Recker has swung a big bat this season.
The Oakland A’s 2005 draft class has had some strong early returns. Supplemental first round pick Travis Buck has zoomed through the A’s system and is already at AA. Second round pick Jared Lansford has thrown a no-hitter and third round pick Vince Mazzaro leads his team in wins. However, the story of the 2005 draft may end up being the strength of the A’s lower round picks.
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Twelfth round selection Jeff Baisley leads the minor leagues in RBIs with 57 through Monday. Twenty-first round draft choice Mike Madsen was one of the best starters in the Northwest League last season and is pitching well at Stockton this year with a 3.91 ERA. Thirteenth round pick Mike Massaro is doing a solid job at the top of the Kane County Cougars batting order. And so on.
One of the biggest surprises from the 2005 draft, however, has been catcher Anthony Recker. Recker was picked in the 18th round out of Division III Alvernia College, a little-known college in Pennsylvania. Recker had big numbers as a senior at Alvernia, but the jump from D-III to the pros is a big one, so his selection was not met with a lot of fanfare.
Recker began his professional career last season with Vancouver, hitting five homeruns in 150 at-bats in the cavernous Northwest League. He was then sent to Kane County to start the 2006 season and he has been one of the most pleasant surprises on the Cougars’ roster to date. Through Monday, Recker was second on the team in hitting with a .323 batting average with three homers and 22 RBI in 133 at-bats. He was also off to a fast start in June, going 7-15 with three doubles and five RBI in four games.
Kane County Correspondent Jennifer Harasek recently spoke with Recker about the fast start to his season, the adjustments he made as a hitter in the off-season, the jump from D-III to the pros and more.
Jennifer Harasek: You are off to a great start at the plate. Did you make any adjustments to your swing or approach this off-season that you credit for your hot start?
Anthony Recker: I made a lot of adjustments. Going into the instructional league last fall, Timmy Garland, our hitting coach here, took me under his wing and changed a lot of things about my swing, my stance, my approach, everything. We pretty much switched everything around, it's a whole new swing.
JH: Do you view yourself as a power-hitter or more of a line-drive batter?
AR: Well, my thing coming out [of college] was that I was a line-drive hitter with occasional power. I'm just not at the level yet where I'm able to use it every day, on a consistent basis. So right now, I'm more of a line-drive hitter. Power comes with time, so I'm just waiting for that to come around.
JH: What is your favorite part about being a catcher?
AR: Being involved with every play, whether it's calling a pitch, calling defense, letting people know what to do when they get the ball. I'm more involved than anyone else on the field.
JH: Least favorite part?
AR: Getting beat up in practice, blocking balls. I don't mind doing it during the game because that's when it means something, but practicing blocking balls and throwing, and throwing every day all the time wears down on your arm and on your body. Other than that, there's nothing I really don't like about it.
JH: Have you always been a catcher?
AR: Yeah, ever since I was a little guy I've been a catcher, so it's taking it's toll, but hopefully I can stay fresh for 10-15 more years.
JH: What was the biggest challenge in moving from D-III baseball to the pros last year?
AR: Well coming from a D-III school, there's a huge difference. The pitching is one hundred times better, the game moves so much faster.
Defensively, there weren't a lot of changes for me. Blocking the ball is the same there as it is here. So it was a lot of offensive differences as well as the speed of the game.
JH: Is there an aspect of your game you are looking to improve on most this season?
AR: I'd probably say defense because I'm a catcher. Just trying to work on my defensive game. Getting a lot more accurate with my throws, being more quiet behind the plate, trying to do a better job receiving and blocking. Everything. Just my all-around defensive game.
JH: Who was your favorite player as a kid? What team did you root for?
AR: My favorite player was always Mark McGwire. The A's were actually always my favorite team, and then McGwire went to the Cardinals so I kind of liked the Cards. The A's have always been my favorite team, surprisingly, being from the East Cost. I'm supposed to like the Phillies, but I hate the Phillies.
JH: Did you know you were going to be drafted or was it a surprise?
AR: I knew I had a shot at getting drafted, but I did not think I'd be drafted on the first day. I was one of the last picks on the first day, but I didn't think I would go on the first day. I actually had a party scheduled for the second day of the draft, and if I wouldn't have gotten drafted, then it would have just been a party. Fortunately someone from the A's saw me play and decided to give me a shot.
JH: Did the A's contact you at all before the draft?
AR: Not once. I had no idea. I had talked to six or seven other teams, and they told me they thought highly of me, but the A's never said a word. Then draft day came around and they selected me.
JH: Were there scouts on-hand during your games at Alvernia before the draft?
AR: Yeah, I had a couple scouts come. The Phillies, the Mets, a few other teams. A lot of local teams, teams near where I'm from, but the A's never said anything.
JH: What was it like facing Mark Prior when he rehabbed in Peoria on May 29?
AR: It was a lot of fun. A lot of the guys looked at it as a challenge - you get to face a big league pitcher. Granted, he didn't have his best stuff that day, but it was still an experience. It just comes with the territory. It was a lot of fun.