Q&A: St. Lucie's Brett Harper

Q&A: St. Lucie's Brett Harper

After a winter of perfecting his swing with his father, former big leaguer Brian Harper, St. Lucie Mets first baseman Brett Harper is reaping dividends from those long, sweaty hours. Harper - who homered again Thursday and now leads the Florida State League with 12 homers - joined Inside Pitch's Bryan Hoch for a Q&A from Port St. Lucie, where the Mets take on the Lakeland Tigers Friday night:

You're off to a great start for St. Lucie this season, having already hit 12 home runs by the first week in May. Do you have any kind of explanation for the power surge?

Hard work. I've been working my butt off right from the end of last season, doing a lot of working out and extra hitting in the cages. I'm trying to perfect myself at a power position, and I took a good look at my situation. Me and my dad [former major leaguer Brian Harper] found a swing that could work for me, and I got into the weight room and put in good hours on average.

How much of a bonus has it been that your father has experiences to draw on when it comes to playing in the big leagues?

It's huge. We talk every single night and go over the good and bad at-bats, what works and what doesn't. It's good for me that he can always say, 'Hey, I've been there.' There's no game where he'd say, 'Oh, I've never seen that before.' It's a huge confidence builder.

You're at 12 home runs now; you hit 17 all of last year. Where could you see yourself ending up statistically?

I can't really think about that. I try not to set goals; all I try to do is take one at-bat at a time and worry about that pitcher and that pitch. To think, 'I hope I hit this many,' and things like that, I can't dwell on that.

Statistics aside, do you have a certain goal for yourself this year as far as what level you'd like to be promoted to?

Obviously, the goal is always to make it to the big leagues. That's my ultimate goal, to make the big leagues. As far as this year, wherever I go, if it's up it's a good thing. You just hopefully don't ever go down: if anything, you want to go up.

That being said, how disappointing was it to be re-assigned to St. Lucie this season after making it up to Double-A Binghamton in 2004?

There was disappointment; I'd be lying if said there wasn't. I went home and my dad said, 'Hey man, you've got two options. You can quit, or you can work harder.' At first I felt like I'd rather quit, just as a natural reaction from the disappointment of being demoted. You never feel like you're going to want to do a level over again. But I got into it and just said that I was going to work even harder this year; obviously the Mets like me and they're giving me a chance to play.

When you look at your overall place in the organization, do you find it daunting that the Mets appear to have stocked up on first basemen who may rank ahead of you?

That's a thing you can't really worry about either. You can't worry about what those guys doing. Of course there's guys ahead of me, but you have to forget about it because it's just going to mess you up. You've got to go out there and play.

Does your early power surge carry any extra weight to you because it's been done in the Florida State League, which is notoriously known to favor pitchers?

Oh yeah, of course. It's huge. I never could have known I could hit like this, because it's something I've never done. I've hit for power, but really, this is power. I can see my hard work paying off.

Specifically, what did you and your father do to put on power over the offseason?

It was a lot of lifting weights. The last two offseasons, really, me and my dad have really hit it hard on the weights. We look at the guys in the majors and you know that at my position, those are all power guys in the major leagues – you've got guys who are strong as an ox up there. So we really hit it hard, power lifting, doing squats, bench presses, and kind of moving away from doing speed stuff because power is going to be my game.

Physically, how did the regimen change your build?

I put on about five pounds of muscle over the winter. It could have been more, but I did' nt get as much time to work out because I went to play in the Arizona Fall League. But I came in [to spring training] weighing 240 and right now I'm about 235.

Do you think playing in the Arizona Fall League benefited you?

Oh yeah. Playing fall ball, I got some great experiences and got to play with the best ballplayers in all of Minor League Baseball. I got to see what kinds of work I need to do, and what a long road I've still got ahead. It was great to see.

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