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Thanks to Andy Simunic for stopping by to hang out with Next Level Ballplayer. He was a standout player at the University of Tennessee before starting his professional career in the Astros organization in 2008. Today Andy talks about adjusting from college to pro ball, his goals and mindset going into spring training, what happens when you go through a 3-33 slump (shingles!), and much more.
As always, the questions asked are geared toward helping you become a better ballplayer by learning from other ballplayers and helping you find new ways to improve:
Ballplayer: Andy Simunic
High School: Collierville (Collierville,TN)
College: University of Tennessee, Chattanooga State Technical Community College
Draft: 17th Round by the Houston Astros in 2008
What is the best baseball related lesson you learned early on that’s led to your success over the years?
Keep your eye on the ball, might sound pretty simple but might be the best advice my dad ever gave me, you can’t hit what you can’t see
When did you know you were good enough to play pro ball?
Probably after my junior year at Tennessee, once I proved to myself that I could play at the highest level (the SEC) I knew I had a shot at pro ball.
What was the hardest adjustment for you to make when going from college to pro?
Wood bat, had to actually learn how to hit. Could no longer get away with the garbage I called hitting for so many years.
What has been your worst experience in professional baseball so far?
Would have to say a 3 for 33 drought in August of 2010, not only was I struggling at the plate but was also diagnosed with the shingles on my 25th birthday, and still was in the lineup. Thought for sure that me having the shingles would give me a much needed day off; so much for positive thinking.
What has been your best experience in professional baseball so far?
Playing in a big league spring training game against the Braves in 2009. On the same field as guys I’ve watched on TV for years. Had one at bat and squared it up to short but was out. On a positive note, I took enough gum and sunflower seeds to last me the rest of minor league camp.
Last year in minor league ball you stole 17 bases and were only caught once. What goes through your mind when you get on base? And what was the deal with getting thrown out that one time – Did you slip?
The one time I got caught stealing, it was a botched hit and run, didn’t talk to the guy for a week after it happened. I’m always looking to run, but trying to stay smart about it at the same time. A lot goes into what the pitcher is doing to other base runners before I get out there.
What is your mindset going into spring training this year?
I am very excited, there is nothing better than throwing on the uniform and stepping between the lines for the first time. It’s a new beginning with a lot of unknowns ahead, so it is definitely an exciting time of the year.
Do you have any specific goals for spring training?
Going into spring just want to go in prepared so that I am ready for any opportunity given. As far as placement goes I’m looking to break camp in Corpus Christi, which is our AA team. Most of that is out of my control so all I can worry about is doing what I need to do to be prepared.
What are some of your weaknesses that you are trying to work on right now?
Strength is a huge thing for me. Although the steroid era is definitely on its way out I still am a little behind some of these men I work alongside and against. Size isn’t everything but you still need to be able to fill out your pants.
What advice would you give to ballplayers out there who want to take their game to the next level?
Work hard, I have never been the most talented player but when it comes to time spent working on my game, I’ll put myself up against anyone. There is no substitute for hard work and hustle. Also, do not take this game for granted. You never know when the last time you step on the field is gonna be, and have fun because after all- it is still a game, and what a great game it is!