Barfield is looking for a strong second half.
One of the key cogs in the Kane County Cougars' first-half division championship offense was outfielder Jeremy Barfield, who hit .302 with an 848 OPS. Barfield made the All-Star team and is hoping to finish the season on a strong note. David Malamut caught-up with the A's 2008 eighth round pick over the weekend for a Q&A session...
Starting a professional career in the pitcher-friendly Northwest and Midwest Leagues can be difficult for any hitter. Jeremy Barfield has handled the task well thus far in his pro career, however, batting .271 in the Northwest League in 2008 and .279 in the Midwest League this season. Barfield has also seen an uptick in his power numbers this season, going from three homeruns in 69 games with Vancouver in 2008 to six homeruns in 66 games thus far this year.
Barfield knows what it takes to get to the big leagues, as he has a father and an older brother who have both made it to the show. David Malamut spoke with Jeremy about his goals for the season, his approach at the plate, playing in difficult hitting environments and more...
David Malamut: How did growing up with a major league father [Jesse Barfield] help you in your pro career?
Jeremy Barfield: He just has so much knowledge and gives me the best advice and is so accessible. It has been such an asset to have him in my life because he is like my safety net. He is my guidance. He is really positive with the advice he gives.
DM: Growing up near Spring, TX, what was it like with all the big leaguers who are from there?
JB: It was always a lot of talent coming out of my hometown, so I was always playing against some good ball players. It’s a higher level of competition. It made me better, I was always playing up playing against older guys, so it made me a better ballplayer.
DM: What did you learn while playing at San Jacinto Junior College?
JB: I learned how to be more of a complete ballplayer instead of a hitter. I learned how to play defense and build up my arm strength to make that a weapon. I was learning the smaller aspects of the game instead of just hitting homeruns.
DM: How was draft day out of high school, being drafted by the New York Mets?
JB: Draft day was hectic out of high school. I was in Milwaukee in a hotel watching my brother [Josh Barfield] and the San Diego Padres play the Brewers. The Internet was going in and out, and scouts didn’t know I was out of town, so I guess they were calling my home phone. It was just a really hectic experience.
DM: How was draft dray in 2008 with Oakland?
JB: I was asleep actually and the phone call woke me up telling me I was just drafted in the eighth round. It was great news to wake up to.
DM: What did you learn from last year in Vancouver?
JB: Patience because I was trying too hard, especially offensively. I also learned to take the approach that it’s a long season and not to take each at-bat too seriously because there are a lot of at bats in pro ball.
DM: How difficult of a transition was it from metal to wood bats?
JB: It wasn’t difficult at all. I also made sure in high school to take some rounds of batting practice with wood so it eased the transition for me.
DM: What is your mentality at the plate?
JB: It depends on the situation. If I'm leading off the inning I try to get on base if there are guys on in scoring position that is when I try to drive the ball to bring them in. It also depends on the count, it depends when my swing is more aggressive or when I'm really just looking for my pitch or just trying to foul the ball off.
DM: Are you looking for fastballs a lot?
JB: It depends. We have a lot of scouting reports and me being in the four hole now, it changes my approach to the plate a lot more. Early in the count I'm definitely looking for the fastball. If I get it, I’ve got to do something with it. After that it is just having a good approach to go the other way.
DM: What do you have to work on offensively?
JB: I’ve got a lot to work on offensively - plate coverage, fixing holes in my swing, driving the ball more often. There are a lot of things I'm working on, steadily making improvements over the course of the season.
DM: What do you have to work on defensively?
JB: I’m working on my routes, first steps. Me not being a fast guy, I really have to make up for that with taking great routes to the ball. Also, improving on my throwing accuracy.
DM: Coming to Kane County late in April, what was it like staying behind in Arizona after the rest of the team left?
JB: I wasn’t too worried about it because I was injured so I was trying to get healthy. My hamstring was barking and I pulled it before spring training even started. That was very frustrating but it wasn’t that bad, I’d rather be in the warm weather getting healthy than up here in the cold weather with a hamstring injury because those are very tricky.
DM: What kind of adjustments did you have to make to the cold weather?
JB: It really wasn’t too bad because the manager DHed me a lot to make sure I stayed healthy and to make sure I had my legs under me, so that definitely helped ease the process so I could play every day. If I wasn’t DH'ing and playing the field every day, I might've had some more problems.
DM: What did it feel like to hit your first Cougar homerun?
JB: It was great. It was a good feeling because the first one is always the hardest to get out of the way. It was a good feeling.
DM: How did the three homerun game against Burlington feel?
JB: That was just awesome. I wasn’t even feeling that good before the game at the plate. I was really frustrated with my swing but for some reason the days I have the worst BP are the days I have the best games. I just couldn’t believe it, the ball just kept on jumping. Every at-bat I felt like I was going to go deep.
DM: What goals do you have for the season?
JB: I want to hit .300 for the year. I did for the first half, but that doesn’t matter. It is where you end up. I want to hit .300 for the year. We also clinched playoffs, and I want to win a championship. We’re going to be in the playoffs and we’re going to be here longer, so we’ve got to get a ring out of it. Also, I want to have double-digit homeruns because that is one thing that is going to help me get to the big leagues is power, driving the ball. Double-digit homeruns is a good sign of improvement especially after three last year.
DM: What would you be doing if you were not playing baseball?
JB: I’d probably be doing graphic design. I’m really good with computers and would probably be doing things with Photoshop because I’m really good with that stuff.
DM: What is in your iPod?
JB: All hip hop. I’ve got about 900 songs on my iPod and every single one is hip hop and R&B. You might find a couple of alternative songs on there but it’s all hip hop.
DM: What’s been the experience at playing in the Midwest League ballparks?
JB: Seems like our division has the worst ballparks by far. The other division, the ballparks are great. Then you come here to our ballpark, and I love playing here and especially with the improvements they did this off-season. We get some good crowds at home and on the road. I like it.
DM: Did your brother tell you anything about the parks or playing in the league?
JB: Yeah he did. He told me it’s not hitter friendly, it’s more of a pitcher's league. He also warned me of the smell in Clinton.
DM: How big of an influence has your brother been on your career?
JB: Great. The best part is that he motivates me because we have a sibling rivalry. I go by what he did when he was here. It’s good fun, a lot of fun.
DM: Have you always been an outfielder?
JB: Outfielder/first base. I messed around pitching very little in high school, but it wasn’t much at all. Mostly outfield. I played a fair share of first base, as well.
DM: Other than your father playing baseball, what got you started in the game?
JB: I was just around it so much. With my friends, baseball was the thing to do back home so it really wasn’t even a question. The thing is, though, that I grew up playing every thing, like soccer. I did not play football, I played soccer. I was real big into basketball. Actually if I didn’t hurt my knees, I would probably be still playing basketball, but being around baseball so much I just stuck with it.