While national writers across the country scramble to dissect every pitch, at-bat and word that comes out of this year's No. 1 Major League Baseball catching prospect entering 2010 spring training -- Lee County native Buster Posey -- the always-humble kid from Leesburg took some time out of busy schedule with the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz., this past Saturday to sit down with The Herald and give folks back home in Southwest Georgia a glimpse into what life is like these days for the No. 5 overall pick in 2008.
Among the items Posey discusses in this exclusive Q&A conducted by Herald sports editor Danny Aller, is his health entering this season after being stretched so thin in his rookie campaign; where he sees himself starting the season -- whether in Triple-A Fresno or with the Giants' big-league club in San Fran; and what he thinks about all those rumors he may be moving from his longtime position as an award-winning catcher to somewhere in the Giants' infield.
Here's a hint: "That's completely ridiculous. I'm not going to be playing shortstop," Posey said.
So sit back, relax and enjoy an inside look into the life of arguably the brightest young star in MLB.
ALBANY HERALD: So how are things in Arizona? You all done for the day?
BUSTER POSEY: Yeah. We got some rain out here (Saturday), so we finished up a little early. I'm home for the day now.
AH: Is that typical for you to be home around this time, or did the rain give you a little break on this occasion?
BP: Right now, we finish up (practice) each day around 1 or 1:30 (p.m.), or so. But games start March 3, and those don't start until 1 p.m., so it'll make for a little bit longer day (very soon).
AH: Well, what are you doing when you get home each day, considering this is kind of the calm before the storm, so to speak. Just relaxing? Taking it easy?
BP: Yeah, not really much, to be honest. When I get home, I just relax, watch some TV and stuff. I'm watching the Accenture Match Play (golf tournament) right now.
AH: Oh yeah? How's Sergio (Garcia) doing? I've got him in my golf pool. Don't tell me he's losing.
BP: Well, he is down 3 (strokes) right now to Ian Poulter, but there's still like 12 or 13 holes to go.
AH: That's not good. Anyway, so you're in Surprise, Ariz., right now with the team, is that correct? And do you have your own place you're staying with your wife (Kristin), or are there team headquarters you're staying at?
BP: No, actually we're in Scottsdale. And yeah, we've got our own place out here. It's kind of a condo-type deal that we're staying in.
AH: I know you've been to Arizona before, but how do you like it? Anything special or unique about the town?
BP: Uh ... we both really love Scottsdale. It's a nice area. Plenty to do. This rain -- this may be only the second time I've seen it out here in the two times I've been here. It's usually blue skies and 70 degrees.
AH: Not like the snow we got in Southwest Georgia last week, huh? You see any pictures of it? Or did your parents (Tracy and Demp) send you any?
BP: Yeah, my mom sent me a few pictures. And (Lee County baseball coach Rob) Williams sent a picture of the guys building a big snow man out on the pitcher's mound. It was pretty cool. I've never really seen snow except for flurries here and there and once when I went to visit my friend in Wisconsin. But from what I saw, that was a lot of snow for South Georgia.
AH: I gotcha. Well, let's talk some baseball. In the last two years, Buster, you graduated from college, won pretty much every award imaginable, received the biggest rookie contract at the time in MLB history -- as the No. 5 pick, no less -- spent a year in the minors and even saw some time in the majors. Plus, you got married, lived in four different places and now you're in your second spring training. Anything I left out? You planning to run a marathon or join the Peace Corps any time soon?
BP: (Laughs) Nah. Nothing like that. But that pretty much covers (what I've been doing) for the last two years.
AH: And how do you feel coming in this go 'round? More confident? More experienced? More comfortable? All of the above?
BP: I feel a lot more comfortable. I think it's like anything else, to kind of compare it to high school or something else like that, when you come in your freshman year, you don't really know what to expect. Then your sophomore year, you start feeling more and more comfortable. Not only do you know what's going on, you know more people. And that holds true for spring training. I pretty much know all the guys now (in the Giants' organization) except for some of the new faces they've signed in the offseason.
AH: Looking back on the last couple of years, what has been the biggest highlight for you thus far? And be careful how you answer the question because your wife might get mad if you don't say the wedding.
