Eric Hosmer was selected by the Kansas City Royals with the third overall pick in the 2008 draft. After struggling for most of 2009, his first full professional season, he has bounced back with a vengeance in 2010, hitting .344 with 15 homeruns and 68 RBI between High-A Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Eric took the time to speak with me on Thursday about his disappointing 2009 season, keeping a book on opposing pitchers, and his experience at last month’s Futures Game.
Like Mike Moustakas, you had some struggles last year. This year you bounced back pretty well, also like him. Unlike him, you bounced back in an environment that was really pitcher friendly. So what was the difference for you between 2009 and 2010?
The first year was a tough year, going through a couple different injuries and just going through the long year, you know. It was really tough, I learned from it, and I felt really comfortable coming into this year, starting at Wilmington after being there at the end of last year, being at every ballpark, and just being comfortable with the league. So I had a pretty good idea of what I was coming into this year, I felt like I prepared myself very well in the offseason to come out and have a good year.
I knew I was capable of having a good year, just put last year behind me and work hard in the offseason and I came out, started off having a good year and just kept it going so far.
Did you feel like it was more important to have a good start to this season?
Yeah, definitely. I think anytime anybody struggles in the previous season they wanna go out and have a good season the next year. I definitely take pride in my offseason workout and just preparing myself and coming into spring training with a purpose – doing my job, getting all my work done, coming to the field early, and I think those have been pretty big aspects of helping me out this year.
You and Moustakas, again, you’re regarded as kind of the offensive leaders of the youth movement that’s gonna return the Kansas City Royals to their past glory and make everything all better. Do you ever think of stuff like that, what the future might be like someday?
Yeah, definitely. Just looking at the Double-A team we have here, just seeing all these young guys coming up playing Double-A and doing what we’re doing here in Northwest Arkansas, it’s fun to watch. I’m sure everyone thinks down the road, what’s it gonna be like and how it’s gonna be and stuff like that – these guys here, they have their minds set on one goal, that’s to win the championship this year. It’s winding down, about a month left, and that’s what everyone’s main focus is, everyone’s starting to get that rest in now for the playoffs. I think by the time September hits we’ll be hitting off right where we need to be and it should be fun to watch here.
The Royals have, not so much the last couple years, before that they sort of had a rough stretch, obviously, and they have a history of drafting guys that just never panned out, for whatever reason. First of all, I don’t know if you knew that they were kind of leaning towards you to begin with, but otherwise, when you heard that, did it cross your mind at all that it’s the Royals, it’s gonna be a little bit of a pressure-filled environment?
No, definitely not. Being drafted is quite an honor itself, and having sat down with Dayton (Moore) and J.J. (Picollo) and Scott Sharp after the draft, them just explaining what they’ve got going on in their minor league system. After you hear them talk about that, you couldn’t be more excited to go out there and play. I felt like I wanted to just go out there and start up that next day. They have something great going on in the minor league system right now and a lot of young, talented prospects and good coaching staffs everywhere, it’s something special going on here, on this team alone. Just with our mindset of winning the championship this year and hopefully seeing a lot of these guys in Kansas City in the future and with that same mindset of winning the championship.
Sort of along those lines, and you sort of addressed this a little bit, but to the average person it seems like you face pressure from a variety of places, whether it’s coming into a situation where you’re considered one of the “saviors” of an organization, or being ranked as a top prospect by different places. Do you ever notice that pressure, and if you do, how do you deal with that?
There’s pressure for everyone pretty much everywhere you go, you know? You’re playing in stadiums every night with four, five, six thousand people, all you have is those twenty-four other guys on your side. It’s a good feeling to go out there and feel like you’re playing against all those people and having your teammates behind you. There’s not that one singled out guy that’s got all the pressure on him. That’s when the team does really well and it’s someone different every night that’s stepping up and getting the job done.
In the majors, we hear about guys, pitchers and hitters, who keep a book on every opposing player they face. Do you do anything similar like that, just to track who you’ve faced and how they might’ve approached you?
Yeah, I have a little notepad in my iPod where I can write if I’ve faced a pitcher before. Here in Northwest Arkansas we have a video room and we have all the videos of the times that pitchers have pitched against us, previous games, or just at-bats of you for the previous game. It’s definitely more advanced here and there’s a lot better technology, so I’m definitely taking advantage of that. I’ll look at the pitcher who’s pitching that night, see what he has and how he pitches certain guys, stuff like that.
I read that you hit your first homerun for the Naturals using some borrowed equipment because your bag had been lost in your frequent travels. I think most people would probably hear that and they’d be like, “No big deal, it’s a bat, it’s a pair of batting gloves,” but how much does it affect you when you don’t have your own stuff?
It definitely does, big-time. That’s just about comfort, basically. But you know, I got here, and right when I walked in this clubhouse everyone just made you feel comfortable. Everyone made you feel welcome here, like you belonged here. It was good just coming into a good environment, coming into a team that just wants to win. That first day was a long day, definitely, but it worked out pretty well and now all my stuff’s here [chuckles] and I can just continue on with the season.
As a ballplayer on the field, is there anything you can’t do but wish you could?
Yeah, run. [laughs] I wish I had the speed of Derrick (Robinson) or (Jarrod) Dyson, one of those guys. I think sometimes I get caught up and I think I do but I don’t. That’s one thing I wish I had on the baseball field.
If you could change anything about minor league baseball, what do you think it would be?
Um…I don’t know. That’s tough. It’s been a great experience for me so far. I don’t know, that’s a tough question. I think maybe the playoff format is a little different, where they separate it in halves. I think maybe the team should deserve to make the playoffs if they have a good whole year, not just a half, but other than that it’s pretty good and I don’t know if I would change anything.
You went and played in the Futures Game last month. I’m sure you had a ton of good experiences there. If you had to pick the best thing that happened to you there, what do you think that would be?
Just being in a major league setting, playing in a major league stadium, being in a major league locker room with most of the top prospects in baseball. Just going out there, that whole day felt like it was twenty minutes long, everything went by so fast. It was an unbelievable experience. You know, my family was sitting right there, got to watch every pitch of the game, my buddies back home got to watch it on TV. That was just a phenomenal experience.
And you had a great game too, so that couldn’t have hurt.
Yeah, definitely, that put the icing on the cake.