Today we get to spend some time with one of the best second basemen in the game who happens to have one of the best personalities in all of sports.  Of course, we’re talking about the Reds’ Brandon Phillips.  Brandon is in his 11th MLB season after being drafted by the Expos during the 2nd round of the 1999 MLB draft, and then making his big league debut in 2002.  Among other awards, he has won three Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger, and been selected to two All-Star Games.

I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with a lot of big leaguers, but rarely have I laughed as hard as I did during this interview.  Special thanks to Brandon for taking the time to hang out with Next Level Ballplayer and talk best hitting and fielding advice he’s ever received, his response to people who say he’s too flashy on defense, what it takes to be a great teammate, what goes through his mind when he steps in the batter’s box, his advice to aspiring ballplayers who want to play at the next level and more…

1.  What’s one baseball lesson that you learned early on that’s led to your success?

Just be yourself and remember to have fun while playing the game the best you know how…  And you should never let the devil steel your joy.

2.  You’re known as being one of the better teammates around the league, how would you define a good teammate?

You need to really understand your teammates and know when to approach them about certain things while having respect for the game and your teammates… they’re like your family.  Once you respect them and they respect you, everything is perfect.

3.  What is the best hitting advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I’ve ever got is to hit the ball where it is pitched.

4.  And what’s the best fielding advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t let the ball play you.

5.  How would you respond to people who watch you play and say that you’re too flashy?

I like to go out on the field and play with a little style and confidence because the Lord blessed me with these “golden soldiers” (holding his hands in the air) right here so I have to make sure and use them.  I’m having fun when I play defense because if I’m not having fun then I wouldn’t be having as much success.

6.  From the mental side of hitting, do you have a routine that puts you in that happy place when you’re about to step in the box?

To tell you the truth, it’s all about my walk-up music that gets me into my “crunk zone” to really go up there and get amped up to try and make things happen.  When I’m on the road and I hear all the boos, it puts me in the zone because I need to get that motivation.  Some people think about money, some people think about fame, some people think about women, but I think about everything.  Setting goals for myself is very important because it helps me concentrate on things a little bit more.

7.  What goes through Brandon Phillips mind when you step into the batter’s box?

Time to get famous baby!  Time to get famous.”  When you get in that batter’s box, it’s time to get famous.

8.  Give me an example of a goal that you set this last season.

Some of my goals were that I really wanted to make the All-Star team, I really want to win a Gold Glove, I really want to win a Silver Slugger, I want to be nominated for the MVP, I want to hit 30 homeruns and bat in over 100 RBI’s.  You have to change those goals from time to time because the team needed me to do different things.  I’ve batted all over the lineup, and different spots require a different approach.

9.  How would you define a great baseball player?

A five-tool player.  I like a guy that can do everything in the game because there are the guys that are great hitters or great defensive players, but there aren’t many players out there who have all five tools when it comes to this game.  I really feel like those guys are the best in baseball.

10.  Who’s a guy that you played with or against that stands out to you as being a great five-tool player?

I really love to watch Ichiro play the game – the way he plays the game is very exciting to watch because he can hit homeruns whenever he wants… but other than him, I like watching Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies).  The way that he plays is so amazing.  Watching him in the outfield, he seems to play the game so flawlessly while making it look effortless.

11.  What’s one piece of advice that you would give to aspiring baseball players that want to take their game to the next level?

Believe in yourself.  Don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t do something.  If somebody says you can’t do something then you have to tell yourself that you’ll prove ‘em wrong.

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