BP: Yeah, well I mean, obviously, getting married -- that's going to be at the top. But as far as baseball goes, getting called up (to the Giants' big-league club last September) when we weren't really expecting that is probably No. 1. Just that whole month, I'll always remember.
AH: Definitely. And I know the last time we talked, which was right after this past season ended last year, I asked you what was next and whether the Giants were sending you anywhere else before spring training and you basically just said, 'Man, I hope I'm done. I hope there's not another league I don't know about.' I know you felt tired and drained with all the travel in your first full season, and even your manager Bruce Bochy and GM Brian Sabean said in the offseason they felt they may have overworked you and stretched you a little thin. How did you recharge your battery in the offseason and how do you feel now, health-wise, coming in?
BP: To recharge my battery over the past couple months, I really just took it easy as far as baseball work goes. I took maybe a week, or week-and-half off -- just completely off, meaning I didn't do anything -- then I was back in the weight room pretty hard, trying to regain some strength. That's just part of the recovery process, though. Now, wait -- was the second part of the question?
AH: Just how you're feeling health-wise? Do you feel healthier, stronger? Have you put any weight on?
BP: Yes, definitely. Probably 15 pounds since I finished up in November. I feel good. I feel strong. And I needed that time off. You can't play this game -- at a high level - 12 months a year.
AH: Well, luckily you're not a hockey player. Those guys get, like, a week off then it's back on the ice. But walk me through what you did in those down months? Did you travel or come home to Lee County for some of mom's good home cookin'?
BP: Basically, I went back and forth between Tallahassee and Leesburg. I was home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but spent the rest of the time in Tallahassee, just hanging out. Seeing some friends. Oh, and I played golf whenever I could.
AH: Where'd you play? I'm guessing since you're an FSU guy, you played at the Seminole golf course when you were in Tallahassee?
BP: Yeah, Seminole is in great shape. I don't know how they keep it up like that. But it was in great shape when I played. I also played over at Southwood and Golden Eagle. Three or four courses. I really like Southwood and Seminole. Those courses are wide open, so you can hit it right or left and don't have to worry about finding your ball.
AH: And what's your handicap? Are we gonna see you taking over Tiger's spot on the PGA Tour any time soon?
BP: (Laughs) Uh ... no. I'm not that good. I'm probably a 12 or so. Something around there.
AH: If you had a chance, like through the Giants, to do a charity event or play a pro-am, would you do it? Or are you not comfortable enough with your game to play like that?
BP: Um ... I'd probably do it. If something like that ever came up.
AH: Now, have you played for awhile? Or is this something you've just started doing in the last few years?
BP: I've played pretty much all my life. I think my dad got me a set of clubs, gosh ... maybe when I was 10 years old or something. But I never played for Lee County. It always conflicted with baseball season.
AH: And when you were back home in Tallahassee or Leesburg, did you get a chance to spend some time with your brother (and fellow Florida State baseball player), Jack? How's he's doing with his rehab from Tommy John surgery?
BP: Jack's doing well. I think everything is going along as planned as far as his rehab goes. The time line to return, I think, has changed, though. I know a couple of guys in the pros who had it and it's something like an entire year off now to come back from it. Just a matter for him to take it slow, do everything correctly. The last thing (he'll) want to do is come back too early and re-injure himself.
AH: How is Jack's mentality? Is he keeping his spirits high? And have you offered any advice?
BP: I'm sure he wants to be out there and playing. But he does well with it (without my advice). Jack is a guy who just rolls with the punches. He just enjoys life.
AH: Have you followed FSU leading up to this year? Are they gonna be any good? What's the scouting report you got?
BP: Yeah, I know they're supposed to be pretty good. I think it's just like any other year. From what I have heard, if they can pitch and play some defense, they'll be alright because they have some good bats. I'm sure they'll be right there in the mix.
AH: Going back to your own plight, when you looked back on your first year, we know what the highlights were. But what about the lows? What was the part about last year you really liked the least? The travel? The moving around and living out of a suitcase? Anything you can think of?
BP: The only real drawback was when I got moved up from A-ball to Triple-A, around July 15 or so, Kristin and I were in a hotel room from that day until October 4. It's tough to live out of a hotel room for that long.
