Have you ever wanted to know what MLB scouting departments ask top prospects in the months leading up to the draft? Want to get a look inside the mind of the Dodgers’ latest first-round draft pick, Tulane product Kody Hoese? I had the chance to be part of the process for an MLB team. Here’s Jack Little’s pre-draft interview. This could be a future arm in the Dodgers’ rotation.
— MLB Draft Tracker (@MLBDraftTracker) June 4, 2019
Why do you think the MLB Draft is so unpredictable in terms of who makes it to the big leagues and who doesn’t?
It’s pretty clear that everyone who gets drafted is talented. I think it’s pretty clear on that. There has to be things that set certain guys apart: mentality and guys who are willing to show up every day and they’re gonna make it and work hard and continue improving. Those are the guys who set themselves apart at the next level no matter where they’re drafted. You can have guys taken high relying on their talent alone, making it easy for them to get passed up.
What gets you excited when you play the game of baseball?
The first thing I would say is competing. I love being out there in a competitive zone, it’s you vs. the hitter with the game on the line. It’s a battle, you’re out there trying to give your team the best chance to win. That competitive aspect is a ton of fun. I love being out there and in the locker room with my teammates. The bond I have created with guys has been so awesome – I just love coming out to the field every day.
What does it take for a team to win a championship?
That’s something we talk about a lot on our team now – I’ve heard you kind of have to be ‘uncommon’. I think there are a lot of things that a common team will do. They’ll roll over or drop a few games and say ‘it’s just baseball’. To win a championship you have to be uncommon. You have to pay attention and work on the little things. Excellence is mundane, but each little marginal improvement you get is a little more tedious than the one before it. Being driven and working on the little things can set a team apart and help them win a title.
What is the difference between you and a MLB pitcher right now?
Obviously they pitch at a higher level, they have more experience. I think that something I have continued to work on is getting stronger in the weight room and improving my pitches and mechanics. I think the guys in the big leagues might throw a tad harder. I haven’t ruled that out for myself. I will definitely throw harder in the future I believe. I think that they’re just, it’s just impressive watching them on tv every day or when there’s a game on. I can definitely see myself going out and doing what they’re doing.
Finish the sentence for me: Jack is a great player, but?
But I think he can still get better. There are places he needs to improve and I can see him being an even better player.
When you get ready to pitch, what is your routine.
I have the same routine every game day, depending on when the game is I go to bed at a good time. Wake up, make sure I’m eating food at the right times, have coffee or whatever to get going a little. I show up to the field during batting practice so I can move around a little bit. Get the blood flowing and get a stretch from the trainers. Make sure my body is all loose ready to go. 45-to an hour before the game I do a dynamic warm up and pick up a ball. Play some catch. I do some light work on a couple pitches and get ready to go.
In-game, I always tell myself; it’s almost like a reset button. Two things I tell myself, push off on my back leg as hard as I can or feel myself spin the ball as much as I can it’s something super simple and gives me a reset button to do every time.
How will you know when you’ve made it?
That’s tough because even making it to the Majors you are always working on stuff and improving you’re never done. But I guess, I’ve made it maybe when I have played ten years in the bigs or something like that. Proven that I consistently play at the highest level or be successful at it.
Tell me some things in your life that you’re grateful for?
I am definitely grateful for my family. They are so incredible and have been such an important part of my life in providing for me and teaching me examples and lessons. Giving me the proper education and giving me the chance to play the sport I love. Always being there for me when I need them. I think I am incredibly grateful for them.
Talk about a time in your life when you dealt with adversity
Adversity for me was freshman year here at Stanford, I had a ton of success before that. I came on campus and I was super eager and ambitious to help the team win and make my mark and be a weekend guy. When I got on campus I struggled really hard, my velocity dropped and couldn’t throw strikes. My value really plummeted as far as landing a role because of that. I got a chance and a couple innings, did pretty bad. Walked guys and got yanked. Conference play came along and I wasn’t on the travel roster to go away to conference games. That was definitely a moment when I had to sit there and ask myself what do I need to do to get myself back on track. It was never doubting. I worked hard and tried new things. By the end of the year I felt really good, got an inning at the end of the year and gave up two runs still. I went out that summer and got myself in the right spot – and didn’t rely too heavily on a coach. I figured out my mentality and came out the next year ready to go with my hair on fire. I have been really good since then.
How do great players improve the other players they are around?
Great players improve the players around them in a couple ways by setting an example; a guy last year on our team Nico Hoerner wasn’t a vocal leader but played hard. He put his head down and did everything the right way. We all fed off it and tried to work like he did. That made everyone better. I think just paying attention to your teammates. Like for instance my catch partner knows me really well. He can just as easily tell me if I am off as the pitching coach can. I think that great players can influence other guys just by setting a great example and by paying attention and seeing if they can help them out in any other way.
What is the biggest adjustment you have made in baseball?
I just started throwing a slider last year. It’s a new pitch I have been working on. It was serviceable last year, over the summer I tried to shape it into a different pitch. This year it’s been solid, decent for me. Definitely repeatable. I am sitting there a few weeks ago wondering why I am not fooling people with this pitch? I sat down with my catch partner trying to figure out how to tunnel it. We talked through it – I remember pitching against Utah and the coach said trust your eyes! So I thought maybe they were picking it up easy, I dropped my arm slot down at that time, it’s been my best out-pitch by far. I am really excited about it.
What is one of the toughest adjustments you will need to make looking forward into Pro Baseball?
I think just the number of games you play – playing in college you play four games a week but that can’t compare to one off-day in a month. So just getting used to the grind that is professional baseball and really making sure and taking it upon yourself to show up every day with the same focus, drive, and mentality. Not letting a single day slip away from you.
What advice would you give to a Freshman hoping to follow in your footsteps and get into pro ball?
I think just learning from a flawed mindset. It sounds weird to say but you just gotta really not care at all about what you or others think of yourself or expectations. Your only job is to work hard and control what you can control. That’s a good piece of advice. Freshman haven’t gone through it so they will read into it heavily. Just gotta say screw that kind of stuff and control what you can control is my best advice.
If we draft you and we’re able to sign you, what can you guarantee us?
I can guarantee you that I am gonna be a person that is gonna work hard definitely, every single day will bring a ferocious sort of mindset and mentality regardless of the situation whether its 120 degrees or 70 and sunny. I definitely will think being out there I can give the same effort and same ability and mindset whether my body is at 100 percent or 30 percent. It’s the kind of guy I am and I’ll go out and work hard no matter what.