I will be running a new interview with one of the best MLB draft prospects 2010 has to offer each Sunday and Wednesday up until June, and you can click here to find an up to date archive of them all.
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Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Are your height and weight still 6’0”, 180 lbs?
Zach Alvord: Yes sir, well, actually I’m at about 185 lbs right now. I’ve worked to put on a few more pounds of muscle before the season. I had a workout program with my high school coach this year, we worked out Monday, Wednesday, Friday on both upper and lower body all three days - I had to get a little bit bigger.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Are you all about baseball, or do you play other sports?
Zach Alvord: I used to play football when I was younger, and I played a little bit of basketball before that, but football and baseball were my main two sports. I had to quit football because of the contact; I couldn’t get hurt for the baseball season. I felt as though my career in baseball could hopefully continue on to the pro level, and in football I didn’t feel like I had the size to play and injury was a much bigger factor.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What drew you to Auburn?
Zach Alvord: Both my parents went there and I’ve actually grown up an Auburn fan my whole life. My parents didn’t actually meet there, they met in high school, but they both went there, my uncle played football there, and I grew up wearing the Auburn jersey. I wore Bo Jackson’s jersey to my football practices every day, I went to watch Auburn baseball all the time and pictured myself out there, went to other Auburn games and would think of how awesome it would be to be a student there, and always had dreams of being an Auburn Tiger. I had the choices of going to Georgia, Georgia Tech, and other places, but nothing really felt like home except for when I had Auburn across my chest.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: As a Yankee fan, I understand a true, deep-seeded rivalry…and being an Auburn fan, I know you do, too. What are your thoughts about the Tide?
Zach Alvord: Honestly, the Roll Tide has played a role in my life because my parents were big Auburn fans, but they grew up in Alabama so they were big-time against Roll Tide – they hated Alabama as most Auburn fans do and got all pumped up for the big game. Personally, I live in Georgia, and the Georgia game means more to me honestly. I grew up here with Georgia fans talking about how good they’re going to be, and how every year they’re going to be winning a national championship, so for me Georgia overrides the Alabama game. I think if I grew up in Alabama I’d have a better understanding of it, but growing up here, for me the big game is Georgia.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How much have you thought about the draft?
Zach Alvord: The way I see it, the draft is obviously going to come up during my high school season, and I feel as though it will take care of itself. Being able to go to Auburn and play baseball there is something I’ve dreamt of my whole live, and my ultimate goal is playing in the Major Leagues, playing in an All-Star Game, and hopefully be in the Hall Of Fame one day, so either way I get to relax, play my game, and do what I do best. When I do that everything else will just fall into place. At this point I’m trying not to think about going to the pros, or heading off to college and going to class, I’m going to take my senior year in stride and have as much fun as I can. It’s going to be a big decision, but you only get one senior year and I’m definitely going to try and sit back and enjoy it.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Whether it’s this summer or after a few years with the Tigers, what are the images you dream about when you think of playing professional baseball?
Zach Alvord: Most people don’t really get to legitimately dream about their number one thing in life, much less have that dream be about being paid millions to do it. It’s not the money in my dream though, it’s being out there on the field, under the lights, having the fans watching you, getting in the dirt, playing on a Major League field, showing you’re the best in the world, having everything riding on your back in every at-bat, having every ground ball ride on you – it’s just awesome. I can’t even describe it. I can’t wait, I see it as being a lot of fun, and that’s my ultimate goal – to make that dream come true.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Have you heard from a lot of teams?
Zach Alvord: I’ve had 23 of the 30 teams come for their in-home visits, and five others contact me.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Have you heard from the Yankees yet?
Zach Alvord: I have, I should be having an interview with them very soon.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Has your family retained an advisor?
Zach Alvord: Yes, Career Sports and Entertainment.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How would you describe your approach as a hitter?
Zach Alvord: I like to always go up there with an approach, so I like to read what pitchers are doing differently earlier in the count versus later in the count to get a feel of what they’re going to try and do with me. I’m an aggressive hitter, I’m not a guy that’s going to lay back at the plate and look for a walk or to just slap a ball through the hole. If I get the pitch I like, I’m going to take full advantage of it, I’m not going to get cheated, and I’m going to get a full cut with the goal of hitting the ball as solid as I can. If the fastball comes early, then I’ll be swinging at it – I won’t be taking a pitch I really like early trying to look for a walk.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Where do you hit in the lineup?
Zach Alvord: I usually hit anywhere from one through four. This year I’ll be hitting leadoff, last year I hit third, so we haven’t really figured it out yet.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What’s your personality on the field?
Zach Alvord: I would describe myself as calm in pressure situations and always giving it all I’ve got - I live by the phrase “go big or go home.” I’m going to go out there, bust your butt, give it all you got, leave it all on the field – blood and guts, sweat and tears, I mean it’s my life. I’ve done it 90 games in the summer since I was 13, it’s just what I do, and if you want to make it to the pro level it’s what you’ve got to do. It’s hard work every day, on and off the field, and I love it. I like to be known as the guy that will get the job done in the biggest spot.