AH: It was obviously a great honor for you to go from A to AAA and completely skip AA, but what did you think of that move? Was it too much at once?
BP: Nah. I felt last year was good. I wouldn't change much about it. When I got to Triple-A, it took me a little time to adjust, but I made those adjustments after a few months.
AH: I know when we talked last, you explained that one of the biggest things you learned from the guys already at that AAA level, and the major-league level after that, was how important it was to develop a daily routine and stick with it. Have you done that this offseason, what is it and can you walk me through what each day is like for you right now?
BP: Right now, it's a little different because of spring training. But last year toward the end, I would do some weight training in the morning, then get to the park around 1:30 or so each day, stretch a little bit, do some cardio, then some (batting practice) and then a little tee work. Other than that, depending if you're on the road or at home, you try to get a little food in you somewhere between all that. It's tough to eat when you're doing all that and trying to prepare. But right now at spring training, I usually get to the field around 7:45 a.m. or so, get a little breakfast, then go out to the field and stretch. We usually get going on the field around 10 a.m., stretch, (then) throw and catch a couple of bull pens, take some BP, condition, maybe some weight training and then we're out of there. Right now, the days are pretty short. That's the great thing about big-league spring training: There's not a lot of wasted time. You get in, you get done and you go home.
AH: Is the weight training mandatory, or do you do that just to make sure you stay strong and at the level with the rest of the guys?
BP: I think the weight training is extremely important, especially for a catcher. It's important to work your legs out, because after 150 games, you tend to be pretty worn out.
AH: How are your knees feeling so far? In good shape?
BP: The knees feel good.
AH: Speaking of how much you'll be using those knees behind the plate this season, I'm sure you've seen some of the things that have been written so far this preseason about what position you'll be playing this season, whether it's catcher or maybe even a drastic move to one in the field, like shortstop -- like you did in high school and your first year at Florida State before they moved you to catcher. What do you think about this stuff when you read it and has any of this been communicated to you?
BP: I really try not to read that stuff, to be honest with you, because (what I've read) so far has either been fabricated a little bit or hasn't been completely true. A few weeks ago, I read somewhere that I was going to be playing shortstop -- and that's completely ridiculous. I'm not going to be playing shortstop. Basically, what happened (and how that story came about) was someone asked Bochy if he would be opposed to having me take ground balls or (play) at first -- or something like that, blah, blah, blah -- and somehow that turned into ...
AH: And suddenly you're moving positions, right?
BP: Right. I mean, that's just the way it goes. You just have to take that with a grain of salt.
AH: And you've played several positions during your career, but for at least the last five years, you've been only a catcher -- and a great, decorated one at that. So I guess the whole moving-positions-thing was just something that was said, then taken a little bit out on context? Has management approached you at all about this or done anything in spring training thus far that was geared to you being anything but a catcher with the Giants?
BP: Nah, they haven't approached me about it, so until they do, I'm not giving it a second thought. Everything's been catching so far.
AH: If you had your choice or couldn't play catcher, what position would be most ideal to you?
BP: If I had to chose, I want to be a catcher. But if I had to chose somewhere else, I would want to play in the infield.
AH: Buster, what about the pressure you have on you this season? You've been tabbed as the No. 1 catching prospect entering spring training by a number of people and Web sites. And while you've been lauded in the past for being very cool under pressure, is this a different kind of pressure? Knowing that every throw you make, every at-bat is being scrutinized so much more than anyone elses?
BP: Yeah, like everything else in baseball, you try to stay out of that and not read too much into it. It's still baseball. Each guy who comes into spring training, it really doesn't matter if you're not ranked or if you're Nos. 1, 2, 3 or 4. It comes down to your performance. If you have a guy that isn't ranked, but yet he comes in and tears it up during spring training, that's the guy who's gonna be on the field. I kind of look at it as being a level playing field with everyone and you just have to come in, work and improve ... I think pretty much everyone knows you have to produce to keep playing this game. That's what it boils down to.
AH: As far as where you'll end up after spring training, what has Sabean or Bochy said to you about how they see the next few months playing out, whether you'll be in Triple-A Fresno or with the Giants at the big-league level?
