(Photo by Chad Bower)
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Inside Pitch Magazine: You came straight out of a high school in Reno when the Marlins drafted you in 1997. How do the two cities, which have comparable stigmas, compare?
Chris Aguila: guess one way we’d compare is the Harrah’s here. We have a Harrah’s in Reno. Other than that, you know, I don’t think I’ve seen enough of New Orleans to really compare it to Reno. There’s some water around here. We’ve got Lake Tahoe. I know we’ve got a big lake around here.
Inside Pitch: How does it feel to be only the second Major Leaguer of Samoan descent?
Aguila: You know, it’s a good feeling. Coming up and finally getting to the big leagues, it wasn’t something I was really brought up as far as guys being from other countries and representing other countries and things like that. It actually wasn’t even brought up until I made it up to the big leagues. But definitely being an athlete and attaining some goals and things like that, you’re definitely proud of your heritage and where you come from. So it is a good feeling knowing that you’re representing your last name and the heritage that you’re from.
Inside Pitch: You were really hot to start off the season, and you’re still hitting around .300. What did you do in the offseason to get yourself off to such a good start?
Aguila: I tried to go back to when I had success, and when I felt good, and when I was going through some good times. I went back to square one. I just try to simplify things. Put in a lot of hard work in the offseason and the cages and things like that.
You know, this game is a very physically draining game, but at the same time it’s a very mentally draining game. That’s one thing that I really felt I needed to address, which was getting that confidence back, getting that positive energy and the positive attitude. When you play a game like this game day in and day out, a lot of it is failure. As far as being a position player, hitting and realizing that succeeding three out of 10 times is having success. You’ve got to get back to the realization that you’re going to have bad days and you’re going to fail, and just trying not to let it snowball.
And that’s just as far as the mental side of it. Other than that, it’s just getting back to square one as far as where I felt most comfortable with my swing and things like that, and just lock it in and stay consistent with my routine and stay consistent with my work, and just take a positive attitude about every day. And that’s all I’m trying to do here, just make the most of my opportunities. The season is a long season; you can’t get too hot when you’re hot, like you said I started off to a hot start, and it’s always good when you’re playing well and you’re swinging the bat well.
But it’s a long season and you go through stretches where you’re not feeling as good as you were a week before. The biggest thing is staying positive through it and battle through it, and that’s all you can do in this game.
Inside Pitch: You aren’t considered a prospect like a 21-year-old kid coming up, but does your experience being in the Major Leagues help you to get back to the majors over a couple younger options?
Aguila: I think experience speaks for itself. You know, getting an opportunity to be in the big leagues – I was in the division that the Mets are in – being with the Marlins and things like that. That’s a plus. But what it really boils down to is your approach and the way you approach your business. You can have a 20-year-old kid who has all the tools in the world, but people might say that he’s not ready for the big leagues for whatever reason.
And you have an older guy who is doing the same thing number wise, but just goes about it a different way, and is a little bit more consistent with his approach day in and day out. As far as prospect this, that, and what not, the prospects are usually the younger kids. But they expect a lot out of guys that have been there before, and they expect a lot out of guys who set an example and go about their business the right way. And in the turn that’ll help you out along the road, wherever that may be. That’s just the way the game is, you go out there and play it every day and play hard and that’s all you can control.
Inside Pitch: As someone who has done the part time role on a major league bench before, do you think that kind of experience can help you out in getting back to the major leagues.
Aguila: You know, those are all things that you can look into and think that it can help you or hurt you, but ultimately you want to put yourself in a situation where what you do can help a team out, whether it be as a part-time role. But you know the decisions that they make as far as where they put you and what kind of role they put you in – that’s up to them. You’re job is to go out there and to contribute to whatever they ask you to do, as a role player or anything else. Just to say I came off the bench a little bit up there, there is some experience with that. Guys have made careers out of it. I think it helps them out a lot more than it would help a guy out like myself.
Maybe guys who have been in the role like a Lenny Harris back in the days, known as a pinch hitter, left handed guy coming off the bench. He’s established himself a little bit more than a guy like myself, who had a couple years in. With the time that I did invest as being a role player, I don’t think it can’t hurt, but I’m just saying it might not be a determining factor as far as how much it will help. But I was put in that situation a few times, and hopefully the experience does help a little bit.
Inside Pitch: Was it difficult to do?
Aguila: Coming up, it kinda was. Being a young guy at the time, I was considered a prospect at the time. I was used to playing every single day in the minor leagues, and you have your routine and your way of going about things, and it just becomes comfortable. You know that a bad day could easily go away the very next day, by coming out and having a good day.
Coming off the bench, it’s a little bit different You have a bad series that could be a total of two at-bats, where you don’t get a hit or do the job situationally. Those two at-bats over a four day period seem a lot longer than, say, for a starter. And that’s the biggest part. It’s just the routine of it and to have to go into a game while in the later innings, and have to face some of the better pitchers. When you pinch hit, usually you’re facing a set of guys: the relievers, the closers at the end of the game, and it’s tough when you’ve only got one shot to have success. There’s definitely a difference. And I think just the biggest part is the mental approach of it, and the work that has to go in to being a bench player, besides being a starter.
Inside Pitch: What do you think you can bring to the table for The Mets?
Aguila: I can play all three outfield positions, and I feel like defense is something I can play pretty good. I can run a little bit; I’m not a Jose Reyes, but I can run. I can do some pitch running, and hopefully I can stay consistent with the bat here, to where if I do get put in the situation or have the opportunity to come off the bench, is to put up a good quality at-bat for them. And those are good things that I definitely have to focus on here every day.
Like I said, this is a crazy game. One minute you’re here, the next minute you’re there. Being in the Mets organization, what an opportunity it would be to take part with a team like that. I think those are some of the things I can offer, and hopefully I can just stay consistent. If something were to open up, hopefully they can keep that in mind.