St. Louis Cardinals: Harrison Bader interview


St. Louis Cardinals have a knack for giving young outfielders a shot. Will this 21 year old see his stock rise in 2016?

June 30th, 2015. St. Louis Cardinals prospect Harrison Bader steps up to the plate for the State College Spikes. It’s his first professional game after finishing up at the University of Florida and being drafted three weeks earlier. Nerves may come into play. Not for Bader. he cranked two home runs that night. Granted, it’s Low A ball, but the kid still made quite an entrance.

A week later, he was sent to Peoria. It was a big June for the kid. He turned 21 years old, got drafted and hit his first home run in the pros. What’s next for Bader? As he drove down to Jupiter for spring training, I spoke with the ambitious young man.

Redbird Rants: A year ago, you were getting ready to play college ball for Florida. Now, you are driving to Major League camp. How has this roller coaster ride been?

"Harrison Bader: It’s a great feeling. I’ve always gone to and watched spring training as a kid. I am not sure it has set in just yet but it’s an incredible feeling. I need to contain those feelings and excitement. I want to have a strong spring training and get some momentum going."

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Redbird Rants: You were named one of the organization’s best players for your work last year. You were there for a portion of the season but that has to be a big confidence boost to be recognized for something like that?

"Bader: Absolutely. I don’t like paying too much attention to that, but from the majority of stuff I read, it was a tremendous compliment. Being named along some of those guys gives a guy like me fuel to be better. I started off on the right foot. Now I need to repeat that."

Redbird Rants:What was the best moment from the past year? What was the most challenging moment?

"Bader: The best moment had to be getting on a team that made a playoff run. That seems to be something that will be foreshadowing as I progress. The more challenging thing is the level of play. Seeing how different guys work and finding a new rhythm. Playing every day was something I wasn’t used to."

Redbird Rants: How important has training with Paul Chandler (Florida softball coach) been this offseason?

"Bader: Tremendously important. He has a lot on his plate. He’s a softball coach and they have won National titles back to back years. The level at which they train at and compete is very intense. For him to take time out of his schedule and help myself and other Gators players is something I appreciate immensely. I spent 35 days there and everything we did was high intensity."

Redbird Rants: One of the points that Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak made at the Winter Warmup was that if young players do the work, they get a shot. Does that give you additional hope and fire to improve and get better this season, knowing there is a real goal at the end of the tunnel? Seeing guys like Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk project as starters this year?

"Bader: That is something that is so important. I’ve heard that a number of times. When it comes to helping a team win at any level, I want to do whatever I can. It’s incredibly reassuring. I can’t want to get out and just work. There’s no shortcut."

Redbird Rants: For baseball players, the offseason must produce restless feelings. After a little while, you are chomping at the bit. Is that accurate?

"Bader: It really is. It’s a long grueling season and when it is done, you breathe for a week or two. Immediately, you ask yourself, “what am I doing?” The training side of baseball is intense but it’s not like football where you destroy yourself. Baseball allows you to have a training routine that isn’t killer but gets you ready."

Redbird Rants: You have a unique skill set. You have power, speed and you outfield defense is solid. What part of your game would you call your specialty or most likely to plow a path to the majors?

"Bader: It’s a good question. I would love to sit here and tell you it’s my power. In reality, I would have average power compared to other Major League players. What I really do excel at are the intangibles. The work ethic behind the scenes. Everything in preparation, whether it’s understand a pitcher or understanding who I am as a player. Handling myself under pressure. Those intangibles that people don’t necessarily write down on paper.I have power but I don’t think of myself as a power hitter. I am contact guy. I judge my games by how many times I made good hard contact. I am aggressive. On the defensive side, I have experience not only in center field but the corners as well. I have a lot of experience there, especially when it comes to understanding the angles. I like to think myself as a baseball player. Not one with flashy tools. Just a hard worker."

Redbird Rants: Do you look forward to participating in the Cards Caravan next year?

"Bader: Yes. One of my teammates, Austin Gomber, did it this year and said it was great so I definitely look forward to that."

Redbird Rants: I know it’s thinking a bit ahead but you are a Yankees fan by heart, so the top of the mountain for you must be a Cardinals-Yankees World Series?

"Bader:(chuckles) That would be incredible. Growing up in New York City, there’s so much success that it’s hard to not love the Yankees. If I had the chance to play against them, it would be more than a dream come true. That would be incredible. That’s a long way away so I don’t want to get ahead of myself."

Redbird Rants: Who are you most looking forward to working with down in Jupiter?

"Bader: That’s another good question. I’m not sure yet. As much as it has to do with taking care of business, it’s also about getting with the guys and being a sponge. Soaking up as much information as possible. There’s so much to learn on the mental side from these guys. I’ll definitely be jumping around."

Bader has the physical attributes that a professional baseball player must have in order to attain success, but he also has the mental traits. The stuff that goes in between the ears that evades so many young ballplayers. He has the swing, the glove and the speed but the mental aspect of the game doesn’t stray too far from him.

Next: Cardinals' Top Prospects: #13 Harrison Bader

When he answered questions, it wasn’t a gimmick or read from a cardboard tutorial given to all minor league players. He is happy to be given the opportunity, but he knows that is only the beginning of the journey and fight. There’s more work to be done, and Harrison Bader is ready to put Mo’s words to the test. I expect to see him make a jump to Springfield this year and test his skills there.

While the Cardinals seem far away right now, if Bader continues to value the intangibles and maintain his hitter, his name will be called sooner rather than later. It’s clear why the Cards valued him and selected him. Taken in the third round, he has a small chip on his shoulder to prove his worth. Watching that come to fruition will be a thrill.