July 2006: Q & A with Jake Fox

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July 2006: Q & A with Jake Fox

Postby Chris » Thu Jul 06, 2006 7:52 am

Jake Fox, 2006 Florida State League All-Star and catcher for the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, has graciously agreed to answer questions from posters on NSBB! If you would like to ask him a question, feel free to post it here. The deadline for submitting questions is 12-noon on Friday, July 14. Once Jake has had an opportunity to answer them, the responses will be posted in the Chats Forum.

This session will be coordinated as in accordance with The NSBB Q & A Guidelines.

Thank you to Jake for taking the time to interact with us on such an up close and personal level. In addition, thank you to Serena, who will be completing this session on an upcoming trip to Jackson! As always, thanks to all of you for making NSBB such a wonderful community!

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Postby vance_the_cubs_fan » Thu Jul 06, 2006 10:02 am

Jake,

Thanks for taking the time. What has been the biggest difference between the Florida State League and the Southern League?

What player or players did you admire growing up?

What position did you play when you were younger and at what point did become a catcher?

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Postby Flames24Rulz » Thu Jul 06, 2006 10:33 am

Hi Jake!

In your time with Daytona this season, you dominated a pitcher's league with all of the homers that you hit. As a player, how much confidence does that give you knowing that you performed well against some of the best pitching prospects in some team's organizations?

You've gotten off to a good start with the Jaxx as well. As a hitter, what is the biggest difference between the pitchers in the Florida State League and the Southern League?

Thanks and good luck on the rest of the season!
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Postby Ding Dong Johnson » Thu Jul 06, 2006 10:38 am

As a catcher of many different types of pitchers, how difficult is the preparation in going from one to the next? For example, moving from a Maddux to a Zambrano would have to be quite a challenge.
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Postby CuseCubFan69 » Fri Jul 07, 2006 1:55 pm

Thanks for coming on Jake!

Have the Cubs timed you throwing to second and if they did what do they have you at?

What would you tell a young High school kid to work on to get to the next level as a catcher?

What defensive drills do you do?
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Postby NCCubFan » Sat Jul 08, 2006 3:51 pm

Thanks for answering our questions.

Was it a disappointment starting the season in Daytona again after playing there last year? Did the Cubs give you a reason why they sent you back there? And what have you found to be the toughest challenge once you were promoted to West Tenn?
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Postby Jon » Thu Jul 13, 2006 10:17 pm

Jake,

In the minors, how much emphasis is there on having catchers and pitchers prepare together? With promotions/demotions and individual development, is there much communication between catchers and pitchers before games?

What are the advanced scouting reports like in the minor leagues? Do you get much information about opposing pitchers and hitters before games or is it basically up to the players to remember what they've done against specific players in the past?

Have you found catching to be helpful in your hitting? Have you ever caught against a hitter who maybe resembles your style a lot (both in terms of strengths and weaknesses) and then consider your approach with him on defense the next time you're taking BP?

Thanks!

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Postby Laura » Wed Aug 16, 2006 1:32 pm

Jake Fox Questions & Answers
July 2006

vance_the_cubs_fan wrote:Jake,

Thanks for taking the time. What has been the biggest difference between the Florida State League and the Southern League?


The biggest difference is playing without the DH. It's a lot to learn, and, especially as a catcher, there's a lot more to think about. You don't have a lineup of all hitters, so there are certain circumstances and situations you have to learn that are different. The pitcher might be up in two batters, or he might be the next batter up, and that might change how you approach the at-bat. The biggest difference is not necessarily the level of play, but the adjustments you have to make without the DH. It's a different game.

It's great that I'm up here learning that now. It's going to help me a lot down the road. This is such a good team with so many talented players and having to make those adjustments while playing on a team like this really makes you raise your level of expectations because everyone else here has already learned that aspect of the game and has been playing at this level for half a season. I'm trying to jump in and adjust right away.

As far as the actual play itself, the players here are more talented, but the baseball itself is about the same speed. Guys here are a little bit better and are definitely more consistent. That's how player development works in the minor leagues, guys move up and keep playing and having to prove themselves against the next level of competition.

What player or players did you admire growing up?


I admired Jason Varitek. I love what he's been able to do and the leadership he's shown with that Boston team. Being the player he is and having the influence that he does on that team makes him the type of player I aspire to be. You watch him and the way he handles the pitching staff and the way he handles that team -- I have aspirations of being the same kind of player. A guy who can catch and who can hit at the same time, who is good offensively and defensively.

