day at a time.
Thanks so much to Alex for taking the time out of his busy schedule and I wish him all the best and continued success on his baseball journey. Also, big thanks to Jeff Dooley, New Britain’s Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations, for arranging the interview.