Roundtable Interview with Sean Gallagher & Chris Walker

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Roundtable Interview with Sean Gallagher & Chris Walker

Postby Laura » Sun Oct 29, 2006 11:36 pm

NSBB is pleased to present Part I of the Roundtable Interview with Sean Gallagher and Chris Walker. The roundtable took place in Jackson, Tennessee this past June. The delay in getting it posted is partly due to a problem retrieving the sound file from the digital recorder and partly just due to scheduling and transcribing time.

NSBB would like to thank DJaxxFan for his outstanding efforts in setting up interviews like this one. I'd like to thank CaliforniaRaisin, DJaxxFan, NCCubbieFan and CuseCubsFan for their help in transcribing portions of the interview. Thanks to everyone here who posted questions for the interview!

Sean Gallagher completed his third professional season with the then-Cubs-affiliated West Tennessee DiamondJaxx. Gallagher was named the Cubs 2005 Minor League Pitcher of the Year and the 2006 NSBB Minor League Player of the Year.

Chris Walker completed his fifth professional season with the DiamondJaxx. In 2006, Walker led the Southern League (AA) in both stolen bases (50) and triples (11). He's currently playing winter ball in Venezuela and you can track his progress there in the Minor Leagues Forum. Premium Link, Regular Link

Finally, NSBB would like to thank Sean Gallagher and Chris Walker for their time, participation and willingness to answer our questions. :cheers:

Please stay tuned for Part II of the Roundtable, which will be posted here in a few days!
Last edited by Laura on Thu May 24, 2007 7:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Laura » Sun Oct 29, 2006 11:38 pm

DJaxxFan: When I did the NSBB interview with Eric [Patterson] about walks and plate appearances, he made a comment that echoed some of Dusty's philosophies. He said that when you go up to the plate, you're not going up there to walk, you're going up there to hit. Is that something that's taught in the system? I know Dusty's teams don't take a lot of walks.

Walker: No. As a hitter, you have to go up there looking to hit. If you go up looking for a walk, more than likely you're down 0-2. You're going to see 3-4 pitches in an at-bat. If you go up looking for a hit, you're a little more selective and you're looking to hit a pitch – then you lay off stuff, end up being more selective and you walk more. I agree with what Eric said.

DJaxxFan: I'm just curious as to whether that's an organizational approach.

Walker: No, it's not really an organizational thing, but they teach you to hit your pitches. Your walks will come in time. You have to hit, you have to be aggressive in that respect.

Serena: We have some questions from NSBB posters, here's one from TexasCubsFan. What kind of specific hitting instruction do you get in the minors, and how does that change as you move up through the system?

Walker: Good question. Instruction-wise all the hitting coaches, no matter who it is, are going to have a certain plan for you to get to the next level. For me, I've had two hitting coaches my throughout my minor-league career, and they would be Tommy Beyers and Mike McCutchey. Having to work with them, I haven't changed a lot in philosophy, both of them have taught me to stay up the middle of the field, keep the ball on the ground, avoid the air, and use your speed. So for hitting philosophy, mine has stayed the same.

So, for examples: “You're a leadoff hitter. We have to find a way to maximize your speed. Let's do this drill and that drill – this drill so we can get you to hit more line drives, and that drill because you've been popping the ball up too much.”

It's all an adjustment from level to level as you move up. but the philosophies still stays the same as a hitter. I haven't seen too many guys who have been changed dramatically. It's more, “OK, this isn't working, so you have to do this.” A lot of guys will look at a certain player and work toward their swing and their game. As you move up, it becomes more focused on the player instead of “all you guys need to do this.”

It's more “Look, Hawpe, you're a line drive guy with pop, and Walker, you're a line drive guy and a groundball hitter.” So they'll work with the first guy on specific things and with me on specific things. It's different philosophies for different players.

Serena: What players have you admired or emulated?

Walker: Kenny Lofton. I was a huge Kenny Lofton fan growing up, and I really like to pattern my game after him. As I've gotten older, I look at more guys now who switch hit, like Chone Figgins and Brian Roberts in Baltimore. Juan Pierre is another player. These are guys I look at and think that I could do exactly what they're doing. These guys are all successful, they're not big guys, but they get the job done. They have speed – every once in a while they'll hit one out, but that's not their game – and can steal some bases.

Those are guys I look at and watch on a daily basis to see how they're doing. I've studied Juan Pierre like a book since he joined the Cubs.

Serena: It's nice to see Pierre start to come around now. The first couple of months were tough.

Walker: The hard thing for him is that he works SO hard. His work ethic is second to none. I thought I worked hard, and this guy makes me look lazy. He's up at 6 in the morning, lifting weights, running, before anyone gets to the park. He's out there bunting, taking his swings. He's already gone through a full workout before the day's begun for everyone else.

Serena: That's what I've heard. They basically gave him the keys to the ballpark because he's always the first one there.