There's always talk about "can he handle it offensively?" "Can he handle it defensively?" and I've been working hard every day so I can be a well-rounded player and I can be the type of player Varitek is. I want to bring that to the club someday if I get that chance and be able to bring everything to the table.

What position did you play when you were younger and at what point did become a catcher?


Like every kid growing up, I played just about every position. I pitched for a while, played shortstop, outfield, all of the above -- I played 3B at one point in college. But I always knew I was going to be a catcher.

I'm a very impatient person, so I knew right from the beginning that I couldn't really play another position. I wanted to be part of every pitch and I wanted to play every day, so that ruled out pitching. I naturally became a catcher.

As a catcher, I knew I could be a part of the game, every play, every day. That's what I was looking for. That was my aspiration, I love playing other sports, but I loved baseball because so much of it is a mental game and it's an every day game. Other sports you might play once a week or twice a week, but baseball you come out every day and play every day. It's fun to be out there.

You don't have to be the biggest, strongest, fastest to play. You can be an average athlete in some respects and still be very very good at baseball. It's one of the things I love about the game. It takes a lot of hard work and practice.

Flames24Rulz wrote:Hi Jake!

In your time with Daytona this season, you dominated a pitcher's league with all of the homers that you hit. As a player, how much confidence does that give you knowing that you performed well against some of the best pitching prospects in some team's organizations?


It makes you feel pretty good and gives you a lot of confidence, especially when you're coming up here to AA. I had a great time playing in Daytona; they have a great coaching staff, a great team, and it was a lot of fun playing there every day. When you're having a great time and you're having fun, it makes it that much easier to perform on a daily basis.

One of the most important things on a baseball team is to enjoy what you're doing. I've always said that the day this becomes a job to me is the day I'm done playing because I love it too much. There's a lot of other things I could be doing where I could be making the same amount of money and could be freeing up a lot more time to spend with friends and loved ones, but I love being out here, I enjoy being out here, and as long as that holds true I'm going to keep playing.

As far as the way I was playing it Daytona, it seemed just like everything was falling into place. The biggest thing I wanted to do this year -- and I think it helped me with my offense -- is that I really wanted to show this organization that I could be a good defensive catcher, too. That I could handle a team, lead a pitching staff, all of the above -- that was my main focus when I was in Daytona.

Focusing on that really took the focus off my hitting, which actually helped my hitting and made it more fun. It was just a thing where I was finally performing to my capabilities and my potential because I wasn't really thinking about it. I wasn't putting a lot of emphasis on my hitting, and I wasn't relying on it to get me by, because I was concentrating on my defensive work, handling the team, and making sure we won ballgames.

Coming out of that and performing like I did, gives you the confidence that you can play at the highest level and you can hit and you can perform wherever you go. It doesn't matter whether you're down in AA, high-A, A,or in the big leagues -- if those are some of the best pitching prospects, then you know you can hit in each level. Then it becomes a matter of fine-tuning it and becoming more consistent.


You've gotten off to a good start with the Jaxx as well. As a hitter, what is the biggest difference between the pitchers in the Florida State League and the Southern League?

Thanks and good luck on the rest of the season!


The pitchers' abilities are comparable. Up here, they're able to put pitches where they want them more often. Kind of works two-folded -- in some cases, it's easier to hit because you know they'll be around the plate, but in some cases it's harder because once they know your weakness, they'll exploit it.

It's just an adjustment. The guys here are more consistent, whether it's being able to put a fastball where they want to put it, put a curveball where they want it, bury it, throw it inside-outside-up-down, more of an adjustment on how the pitchers are pitching you vs the Florida State League. You see a few more mistakes in the Florida State League, a few pitches that aren't where the pitcher wants them, and that makes it a little easier to hit day in and day out in the Florida State League.

The biggest difference is consistency more than ability.

Is_Pedro_There wrote:As a catcher of many different types of pitchers, how difficult is the preparation in going from one to the next? For example, moving from a Maddux to a Zambrano would have to be quite a challenge.


Part of being a great catcher is knowing the pitching staff and knowing what each guy can do. It takes longer for catchers to get to the big leagues because they have more to learn about more players than any other position player has to learn. Most position players, when they learn pitchers, they learn about opposing pitchers, whereas in catching you have to learn both opposing pitchers and your own pitchers and their hitters.

On our pitching staff, we have 2-3 guys who are real spot pitchers, who rely heavily on hitting their spots, mixing up their pitches, and keeping guys off-balance. Then we have some power pitchers, fastball-oriented, who throw their off-speed stuff to keep people off the fastball. Part of being a great catcher is knowing how to use each of those pitchers to help your team win. Not even just knowing their pitches, but knowing their personalities to get the best out of them every single day.

