St. Louis Cardinals draft pick Brian O’Keefe, a catcher from St. Joseph’s University, recently joined Redbird Rants for an interview.
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Daniel Solzman: Brian, for joining Redbird Rants today. How are things treating you down in New York?
Brian O’Keefe: Oh, it’s good. I’m getting ready. I’m excited to get going and start my future with the Cardinals. Everything’s been looking good. I’m excited and getting ready.
Daniel Solzman: Can you describe what it felt like when you found out you were drafted by the Cardinals?
Brian O’Keefe: It was kind of just surreal. It was a childhood dream of mine to always play professional baseball. Since age 3, I had been telling people that I was going to play baseball. Then to get the call, especially from an organization like St. Louis Cardinals, who has a track record of just being a terrific organization. On all levels, it’s just a special feeling. I don’t even think it feels real yet. It was just awesome. It was an experience I can’t describe.
Daniel Solzman: When did you first learn that the Cardinals were interested?
Brian O’Keefe: Well, actually, early in the fall, their area scout came in. We sat down and had a really great meeting. He got to know a little bit more about me. I remember telling my dad that I could definitely see myself—I really like the St. Louis (inaudible)—I would love to play for them. Throughout the year, I knew that they were in there watching me. As the draft got closer, I knew that they were a team that was a strong possibility for me to end up with. When they called, like I said, it was kind of surreal.
Daniel Solzman: What’s the reaction been like on Twitter and social media since the Cardinals drafted you?
Brian O’Keefe: It’s been kind of crazy. St. Louis fans, who I’ve never met before, have been following me on twitter. Best friends, who I haven’t spoken to in ten years, have reached out and congratulated me and have wished me the best of luck. It’s been crazy. I’ve been getting my fair of share of people just saying congratulations, whether it’s through Twitter or text or whatever else. It’s been awesome really. I couldn’t be more gareful for their support, whether its friends or St. Louis fans who I’ve never met.
Daniel Solzman: How has St. Joseph’s coach Fritz Hamburg helped get you ready for the next level?
Brian O’Keefe: He’s done a terrific job. He caught for a little bit in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. I think we’ve had, I don’t know how many meetings, just me and him, where we just sit and talk. He said that I remind him so much of himself. So he watched me make some of the same mistakes he made as he was going through college. He helped me to, whether it was I was having a bad day or in a really crappy mood or whatever it was. He would just say something, pull me aside and say a little something just to get me going. He would get me going that way. If I needed to work on maybe receiving or blocking a little bit, he would help me with that. On top of that, he brought in a coach this year who caught in the Pirates organization for the last couple of years. (inaudible) Coach Valesente. He’s been terrific. Those two together have really elevated my game, both pool-wise and physique-wise along with the mental aspect of the game that I was lacking for a couple of years.
Daniel Solzman: Seeing as how the Cardinals have been developing prospects of late, are you looking forward to working with the coaches and veterans during Spring Training next year?
Brian O’Keefe: You have no idea how I excited I am, too. Even if it’s for ten minutes, I would like to sit and pick Yadier Molina’s brain for ten minutes. That’s going to be the best ten minutes of my life. Along with that, Mike Matheny was an unbelievable catcher in his own right, too. You have those two guys that are great catchers and Yadi, who is going to go down as one of the best catchers to have ever played the position. To be able to sit down and see what he does on a day-to-day basis or ask him a question about a certain situation or maybe what something he does that he finds successful. It’s just going to be an unbelievable experience. It’s going to be something I can use to help elevate my game and hopefully develop and help the Cardinals win at whatever level I am at.
Daniel Solzman: Going along with that, you were one of 15 semifinalists for the Johnny Bench Award. How honored are you in knowing that you are considered to be one of the top defensive catchers in college baseball this year?
Brian O’Keefe: It was certainly an honor. I know how prestigious of an award that is. Just to be even in consideration is–I’m so thankful and gracious to the committee and people that select that. Especially coming from a small school that doesn’t get much publicity or an opportunity on national television, to me, for me to end up in the top 15 is certainly a huge honor. I couldn’t be any more thankful for the recognition. On the top of that, it’s not just me who is enjoying the reward. It’s our team. Those guys have helped me tremendously on and off the field. It was just as much exciting for me as it was for them. I’m certainly thankful for it and it’s certainly a huge honor.
Daniel Solzman: The Hall of Famers always make a visit in Jupiter during Spring Training. Is there anyone in particular that you are really looking forward to meeting?
Brian O’Keefe: Oh, man. Like I said, the Cardinals have an unbelievable pedigree of people to make it to the big leagues. I know he’s not a Hall of Famer yet but for me, Yadi’s got to be the guy that I am most excited to look forward to meeting. If not, I would love to sit down and just say hi to Tony La Russa. The guy was an unbelievable manager and certainly one of the best that the game has had to offer. He’s the other guy that I would love to shake his hand and say hi, too.
Daniel Solzman: Who was your favorite player growing up?
Brian O’Keefe: Bernie Williams.
Daniel Solzman: What is something that Cardinals fans should know about you?
Brian O’Keefe: Ah, that’s a tough one. If there’s one thing that Cardinals fans should know about me, I was a Yankees fan my whole life. I was actually there multiple times when they won the World Series. Now that I’m in the Cardinals organization, you’re not going to find a bigger Cardinals fan around right now. There’s nothing more that I want to do than, one day hopefully, win a championship and bring it back to St. Louis.
Daniel Solzman: Thanks again for joining us and best of luck as your make your way up through the organization. Any words for the best fans in baseball?
Brian O’Keefe: Go Cards!