Gallagher: In Mesa, Dana [Noeltner] had to give him a key. Dana was like, “I can't beat you here. Unless I sleep here, you're here before I am!”

Walker: Those are the guys I try to look at and emulate. Looking at their success and what they're doing makes me feel like I could go up and do the same thing, because that's the type of player I am. So let me pattern my game after these guys, and maybe I'll pick up some things that will make me that much better and help me get to the next level.

Serena: I'm from northwest Indiana and Kenny Lofton is from East Chicago, he's a local guy. There's been some debate about how much Lofton really sparked the Cubs offense in '03, considering he replaced Corey Patterson who was having an outstanding season that year before he got hurt.

Walker: Corey was having a great season that year before he got hurt. What the Cubs were lacking, though, was a leadoff guy, and Kenny Lofton is the prototypical leadoff hitter. When you have a guy at the top of the lineup who can get on base, hit the ball on the ground or hit a line drive and then steal, it makes a huge difference. That gets the offense going. You saw what he did in '03 – he'd get on base and then he'd steal second, he'd steal third, then BAM! The Cubs were up 1-0. That makes a huge difference.

That doesn't take anything away from what Corey did before going down with injury. You have to give a lot of credit to Kenny, though, he sparkplugged that team.

Serena: What kind of drills do you do, on a daily basis and then during the offseason, just to prepare?

Walker: Lots and lots of hitting. Get up, right now I'm working with Tommy Beyers. We do a lot of tee work. We do this thing called a walkup drill, he’s tossing me fly balls and I walk up to the cage swinging, across my legs, swinging. Offseason, hit off the machine quite a bit, crank it up to about 90 to 100 miles per hour just so you can get game speed going. Weightlifting, running, just preparing yourself mentally. I do a lot of reading just to build up my whole mentality and get the other part of your game going.

Serena: What kind of reading?

Walker: Anything that has to do with the mind and how the mind works, because at this level, -- and Sean can back me on this -- everybody has the talent at this level of play to get to the big leagues. But the difference between those guys there, and the guys in AA and AAA, is mental. It’s the mental side of the game. Those guys in the big leagues, it’s like “OK, I’m struggling. I’ve done this before. No big deal, I’ll work it out.” You might have some guys here who are like “I’m struggling, what am I doing wrong? I don’t know if I need to this, can I do this to make it better?” It’s just all mental. It’s really all mental right now.

Serena: Is that a difference once you get to AA? Once you’re at AA, you’re close. You’re a phone call away from the callup. Is there more of an emphasis on the mental approach once you get to AA?

Walker: Yes there is, because if you can perform here, you can play in the big leagues, because this is where all the top prospects are. This is where the best talent in each organization, this is the level that they’re in. So if you can perform and do well at this level, you’re ready for the big leagues. You’re ready for the show. You have to be mentally strong.

Serena: OK, I’m going to ask this. I'm curious because we've were talking about before in terms of the Cubs and minor league teams like the DJaxx. Do attendance issues have any kind of impact at all, on the team, etc.? Is there a difference?

Gallagher: It’s the same game. If there are people in the stands or not, we’re out there doing what we do. If there are people there in the stands, it is nice to hear cheers every now and then. But even still, you’re still into the game most the time, you don’t even realize how many people are there. It’s just sometimes you’ll turn and look, you won’t see anybody there, you’ll see that it’s a down night and it doesn’t really bother you. But some nights, there can be five or six thousand people in the stands, the next night there's 500. It's no big deal.

Serena: In the Cubs organization, you have Peoria and Daytona that are drawing pretty well, then you get to AA and the DiamondJaxx have been struggling a bit in that department.

Walker: Daytona is awesome! It's awesome ... If you ever get a chance to go to a game there, go any time Thursday through Sunday.

Gallagher: Thursday, Friday and Saturday are the best days, everybody's there and having a good time.

Walker: Great, loud, Front Row Joe ... Front Row Joe is great, he's the biggest Die Hard Cubs fan I've ever seen. If the Cubs win the World Series, they need to give that guy a ring.

But it’s not that big of a deal. As Sean was saying, it’s nice to have people in the stands. You hear the cheers, you hear the hecklers talking, it’s fun when you have that. But you get to the point where it’s like, if people are going to show up, cool. If not, that’s their decision.

Serena: When I see people debate about it on message boards, it’s the whole thought that you can go from playing in front of a couple hundred people to showing up at Wrigley and having 45,000 people screaming for a Wednesday day game. That's part of why people think that might have an effect.

Gallagher: I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s the fans, it’s just knowing that you’re at Wrigley. You’re there. The fans, they’re going to be there or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s your stadium, it’s the club you want to play for, the one you want to be at. The first couple of games, you’re going to be nervous. You’re going to get so nervous on the mound, you’re not going to hear anything. You’re not going to hear yourself think. Thank God you'll have catchers there, like Barrett and Blanco, to call signs for you, because there's no way you're not going to be nervous.