A really difficult transition is learning the new pitchers on a new team. A lot of them are pitchers I caught last year, but they've also developed along the way, too, so they have different strengths now. They might have had a weakness they were working on last year that is now a strength for them. Learning a new pitching staff, learning their stuff, learning how to get the best out of them each day, their strengths & weaknesses, what to do and what not to do -- it's all part of the transition to a new team. What divides the great catchers from everyone else is the intangible qualities of the guy which will get them to the next level -- sometimes people don't see that on the outside and wonder why a guy is in the big leagues. Sometimes it comes down to what that guy can do behind the plate and that's not always easy to see.

Those are the things I'm still developing each day and still learning. As far as physical ability, there's not a whole lot that separates catchers. They seem to be built the same way. One guy might hit for more power. But a lot of them are built very similar, physically. Those intangible qualities are what separates who's going to make it and who isn't.

CuseCubFan69 wrote:Thanks for coming on Jake!

Have the Cubs timed you throwing to second and if they did what do they have you at?


They time me every day. The times are part of the report they send back to the front office. I would say any day you see me from 1.8 to 2 flat depending on how my arm's feeling. He's probably talking about from when it hits my glove to the second baseman's glove. On a good day when I'm feeling good and get a quick release, I can get down to 1.8 and when my arm isn't feeling as great, right at 2 flat or maybe a little above. It really varies from day to day.

When I talk to young catchers about being able to throw runners out, it's not necessarily how quickly you get it down there but how accurate you are. Being able to throw it exactly where you want it and being able to hit that second baseman so all he has to do is catch and tag. A lot of times you'll see a guy who gets it down to 2B really quickly, but if the second baseman has to jump for it, he's not going to tag him out anyway. So if he's asking about that, accuracy is the most important thing you have to worry about.

What would you tell a young High school kid to work on to get to the next level as a catcher?


When talking with young catchers -- I do this a lot in the off-season -- you don't want to talk to them necessarily about hitting or about throwing runners out, because a lot of stuff that happens behind the plate is hard work. Being able to get into the catching stance every day, being able to block the ball, being able to have the mental ability to handle pitchers, to be able to call pitches, which I know they don't always have them do at a younger age. But if their fundamentals are where they need to be, the rest of the stuff will come -- the arm strength, the hitting.

A lot of times you'll see young catchers who don't have the fundamentals down behind the plate because they don't put enough time and work into it. As a young catcher, if you really want to be a great catcher, you have to put the time into it. I had a lot of instruction growing up, but I don't know if it was all that I needed. I sometimes feel like I'm still trying to catch up on a few of the fundamentals that I never got taught at a younger age because either a) someone didn't think it was important enough that I needed to learn it, or b) someone thought I was doing ok or a "good enough" job already. Instead of someone really teaching me the fundamentals early on, I had to learn to get them down as I went along, so by the time I got to this level I could focus on the other aspects of the game.

Now at this level, I've gotten those fundamentals down to about where they need to be and I can start focusing on the other aspects that go into catching and being behind the plate. That's why I'm still in the development phase of being able to handle a team, be a leader, call a game, that sort of thing. I've had to relearn them as I reach this level, which is why my glove is where it's at now.

What defensive drills do you do?


The list is long. The biggest drills I do in the off-season are agility drills, quickness drills, receiving drills behind the plate. Those are the skills I try keep sharp in the off-season so that when I go to spring training, my agility skills -- moving around behind the plate -- are where they need to be so that I can focus on building my arm strength and speed and preparing to play.

I think staying in shape behind the plate is probably the most important thing because if you get to spring training and you need to get into shape, you're already behind. I try to be in shape so that when I get there, I can start learning other things. Continue developing and focus on other things I need to be doing. So I'd say the most important things are staying in shape behind the plate,blocking, moving around, receiving the ball, body position, things like that.

NCCubbieFan wrote:Thanks for answering our questions.

Was it a disappointment starting the season in Daytona again after playing there last year? Did the Cubs give you a reason why they sent you back there?


Yes and no. It was [a disappointment] because I didn't want to start again back in Daytona. It wasn't because of the reasons they told me about starting there. They told me they wanted me to play every day and for me to be an every day catcher. When I went to spring training, I had a great spring training. They told me from there that because I had a great spring training, instead of splitting time, they wanted me to go back to Daytona and play every day. Because of that, I was excited about it.

