Q&A: RHAM Grad and Arizona Diamondback A.J. Pollock Talks Baseball

In less than three major league seasons, Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder and Marlborough and Hebron native A.J. Pollock has already established himself as one of baseball’s most exciting young players. Pollock starred at RHAM High School, where he led the Sachems to a state championship in 2004 and was named the Gatorade high school Player of the Year in ’06. After being named All-Big East in 2008 and 2009 while playing for Notre Dame, Pollock was chosen by the Diamondbacks with the 17th pick of the 2009 amateur draft.

After an impressive minor league career, Pollock debuted with the Diamondbacks in 2012 and had a solid season the next year. Pollock was in the midst of a breakout campaign last season before breaking a bone in his right hand on May 31st when it was hit by a pitch, causing him to miss three months. Through 53 games, Pollock was batting .316 with six home runs, 15 RBIs and eight stolen bases, and led National League center fielders with five assists. He was named NL Player of the Week twice in May. For the season, Pollock batted .302 with seven homers and 24 RBIs and stole 14 bases in 75 games for the 64-98 Diamondbacks.

The expectations are very high for Pollock this season, who is entrenched as Arizona’s leadoff hitter. He spoke with The Sports Department about his improvement last season, his goals for 2015, his time at RHAM, and what he hopes to accomplish in MLB.

The Sports Department: How has spring training gone so far?

A.J. Pollock: Spring training is going well. It’s been very relaxed. In spring training, how you do individually or as a team numbers wise isn’t all that important. It’s a time for guys to work on things and get in shape for the season.

TSD: Last season prior to your hand injury, you were breaking out at the plate. What were the reasons for your improvement?

AP: I think the most important thing was that I started to become more patient and didn’t allow myself to become frustrated if an at bat didn’t go well. When I first reached the majors, I would get frustrated and it would affect my hitting. Now, that’s not a problem. I always know the approach I want to take against a pitcher. Being successful is just a matter of maintaining focus.

TSD: How frustrating was the hand injury to deal with? What was the rehab process like?

AP: It was definitely frustrating and kind of a reality check. It throws your routine and rhythm off, and it took me a while to get back on track. The rehab was painful. I just kept telling myself to work hard and be patient.

TSD: You’re well known for your strong defense in center field. Can you discuss your approach in center?

AP: Defense has always been an important part of my game and I take it very seriously. I work a lot on my positioning and utilizing my speed to make plays on balls. Ultimately, defensive success boils down to effort and wanting to be good. You need to maintain focus and try and catch the ball no matter what.          

TSD: Since joining the Diamondbacks, are there any personal accomplishments or moments you’ve experienced that are especially special to you?

AP: There are personal accomplishments I’ve enjoyed and having a lot of them is great, but team success is what’s most important. My teammates and I are completely focused on helping us improve.

TSD: Which of your minor and major league coaches and teammates have had the biggest impact on your development?

AP: All of them have made a difference and helped me get better. Every single coach I’ve had from high school until now has taught me a ton of things I needed to know to have a successful career.

TSD: When did you first fall in love with baseball?

AP: I’ve always loved baseball since I first started playing at a young age, especially the competitive nature of it. Baseball’s unique compared to other sports because there’s a game every day. It’s a disciplined game, and to be successful you have to be highly disciplined.

TSD: You had an outstanding career at RHAM. What are your fondest memories of playing for the school?

AP: All my fondest memories are team-related. The one that’s most special is of winning the state championship. We’d all played together forever, and it was wonderful having that hard work pay off. There are so many great memories from the time we spent together on and off the field that I’m never forgetting.

TSD: Can you talk about your relationship with RHAM head coach Paul Steiner?

AP: Paul is very special to me. He taught me everything about baseball and hard work and helped me get to where I am today. He is still one of my best friends. We talk regularly, and he actually recently came out to Arizona and visited me.

TSD: What are your major goals for this season?

AP: Most of my focus is on daily goals. If I can get a little better every single day in all aspects of the game and help the team improve, then it will be a successful season.

TSD: Are you confident that the Diamondbacks can significantly improve this season?

AP: Yes, I’m very confident we can. We have a lot of talent throughout the roster. Our success will depend on playing together as a team.

TSD: It’s still early in your career, but what would you need to accomplish for you to consider it a success? How do you want to be viewed by teammates and opponents?

AP: I want to be seen as a guy who plays the game the right way and is constantly working hard and prepared. I also want to be a well-rounded player. If I can do these things, than I can live with any result.

 

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