What is your biggest improvement coming into this year?
"I would say my strength. My legs, obviously. I pulled my hamstring twice last year. Working on that, getting that back to where it was before, has been something that I've strived on working on. A lot of leg curls, a lot of explosive stuff, jumping, one-leg hops. I couldn't even tell you how many leg curls I did. Just really working on the explosiveness of it. And just being a better disciplined hitter -- knowing the counts, knowing when to swing at what, knowing when to use the whole field. I would say mainly just being a better defensive hitter and knowing what counts to do what in."
How did you work on discipline at the plate? Did you analyze a lot of video of your swing over the summer?
"I played (last summer) in the Coastal Plain (League) with the Florence Red Wolves. Not really any video. Just mainly repetition. I played probably two weeks' worth of games down there. And just going into each at-bat and being determined not to strike out, basically. That kind of taught me to use the whole field and really focus on hitting balls back side (to the opposite field) late in the count and at times, getting my swings in earlier in the count."
How did sitting out all those games last year help you?
"I really focused on what I wanted to be in the future. It happened for a reason. God, I guess, was (thinking), 'OK, you need to sit back and visualize who you are as a person.' It worked out. It's frustrating when you're not playing. So not being able to play helped me sit back and just really focus on visualizing the game. I can use that when I'm up hitting and when I get deep in the count, knowing I have to use the whole field."
Where do you keep your two championship rings?
"Right now, they're on my desk in a box. I wear them on certain occasions, certain events where I have to dress up. Going to church, I'll wear one. Or if I'm going to speak at an (elementary or middle) school, obviously kids want to see the ring. Outside of that, just hanging out, we don't really wear them that much. They're obviously nice and big, so we kind of save them for the big events."
What are some amusing questions kids ask you at the school visits?
"We get a bunch. 'What kind of bats do you use? What size bats do you use?' Just like little stuff that you don't really think about someone asking. 'Where do you play at? What position? How hard do you throw?' They think you're a pitcher, so that's usually a good one: 'How hard do you throw?' Every now and then, you'll get a new one and it'll trip you up a little bit."
Since USC baseball players are well-known in Columbia now, what's the strangest thing you've been asked to sign or place you've been recognized?
"I've signed kids' arms, hands, random stuff like that. I live with (All-American pitcher) Michael Roth, so with him around, we get recognized a lot, at movie theaters and restaurants. That comes as a part of just being a part of this program, and something we kind of embrace. I like it. It means something to you. You know you've accomplished a lot while being here. It's a good feeling."