Kicking off the offseason interview series is former Phillies 1st round pick Eric Valent, who was nice enough to do a Q&A session via email with WSBGM's. Valent was selected with the 42nd pick of 1998 amateur draft out of UCLA (Pat Burrell was selected 1st overall). He made his MLB debut in 2001 with the Phils and also saw action with them in 2002 before being traded to Cincinatti for Kelly Stinnett. He spent 2003 with the Reds then was drafted by the Mets in the minor league portion of the Rule V draft and went on to play with them from 2004-2005. He signed with the San Diego Padres in 2006, but was later released. Eric spent 2007 playing Japanese ball for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. In 2008 he become a minor league coach for the Williamsport Cross Cutters. Career line- 205 g, 50 r, 95 h, 20 dbl, 13 hr, 37 rbi, .234 avg, and a .696 ops.
1. Describe the feeling of being selected in the 1st round of the 1998 draft after passing up the Tigers in 1995 in the 26th round.
Coming out of high school, I pretty much knew I was going to college unless I was taken in the first or second round. Out of high school, I was projected to go in the fourth or fifth round if I was signable. Instead, I took my scholarship to UCLA and I knew that was the right approach to take both academically and financially in the long run. It was a great feeling getting a call from the Phillies and being taken in the supplemental first round. All the hard work from when I was a kid, and up until then paid off.
2. Growing up, which team did you follow and who was your favorite player?
My favorite team was the Yankees and Angels. Growing up in Anaheim, CA, the Angels were my hometown team. I was a Yankees fan because my dad was born in NY and my grandfather gave me a Yankee hat when I was like 6 years old and I wore it all the time. Don Mattingly became my favorite player and I used to read the box scores of him every morning before school. I collected his cards and everything else. When I was with the Mets in '04, I met him during interleague in the batting cages at Yankee Stadium. He signed one of my bats for me. It was pretty neat. He was somebody I admired because he seemed to work hard and he wasn't a big guy either.
3. Out of all your college teammates at UCLA, (Troy Glaus, Eric Byrnes, Chase Utley, Garrett Atkins, and of course yourself), who was the most talented back then?
I'll give you my take on all of them because they all have special qualities. During college, Troy Glaus had the most raw talent because of his size and athleticism. Eric Byrnes is a tremendous athlete with natural strength and hand-eye coordination. He's also the most upbeat and positive player I've ever been around. Chase had a great swing from the day he arrived and the work ethic to go with it. He gradually got better, year in and year out, and still works just as hard today. Garrett was the best pure hitter I've seen walk on to a college campus and hit from day one. As a freshman he had a 33 game hitting streak and hit .380 in the conference. That was great competition as well against teams such as Stanford, Arizona State, and USC. For myself, I had great power and was pretty savvy in the field as well. I wasn't that great of a hitter because my career average was around .340, which isn't that high in college. But, my power was really good and I never missed a pitcher's mistake.
4. What have you been up to lately baseball-wise?
I now coach in the Phillies minor leagues and will be going on my second year. In the offseason, I run hitting camps for young players and also do individual and team hitting camps. I teach players about the things I wish I would have done better to become more successful. I keep it simple with them and tell them things that I really didn't realize until the end.
5. Describe what the Phillies did for you and other alumni during the 2008 playoffs.
The Phillies invited every full time employee and guest to Philadelphia for games 3,4,5. It was great. We stayed in New Jersey. We did some sightseeing during the day, game at night, and then an after party after every game. It was nice to see everybody and watch the Phillies players live out their dreams on the field.
6. Which was the bigger thrill- playing in the College World Series in 1997, or winning the 2008 World Series as a Phillies minor league coach?
We didn't win the College World Series. We lost the first two games and were eliminated. It was an awesome experience though because that was something I wanted to experience as a college player and was fortunate to do so. The outcome wasn't successful, but the experience was something I'll never forget. As a coach, it's just nice to be a part of a great organization and see their hard work payoff. When I was drafted in 1998 by the Phillies, that's when they started to really work on getting to where they are at now. It shows that the process has paid off and the Phillies have been a competitive club for the last 4 years or so.
7. Aside from your debut (vs. BoSox on June 8, 2001), what was you most memorable MLB game?
Definitely hitting for the cycle with the Mets in 2004. It took some luck and it will be nice to share that with my kids as they get older.