But I was kind of disappointed to have to repeat a level, which is why I went back this year with an open mind, looking to have fun. Some guys can get real bitter about having to repeat a level. I was always told there are two leagues, major leagues and minor leagues, and it doesn't matter where you're at in the minor leagues. So I went back and I was like "you know what, I'm going to be getting to play every day, this will be great because now I know that I'll get every chance to play, have a good time, and be in the lineup every day." It really worked out. I think it's another reason why I had such a great time down there.

As it turned out, I got promoted before too long. Looking at it, there are two ways you can go: you can either get bitter and be down on yourself and not perform the way you should because you let it get to you and let it eat at you, or you can rise above it and show them that you don't belong there. Even if you know you don't belong there, maybe somebody else in the organization doesn't know that, or thinks you belong there, or doesn't think you belong at a higher level. It's your opportunity to prove that you don't belong there. Sometimes guys don't take that opportunity to prove that and instead they'll just mope around and complain about it instead of stepping up and showing that they don't belong there.


And what have you found to be the toughest challenge once you were promoted to West Tenn?


Learning a new team. Just at the point where I was feeling comfortable with where I was at -- comfortable with the guys there, comfortable with the coaching staff, then I got promoted. You get to a new team again, and you're learning coaching staffs, you're getting to know people on your team, and you're learning the pitching staff. As much as they say "it's just baseball" there's so much that goes into knowing the team and the staff.

Once you learn the personnel, you to start feeling comfortable. You're able to start being you and playing and enjoying yourself. Just like when you meet someone new, a time of feeling things out for a little bit before you start feeling comfortable and can get to work and do what you do best. I played with a lot of these guys last year, but it's kind of a different team. It's a different coaching staff and there's a different way of going about things.

That's been a big adjustment, learning how they go about things. For example, if I go back in the dugout and Pat's on me, if he gets on me for something I did or didn't do, it's knowing where he's coming from, how often he does that, whether he's yelling because he thought you should know better or whether he's venting his frustrations or he's trying to help you through it. It's all feeling out the situation. With a new job, you can't really settle in and feel comfortable until you get past that new job situation.

To me, that's what was difficult about starting over at Daytona. I had to go through that twice, first with the team in Daytona and now here. I think that was a contributing factor to why I started off kind of slow, then once I got comfortable with where I was at and learned my role and learned what I was supposed to do and what they needed me to do for the team, I started to play well. It just takes a little bit of time to learn what role I need to play here and start feeling comfortable and performing well here.

JonMDavis wrote:Jake,

What are the advanced scouting reports like in the minor leagues? Do you get much information about opposing pitchers and hitters before games or is it basically up to the players to remember what they've done against specific players in the past?



It's more elaborate because you have more information on the opposing players. A lot of times you've seen the same players at different levels as you're coming up. For example, the Reds organization: they have a team in the Midwest League, they have a team in the Florida State League, and they have a team in this league.

You remember the guys you played against. You get more advance information here because you have more scouts who are going out and seeing the other teams, but as far as scouting, it becomes more of a personal experience among the players. For example, we'll be playing the Reds team soon. Some of those players I've faced two years running. I know what we did with them before, what worked, what didn't work, so that helps me out calling pitches and working those hitters.

Of course, they've also seen you, too, for two years. They don't make the same mistakes they made the first few couple years you played them, and they'll try to use what has worked against you until you prove you can hit it. So it works both ways.


Have you found catching to be helpful in your hitting? Have you ever caught against a hitter who maybe resembles your style a lot (both in terms of strengths and weaknesses) and then consider your approach with him on defense the next time you're taking BP?

Thanks!


Yes, I have.

Sometimes that gets you in trouble. You think, "if I were hitting right now, what would I call?" and it may not be what the guy behind the plate is thinking, so it gets you in trouble. You try and outsmart him, you try to think ahead of him, and sometimes it doesn't work.

I once heard someone say "to play this game, you have to be extremely stupid or extremely smart." If you're extremely stupid, you don't know what's going on. If you're extremely smart, you're smart enough to know not to think about it! A lot of times when you're hitting, the best approach to take is to just go up, grip it and rip it -- let it ride, see the ball and hit it when it comes in. Not try to think about it, not think yourself in circles because by the time you've thought about it, the ball's by you, anyway.
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Postby vance_the_cubs_fan » Wed Aug 16, 2006 9:36 pm

Thanks for taking the time to answer these for us, Jake! Good luck the rest of the season and hopefully we'll be seeing you with the big league club soon.

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Postby NCCubFan » Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:21 pm

Thanks for participating. It's always good to hear from players in the system.
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Postby CuseCubFan69 » Thu Aug 17, 2006 7:38 am

Great answers.... thanks Jake!
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