With the 26th overall pick in the 2013 amateur draft the New York Yankees selected third baseman Eric Jagielo out of Notre Dame. Jagielo signed almost right away, but tweaked his hamstring while working out and was held back in Tampa for a couple of weeks before reporting to Staten Island. He's gotten off to a good start in the Penn League hitting .310/.429/.414. Recently, he agreed to answer some of my questions:
Matt Filippi: You were drafted a few years back out of high school and you chose to go to school at Notre Dame. What went into that decision?
Eric Jagielo: I don't think there was too much of a decision to make. We knew that I wanted to get started on my education and the way that me and my family went about it was that we knew my dream was to play professional baseball, but we didn't know what the likelihood was. And then as soon as I got a scholarship from Notre Dame, that was one step in the right direction. The other think I liked about Notre Dame was the academic side because something can always happen with baseball and you always need a back-up plan, so that's something we thought about. So when I got drafted by the Cubs, it was awesome because it was a hometown team, but we kind of knew that I was always gonna go to school and get my education started and if I was good enough in three years, I'll be drafted again.
MF: Over your three career at ND, what part of your game do you think you improved upon the most?
EJ: Hitting. Hitting has always been my strong suit and I think at college I learned how to have plate discipline and how to have more of an approach. Also, defensively though because in high school I played shortstop and that's probably because I was the most athletic, but when I got to college I got to play all three outfield positions and I also got to settle in at third and that gave me the confidence that I could play anywhere and I could use my bat to always be an option in the lineup and the manager could use me wherever he wants that day.
MF: You talked about your approach and your plate discipline. You've drawn a lot of walks since you've gotten here. What are you trying to do at the plate?
EJ: I think what I've talked about with our hitting coach Ty Hawkins and everything about it is hitting what they give you, not so much trying to make things happen. That was one of the things that I learned at Notre Dame too; sometimes you're gonna get pitches to hit and sometimes you're not and if you try to go outside of who you are, you're gonna start struggling. So I've just been trying to stay within myself and keep the approach that I've always had and try to learn what pitches I can hit and what pitches I can't early in the count and just try to be more efficient and just try to get the on-base percentage pretty high.
MF: So now that you're a professional, what are you trying to improve?
EJ: Obviously third base. I've been there for less than two years so I'm still trying to learn a lot about playing there and also just the pro lifestyle. It's a lot different than college; this is something you do every day. The ups and downs, the grind, and how to manage your body at this level, and this summer I've just been trying to talk to people and see what the best to go about your business is so I can show up every day ready to play.
MF: Before you came up here, you were down in Tampa rehabbing from a hamstring injury. And obviously the Yankees are dealing with a lot of injuries at the Major League level so there are a few guys rehabbing down there. Did you have a chance to talk to any of them?
EJ: Yeah, I was able to talk to Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and that helped me a lot with my transition into pro ball and it kind of helped me with my hitting approach too because I was able to take words from A-Rod and try to incorporate it into my approach. All of that has helped. And also just seeing how these guys act around the younger guys and just the way they go about their business and watching them move around the field was awesome. Being able to talk to them, you're almost star struck at first, but then you realize you're in the same profession as them so it was cool just to sitting around and talking to them, but also to work out with them.