8. Compare American and Japanese baseball.
Night and day. I'll just hit on a couple things. In Japan, you hit batting practice and take infield before every game no matter what. If the teams can't take infield before the game on the field, the game will be canceled. Not once, will a team ever not take infield before a game. Also, the games can end in a tie at 12 innings as well. Japan is stuck in some old traditions and they are losing some fan base. The best players keep migrating to the U.S. and the game needs some tinkering to keep the fan base strong. Some other different things are in Japan you wear your uniform back to the hotel after a road game and it gets laundered there instead of the locker rooms like the Majors, and when you fly it's commercial and not chartered like the Major Leagues.
9. Which players do we need to keep an eye on as far as being close to making a MLB impact?
I've only been with the Phillies for one year, but from what I've seen and what everybody hears about are names like Lou Marson, Jason Donald, Carlos Carrasco, and Greg Golson. These are all names that the Phillies fans can hear next year at some point and time who could help the Phillies along the way. I'd say watch out for a guy like Michael Taylor. He made a serious impact last year and put up some impressive numbers. If he can continue to perform like that in Double AA, he will be one to look out for.
10. Funniest clubhouse story.
I don't think this is a pay website, so I'll keep it presentable. Funny things in the clubhouse are when guys tape up a player's whole locker, from shirts to shoes, to the opening of the locker. I've seen guys use a ton of white athletic tape and the locker looks like a mummy when it's done.
11. Any superstitions?
Not really. I'd just try to stick to a routine everyday when I played. Tried to take my early work the same way, batting practice, etc. The baseball season is so long that as a player you just want to keep yourself in a good routine that can last the whole year. The routine helps keep players physically, and more importantly mentally strong.
12. What was your best position on the diamond (RF, LF, or 1B)?
Definitely RF. I had good instincts in the OF and a strong, accurate throwing arm. I took pride in my defense and I had to because my offense would shut down for awhile during the season. Strong defense shows that you respect your teammates and are focused for whatever pitcher is on the mound.
13. You have an Eric Valent Fan Site, it's pretty weak, any chance you want WSBGM's to be your new place of homage?
It is pretty weak, but yet again I was a pretty weak MLB player. I'll definitely take the new sponsorship by WSBGM's. I think it's kind of funny that a guy like me has a website out there. He probably bought the name and was hoping I made it bigger and could sell me the rights to the site. That's something I probably won't ever try and negotiate to buy.
14. What are your future aspirations in terms of baseball?
If I stay in coaching, I'd definitely like to become a hitting coordinator in the future and a big league hitting coach. I feel that I can connect well with today's players and have a good philosophy to hitting and helping players become the best hitters they can be. I also have interest in baseball administration, but the opportunities for those are hard to come by. I went to UCLA for 3 years and am now finishing my college degree through University of Phoenix in Business Management. I'll be done this August. I want to have this background to give myself more options in the future. I can then say that I had a good playing career and took the time out to finish my education as well.
15. Do you read blogs at all? If so, which ones, and what is your general viewpoint on blogs?
I read yours of course and BeerLeaguer. That's about it. I mainly go to MLB.com, Milb.com, things like that to see what's going on in the baseball industry. As far as blogs go, I think they're great. They are done by people who are passionate about something and who are not necessarily in it for the money. Of course it would be great to have tons of hits and sell advertising, but bloggers just enjoy writing about their opinions and different stances on different subjects.
16. How much do you miss playing the game?
I don't miss playing that much. I always said that when I was 30, if I wasn't in the big leagues for good I'd hang up the spikes. That was always my thought when I was starting my baseball career at age 21. I knew that if I stayed healthy that I was going to have the chance to play in the Majors. After that, it's up to the player to make the most of it. I was fortunate enough to play 2 full seasons in the majors out of 5 MLB seasons. I picked 30 because that's an age when if you're not on a 40-man roster, the road back to the bigs is tough and you need some luck. I had my opportunities and felt that I would start the next phase of my career.
17. Biggest regret as a player.
I wish I would have had more fun and enjoyed more of the moments in time. At times, I think I worked too hard at baseball because I wasn't blessed with the prototypical body, great running speed, or great hand-eye coordination. That's it though. It's nice being able to walk away saying that, rather than saying I didn't get the most out of my ability and having real regrets.
*Eric has offered his services for a "Coach's Corner" where you can email us at WSBGM's and we'll compile a list of questions for him to answer about MLB and minor league baseball life and fundamentals of baseball. We'll then post his answers with the "Ask the GM's" post that we plan on doing for any equestion you have for Corey and I.