Kevin Levine-FLandrup: Have you hit with wood for any extended period of time?
Zach Alvord: I have. Between Gary Baldwin’s team at 15 years old and Kevin Baldwin’s team at 17 years old, we probably use wood 80%, if not 90%, of the summer. The approach is definitely different, but I think the woodbat is a lot truer version of the game. Hitters get away with a bunch of hits with metal bats that you wouldn’t get away with a wood one. There are a lot of hits where you don’t have to square the ball up or hit it solid to get a hit with a metal bat, and that’s unfair to the pitcher who’s trying to do his job. I definitely have fun hitting with metal, but after the past three summers I feel like wood is what I like to use.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is your pitching status this season?
Zach Alvord: I’ll be closing a few games depending on the situation, and occasionally get a start – maybe one or two.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What’s the top velocity you’ve hit off the mound?
Zach Alvord: My top velocity was 93 MPH, and I actually hit that at Turner field. Across the infield I’ve hit 94 MPH.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: In the field what position are you most comfortable at, 2B or SS?
Zach Alvord: I can honestly say that after playing both SS and 2B for many seasons, either one feels very comfortable to me. I feel like I have the velocity in my arm to play shortstop, and at the same time I feel very comfortable with my footwork at 2B turning doubleplays. I’m just very comfortable in the middle infield and either position feels great to me.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Being from Georgia is it safe to assume you’re a Braves fan?
Zach Alvord: Yeah growing up in Atlanta, Chipper Jones is my role model. I was always watching them, and then Jeff Francoeur came right out of my hometown and played for the Braves, and now Brian McCann, so it’s been neat.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What was it like playing at Wrigley for the UA game?
Zach Alvord: The Under Armour game was awesome and a lot of fun, first-class everything, and the hotel was great. They made it feel like I was already a Major Leaguer out there playing with the Under Armour stuff they gave us – shoes, custom cleats, trainers, pants, a girdle, glasses even, pairs of batting gloves for both practice and the game, I mean I felt like I was in the Majors for a day. Everything was superb, I had tons of fun playing at Wrigley, and it was just a great, great experience. It was actually my second time playing at Wrigley, and the first time I got cleated under my eye and still have a big scar there, so my blood was already on the field [laughs]. I felt much more relaxed playing there the second time, and ended up getting a double down the line in the game.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How about being at Petco for the Aflac game?
Zach Alvord: I love playing with good talent, and there was so much around at the Aflac game. Playing with kids that can play as well as me or better is something I love, just being around all of that top-notch talent, and competing against them. That’s the only way you’re going to get better, and if I’m going to get to the Major Leagues someday, that’s what I’ll be around anyway. Aflac was first class, and the game and tradition behind it was a little bit overwhelming when you consider all the players that have played in it in the past. A lot of them are playing at the professional level, and some even in the All-Star Game, so it was great to know that I was an Aflac All-America because I’d been thinking about it since I was 12.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who’s the one guy in your draft class that you don’t want to face?
Zach Alvord: I wouldn’t word it as one guy I wouldn’t want to face, because I want to face the best guy there is. I would say Jameson Taillon is the guy that would be tough to hit off of – it would be interesting and a challenge.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If you could steal one tool from any other HS senior in this draft class, what would you take and from whom?
Zach Alvord: I’d steal the arm of one of my buddies that I played with all summer, Stetson Allie. I’d obviously like to be able to throw the ball right at 100 MPH, so to me that’s a great tool and not too many guys can say that, even at the pro level. It’s a great thing for Stetson, and I hope he can use it to the best of his ability and maybe make the Major Leagues someday.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who are the players that you look up to in terms of their skills or the way they play?
Zach Alvord: Yeah there is now, my main comparison is Gordan Beckham. I’ve been told by many scouts, and lots of other resources, that I compare to him. He came from an SEC school right here in Georgia, we have the same body-type, he’s a righty, and he plays SS, so I look up to what he did. He had a great junior year and now he’s playing in the Major Leagues, so I really look up to him. I hope to follow in his footsteps if I end up going to Auburn and get drafted after that.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Finally, what’s this whole process like for you?
Zach Alvord: It’s just really exciting. Over the last summer it’s been great to see all the hard work I’ve put in since I was 4 years old playing baseball, all the time training, all the hard work and dedication I’ve put into the game starting to pay off a little bit. It’s definitely a small step you know, the draft is a small step, and college is a stepping-stone, too, but it’s definitely exciting to see some of the stuff I’ve done paying off. I keep saying it, but I really just see it as exciting. If I get drafted, the situation fits, and everything feels right it’s going to be extremely exciting going into the minor leagues, trying to work my way up, and be on the road to the Major Leagues. If not, I’ll be in college working hard, getting better, and playing my butt off to get ready for the draft my junior or senior year. Right now is my time to not relax, but to enjoy what’s going on because I’ve got the option to go to Auburn and fulfill a lifelong dream, or jump right into the pros and chase that dream of working my way up to a Major League team, then All-Star Team, and hopefully the Hall of Fame one day.