CWS hero Whit Merrifield chats with RC

Merrifield

The Royals selected outfielder Whit Merrifield in the ninth round of this year's draft. Just three weeks after the draft, Merrifield delivered the hit that won the College World Series for the South Carolina Gamecocks. Now with the Burlington Bees, Merrifield sat down for an interview with David Malamut over the weekend to discuss the events of last few months.

Royals Corner: How do you feel your pro career is going so far?

Whit Merrifield: I feel like it is going all right. I started out pretty well, but I've been going through a little skid here for a couple of games. But that's part of being a professional – you're going to go through these kinds of things and find a way to break out of it. Right now, I feel like I'm close to getting hot.

RC: How would you describe your approach at the plate?

WM: Right now I'm just trying to get the barrel on the ball. It‘s a little different with a wood bat compared to a metal bat. I'm just trying to make solid contact and work on a couple of things and just try to get the barrel to the baseball.

RC: How different is your swing from metal to wood?

WM: It's a different swing. You have to generate more bat speed, which is something I've been working on. So it's taking some getting used to, but I'm used to swinging wood bats.

RC: What did you learn from two years in the Cape Cod League?

WM: This kind of baseball is a grind. It's an everyday type thing, and you're going to go through some struggles, but you just have to work your way out of them. And it's just a game, so just go out and have fun.

RC: How was the difference in going from metal bats in college to wood in the summer?

WM: It was a different transition, but nowadays in high school you play a lot with wood. It's something I'm familiar with. It just takes a couple of weeks to get used to, but now I'm starting to get a lot more comfortable than I was at the beginning.

RC: What was draft day like?

WM: It was exciting. I was sitting with my dad in the living room watching the computer, waiting to see my name pop up. It was an exciting moment.

RC: Were you expecting to be drafted by the Royals?

WM: To be honest, I really didn't know who I was going to be drafted by. I talked to Kansas City a little bit, so I wasn't really surprised. I'm happy to be here, and I'm happy to be a part of this organization.

RC: Not long after you were drafted, South Carolina played in the College World Series, and you got the big hit to win the championship. What was that experience like?

WM: It was incredible. It was all and everything I could've imagined it would be, and it was life changing for me. I have a home in Columbia now, and people know me now, and it's fun to be a part of bringing that university its first national championship.

RC: Take me through the at bat.

WM: Runner on third and less than two outs, try to get a ball to the outfield. I was expecting them to intentionally walk me, but the catcher squatted down, and I knew I had a chance to be a part of something special. I worked the count to 2-0 and got a fastball and shot it the other way, and it fell for me.

RC: Was it a hard decision for you to sign with the Royals, rather than stay in school?

WM: It was it was very tough. We had a couple of celebrations afterwards, and when we got back we had a celebration in the basketball arena. The place was sold out, and I had to make a speech. Twenty-thousand people were chanting "one more year," and that made it really tough for me. South Carolina is a great university and a great baseball program, so it was tough to leave, but I felt like it was time to start my professional career.

RC: Was the speech harder than the at bat?

WM: It was more nerve-racking, that's for sure. I don't know about harder, but I was definitely more nervous.

RC: Are you going back to school in the offseason, and what was your major?

WM: I think so. It depends on if I go to instructional league or not, but I might go and do an internship as part of my college classes that I need for sports management.

RC: Have you noticed a big difference between the pitching in the SEC and what you have seen in the Midwest League?

WM: Not a whole lot. I've always considered the SEC to be one of the best conferences in the country. When you play in the SEC, you are going to play against first-rounders, and you're going to face the best pitchers in the country. That was a big reason I wanted to go and play in the SEC -- so I could face that kind of competition day in and day out. So it hasn't been a huge transition for me.

RC: I understand you dad played in minor league baseball. How has that helped you prepare for what to expect as a pro?

WM: He has walked me through all the ins and outs of it, the business side of it, and the playing side of it. So I kind of know what to expect, and it kind of gave me a little bit of an advantage. At the same time, he is being my agent, he is taking care of all of my stuff like that, so it has been a good asset to have, and I can always call him after a game if I didn't feel to good that day and talk to him about what to do to improve.

RC: You have played all three outfield positions this year. Which do you prefer?

WM: Center field. It‘s the easiest, because the ball doesn't slice and hook as much as it does in the corners. I'm also more comfortable there because I've played there more. I played right mainly this year in school, so I'm getting more comfortable with it too. Right field gives me more opportunities to have assists, so I like that about it, but I like to roam in center field.

RC: Have you worked out in the infield? Do you expect to see some time at second base?

WM: I work out at second base every day. As far as seeing some time there, I don't think I will this year, but I think I'm going to instructional league to work on second base a little bit. Maybe in the future. It's an asset that I need, being a utility guy who is able to play anywhere. They drafted me as an outfielder, but being able to play anywhere definitely doesn't hurt.

RC: Besides baseball, what do you like to do?

WM: Doesn't leave a whole lot of time for much. I like to hang out with my family. I'm not a big hunter or fisher -- I just like to hang out with my friends and go to a lot of sporting events. Whether it be baseball or not, I just love sports.

RC: If you were not playing baseball, what would you be doing?

WM: Finding a job. Actually I would be going back to school. I like to act, so maybe I would go out to L.A. and try to pursue acting.

RC: Top five artists in your Ipod?

WM: Skillet, Nickleback, Lil Wayne, Bruce Springsteen, Julian Huff.

RC: Who was your hero growing up?

WM: Derek Jeter. I always loved the way he played, loved that he was the captain of the best team in the world, and just that he was always clutch in the big moments. So I've always looked up to him and what he did on and off the field.



David Malamut has been covering the Kane County Cougars since 1998, with his own website, (http://malamut.net). He has also written a book about the Cougars, "Baseball In Kane County Cougars" (Arcadia/2005). For daily updates on the Cougars, go to his website (http://malamut.net) or follow him on Twitter (http://twitter.com/davidmalamut) for in game news and notes.

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