Landon Powell is ready for a big season.
One of the biggest names on the Stockton Ports roster this season is Landon Powell. Powell was the A’s top pick in 2004 and he was expected to be the Ports starting catcher in 2005. However, an off-season knee injury caused Powell to miss the entire season. Back on the field with the Ports in 2006, Powell has started three of the Ports first four games. We caught up with Powell this past weekend to get his feelings on his recovery and his expectations for this season.
THIS IS A FREE PREVIEW OF PREMIUM CONTENT
OaklandClubhouse: What was last year like, being unable to play?
Landon Powell: You know, it was really, really difficult. Being a guy who has played baseball his whole life – I started playing baseball when I was a little kid – to miss time, it was hard to explain how I felt being home by myself and not being able to go out there and play. No matter how bad I wanted to go, I couldn’t go, so it was really difficult.
After the game the other night [Opening Day], I was really overwhelmed. I had been playing in spring training, but playing a real game, it was a really big thing for me. I almost got teary-eyed a little bit from just being out there and being able to get back on the field.
OC: How long did it take you this spring to feel like you were really back in the swing of things?
LP: It still doesn’t feel like yet that I am all the way back to where I was before I was hurt. I went through a surgery that was borderline career-ending, so that is difficult to come back from. So I don’t feel like I’m back to where I was before I was injured. I definitely have a ways to go, but I am back out there and playing, so that is definitely great and I plan to continue to work to get back to 100%.
OC: What kind of work did you have to do to get back into playing shape?
LP: I had about eight months of rehab. The first six months involved basically on the table stuff. I wasn’t doing a whole lot of running or anything until eight months after my surgery, so it was a real slow process. They really lengthened the rehab program so it wasn’t a quick thing. I actually didn’t catch a single pitcher until this spring. It’s been a slow process.
OC: How did the injury happen exactly?
LP: I was back home at South Carolina where I went to school and a number of the pro guys who played together work out there. There is a facility at the school where we work out together. [That day] I had caught a couple of bullpens and had taken batting practice and we started some cone drills and I just planted on it wrong and it blew up.
OC: Thinking back to 2004, what was the adjustment like from college ball to the pros?
LP: It was a tough adjustment, especially for a guy like me. My college team went all the way to the end of the season, so going straight from college ball and a week later to pro ball is tough. You are tired, it’s been a long college season and you have to get adjusted to the wooden bat.
The speed of the game is a little different. In college, you see a lot more fastballs. In the pros, you really have to square it up on the bat to make it go. With the aluminum bat, you can kind of get away with not hitting it that well. There are a lot of adjustments. Vancouver was a good city to play in, a lot of fun, but I was definitely excited for that second year of pro ball because I felt like I was going to be ready to go.
OC: You are a switch-hitter. Which side do you feel more comfortable usually?
LP: It really depends. Sometimes it depends on which side I slept on the night before. I can feel so great from one side of the plate one day and the next day feel out of whack.
I’ve been working a lot left-handed lately because I was struggling from the left-side when I came back. I’m a natural right-handed hitter from when I was growing up. I think the injury set me back a little bit as a left-handed hitter. I can step in the box right-handed and feel really good, but left-handed, I have to work at it a little bit.
OC: You played with Kevin Melillo [a top prospect in the A’s organization] in college and in high school on Team USA. Kevin moved through three levels of the A’s system last year. Did he give you any advanced information on the cities and the teams he played on?
LP: Kevin had a great year last year and I was really happy for him. He told me a lot about Stockton and how they have a great ballpark. And he was right. It’s hard to explain how nice this place [Banner Island Ballpark] really is. I’m just excited to be here.
OC: What are you most looking forward to this season?
LP: Well, just getting out there and playing. There is nothing else that is a better feeling then just getting out there and playing and being out there with my teammates.
I’m just looking forward to being healthy, having a good year and earning my paycheck. You know, that is something that is important. I feel like the A’s drafted me to play for them and I let them down last season [by being hurt], so I’m going to go out there and be sure that I’m out there everyday for them.