BP: Well, to be honest, we really haven't sat down and talked about it. I haven't had any direct conversations with Bochy or Sabean about that. And I'm fine with that. I think their expectations are the same as mine and they expect me to come in, have a good spring training and continue to improve. And they'll make the decision once spring training is over.
AH: Are you ready for a full-time jump to the majors, if it happens, or do you feel it would be good for you to spend some more time in Triple-A Fresno?
BP: Personally, I feel like I'm ready to contribute at the major-league level. I think you need to have that confidence coming in and feel like you can make significant contributions to the team. But ultimately, that decision (won't) come down from me, and I have to control what I can control.
AH: What did the team bringing back veteran catcher Bengie Molina this offseason say to you after it looked like he was headed elsewhere? Did that surprise you?
BP: It was a surprise. I think it was a surprise to a lot of people. But it just goes to show you that you don't ever know what's going to happen in baseball.
AH: In terms of the pitching you've had to catch so far, what would you say is the biggest difference in catching a guy in the minors compared to the majors?
BP: Overall, consistency and velocity -- for fastballs and breaking balls. Guys in the majors may not throw that much harder than the guys in the minors, but in the majors the 1-through-5 guys (on a team) can all throw (at that top level), whereas one guy (on your team) in the minors may throw hard like that.
AH: Got a favorite guy you like to catch? I know you caught Randy Johnson last year before he retired and Tim Lincecum this past season -- and likely will a lot down the road. Anyone you like catching better than others?
BP: Linceum is pretty tough, but the more I've had to catch him, the better it's gotten. As for someone I really like to catch? I don't really think I've caught enough of the guys to have a favorite yet.
AH: What's Lincecum like as a teammate? And has it been crazy to think about catching for the two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner?
BP: As far as catching him during a game, it's a lot different. I've never seen anyone quite like him and there's a reason he's the two-time Cy Young winner. As far as him as a teammate, he's great. He's pretty laid back and stays loose and always has a smile on his face.
AH: What's the mood like in the clubhouse right now? Guys excited about the season? Any playoff or pennant talk?
BP: (Brief pause, then a laugh) Uh ... well, there's not really that much talk about things like that. We've only had three days of official practice. I think it's a bit early; a little premature. (Laughs again). But everyone is excited.
AH: Are you star struck by anyone in the major leagues? Anyone you're dying to meet when you go to their ball park once you move up to the majors full-time?
BP: Not really. It's just pretty cool just to play against any of those guys you grew up watching, but there's not one particular player. I didn't really have a, quote-unquote, "favorite" player. Growing up, I watched a lot of the Braves. (Tom) Glavine. (John) Smoltz. Steve Avery. Those guys.
AH: Are you still a Braves fan or can you not admit that now that you're playing for another National League team? And any thoughts on Atlanta's offseason moves?
BP: Well, I spent some time working out with (Braves backup catcher) David Ross in the offseason and he really thinks they're gonna be good this year. But you just never know. As for being a fan, I wouldn't really say I'm a fan.
AH: What about another big offseason story, Mark McGwire? Any thoughts on his admission of steroid use?
BP: Well, I mean, you know ... not really. Every time I'm asked a question like that, I guess I just feel it's really not my place to comment on it. Just because I didn't play when this guy played. I just have to respect that he played the game hard and it seems like he appreciated the game. I mean, it is too bad he did take steroids and HGH but I'm not gonna ... I'm not really in a position to judge Mark McGwire.
AH: Any more rookie hazing at all to speak of? I know you're not a rookie anymore, but have there been any incidents like last year when you had to get dressed up a like a French maid on one of your team flights?
BP: (Laughs) No. It's been good. I don't know if there are any plans in the future -- but hopefully not.
AH: Well, lastly, I just wanted to ask what goals you had for this season? What do you hope to get out of your second spring training?
BP: As far as spring training goes, just to get through it and to come out of it physically and mentally prepared for this season. We're out here for a month and half before the season starts (so) there's a lot of time to work and improve. And as far as our season goes, I have some personal goals I've set for myself, but they're goals I want to keep to myself for now. Other than that, I just want to have a great season. That's about it. And hopefully, I will.