Monday, May 20, 2013

An Interview with Astros OF Preston Tucker

Preston Tucker seems like kind of a quiet guy, but that may be because he lets his bat do the talking for him. Before I spoke with Tucker, I had already talked to Hitting Coach Darryl Robinson to get his take on Tucker. Robinson's eyes lit up, "Tuck. Tuck. You know, the ball comes off his bat like never before. He hits the ball hard."

The next day I talked to Manager Rodney Linares about Tucker,  "His name's Bam Bam. He's one of loudest bats I've ever listened to. I'm talking about, he ranks up there with Vlad Guerrero and those guys. It's LOUD. People talk about the park where we play at, but when Tucker hits them, he hits them. It doesn't matter [where]. He's got a chance to be a special bat. Not only hit for power but hit for average. He's going to drive the ball and it doesn't matter if it's righty or lefty. He's getting better at the left-handers. If you hang it, he's going to bang it. That's what Bam Bam does."

It's all still a work in progress as Robinson works with Tucker to use the whole field and drive the ball to all parts of the ballpark. Robinson described a recent series where Tucker struggled because they were pitching him in, but he made the necessary adjustments and hit a double and base hit the other way in the last game of the series. Linares agrees that Tucker needs to refine his approach at the plate, but also notes that he is encouraged by his play in right field, "He's learning to play right field. He's getting good at it."

Preston Tucker - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

One of the first things I talked to Tucker about was how scouts seemed to downplay his talent prior to the draft despite his terrific college stats. Was he aware of that?: "Yeah, kind of. Most of the time numbers aren’t everything in college. You see some guys come out of college, but didn’t have great numbers that are really good and progressed pretty quickly through organizations and you see some guys with really good numbers in college [that] kind of fell short of expectations. I just do my thing. I had success in college. I plan on carrying it over. Someone told me I wasn’t going to be successful. I’ll just give it my best shot and hopefully it continues. So far I feel like I’ve been successful in professional ball and hopefully I keep it up. It's all where you end up really."

What does he bring to the game?: "Obviously I think my biggest asset would be my hitting. I can play the field. I’m not going to go out there and surprise anybody, wow anybody out there. I can play the corners. I played first [base] my first two years of college so I think I have some versatility and can play pretty much anywhere anyone needs me. I’ve been playing a little bit of both. I’ve been playing left and right here. I feel comfortable at both positions so I’m just kind of going out there wherever I see myself in the lineup. [Is he comfortable as a DH?] If it comes to that, yes. For the most part I do like playing at DH, but [it can be] a little tough. Especially [when] you have to sit and wait your turn, think about hitting the whole time, rather than go out there, focus on defense and base-running, and what not, but if that’s where someone wants to put me, I’d be more than happy to do that as well."

Which Astros pitcher would he least like to face?: "There’s a lot of good guys. One guy that I played college ball with [in Florida], I haven’t faced in this organization, obviously, [is] Kevin Chapman. He’s up in Triple-A Oklahoma City. He’s a big 6’4” lefty and throws hard, good slider and no one could hit him when I played college ball, especially lefties so that would be someone that I would probably have to battle. My confidence probably wouldn’t be as high as I’d like [it to be] against him."

What would he do if he couldn't play baseball? "I graduated from college with an anthropology degree, don’t know why. That’s the degree I got. I kind of got put in there as a freshman, hadn't decided what I wanted to do. Still haven’t decided what I want to do. I’d be going back to grad school, I guess, would be the right answer." [He went on to tell me that he's somewhat interested in business, advertising and finance.]

What did he think about getting drafted by the Astros?: "It was unexpected, that’s for sure. Beforehand, I hadn’t heard from them. My agents spoke with a couple teams but I didn’t know the Astros were interested. I knew they had picked a lot of great players before me so I was kind of excited to get in the organization, especially with Fontana having already gone to them. We were still playing. We still had probably about a month left of college ball because we had the whole playoffs to go, but it was definitely in the back of my mind the whole time we were playing college ball. I was looking forward to getting ready and starting my career with the Astros."

What does he think about the Astros farm system?: "When I got to spring training, I see all this talent, especially the outfield. I asked some guys who had been here if other organizations are like this and they said, 'No, this is something special.' There’s so much talent and a lot of guys are still working their way up [that] would already be up in the big leagues on a lot of teams just because there are so many. It’s kind of backed up because there are so many good players. I think some guys will weed themselves out. Some guys will just ride their way all the way to the big leagues and I think we’ll have a successful team in a couple of years."

Who on the team makes him laugh?: "Brandon Meredith. Absolutely. He’s always in a good mood. He sits right behind me on the bus. He’s a fun guy to talk to. He’s a fun guy to hang out with. One of my other good buddies, M. P. Cokinos, he’s one of those guys who’s really easy-going, always in a good mood. Both of those guys are just hard workers so they are always focused, but like to joke around too. I like to surround myself with those guys."

On something most people don't know about him: "I play guitar. I guess that some people don’t know [that]. I’m not going to give you something embarrassing or anything like that. I like to play guitar. It’s one of my hobbies. I normally shut it down during the season because I don’t like to haul the guitar around with me wherever I go. But in the off-season, I do like to pick it back up and it’s something to pass the time, when you’re bored. It’s something I’ve done since the eighth grade and I just enjoy doing it. I’m not too interesting. I just play baseball. Wake up. Eat some breakfast. Go to the field."

Rodney Linares had something else to say about Tucker that really stood out for me, "It's a really good mix when you have guys like Tucker and [Matt] Duffy who are really quiet and to themselves when the game's going on, but they're actually awesome teammates. They pull for each other so bad. It's more like a family than a team and that's one of the things I like." It seems that, although Tucker is a quiet guy, he lets his bat and his actions on the field speak for him. And those are just loud enough.

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Thank you for your time, Preston, and best of luck as the season unfolds.

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