I’d say probably after, maybe even your first year, you realize that you’ve actually made it. You’ve done it; you’re going to be there. Maybe after that point you’ll hear more and more. But even after that, I know that when I’m on the mound I’m so dialed in, half the time I don’t even hear the coaches. Anderson will come out to talk to me, and I’ll be like, what? Huh? It’s funny. I think it’s the pressure of just knowing you’re there at Wrigley, just knowing the tradition behind it.

Serena: How do they handle that? Have you been to Wrigley?

Gallagher: I have. I went there last year, when in Peoria we had two off days, me and Mike Billek, my teammate at the time, drove up to Chicago and went to two games. They played the Braves. It was fun!

Serena: I think Nathan was mentioning that at some point, or maybe I’m confusing that with this year.

Gallagher: This year the whole team went. After they won the first half they let them drive over and join out there for the morning and saw the team, the clubhouse, everything.

Walker: Must be nice!

Serena: Chris, you've been hitting well at each level. What do you attribute you ability to maintain success as you rise through the system?

Walker: The hitting coaches and lots of hard work. Just trying to get there and work on the daily grind and having the right guys behind you to help and to be there when you need help. Having coaches that are willing to work with you at the drop of a dime has helped me the past few years. As I said earlier, I’ve spent hours in the cage working with Tom Beyers and working with Mike McCutchey. When Vince Coleman was here, working with him on all things; he’s one of the main reasons why I’m here today and why I'm having success. He went out on a limb and saved my butt.

Serena: In terms of what, the stolen bases?

Walker: Stolen bases, just my all around game. He really helped me take my game to the next level. And then, coming to this level, having Tom Beyers and Pat Listach. Having Tom, having the comfort with him to be able to go to him, “Hey, this is what I’m feeling, what are you seeing? He tells me and we’re going to work on it. Then having Pat, who was also a switch hitter at the big league level, and him saying, “This might help you right here; try this,” and I’m like “OK, let’s work on it.” Having a couple of these guys and being able to work with them has helped me out so much this year in leaps and strides.
Pat will get on me, “You only had two hits today; why couldn’t you get three? You had two stolen bases; why didn’t you get three?” Strive for more; don’t just settle for what you’re doing now. Always try to get more than you can. Be greedy at the game. Having them around, working with my mentality and approach to the game, those are the attributes to success.

Serena: How are you feeling now after your injury ... you hit a foul ball off your ankle, was that it?

Walker: No, I had a strained hip flexor in Mobile, trying to steal a base of all things. I had almost a week off to work out and get healthy. I feel great, 100% ready to go. Hopefully I’m in the lineup tonight, but that’s not my call. That’s the manager’s call, but I’m ready to play.

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Postby NCCubFan » Mon Oct 30, 2006 12:29 am

As always it's good to see what players in the system are thinking.
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Postby CaliforniaRaisin » Mon Oct 30, 2006 1:35 am

I like what Chris said about Pat Listach. I've heard a lot of great things about Listach from many of the players.

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Postby CubsInNC » Mon Oct 30, 2006 8:11 am

I kinda understand the philosophy on looking for a walk. I don't necessarily embrace it, but I think I understand.

I think, to an extent, they're being taught/have learned, that if it's known that you're going up to the plate to walk, the pitcher is just going to throw you strikes, and you get down 0-1 or 0-2, pitcher counts where you have to swing at their pitches.

Whereas, the players that the Cubs seem to covet, are of the understanding that you go up to the plate, be patient, but look for your pitch to hit, and hit it well. They imply that if you do that, the walks will come. And in theory, that's not a bad philosophy to embrace, because if you're fouling off strikes that aren't your pitch, and taking all balls, you will walk. However, you're dealing with hitters organizationally who tend to strike out at alarming rates, which tells me that they're either unclear on what pitches are their pitches, or they just can't see the ball. In theory this should work, but, you can't draft "hitters" to do that. You have to draft pitch recognition guys.

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Postby CubinNY » Mon Oct 30, 2006 10:27 am

I think I get what they are saying re: walks.

What they are saying is that a hitter can't go up to the plate expecting the pitcher will walk him. A hitter has to go up to the plate with an idea of putting the bat on the ball, making solid contact. To do that you have to know your swing, where you want to hit the ball, and a few other things. So you go up there looking for a ball in a particular location or if you know the pitcher you may guess on what pitch he will throw. If it's not in the spot or the pitch you don't swing. It could even be a strike, but you don't swing. You do this until you get two strikes.

A batter needs to be agressive in the zone but disciplined in his selection.

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Postby Transmogrified Tiger » Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:17 am

If you go up looking for a walk, more than likely you're down 0-2. You're going to see 3-4 pitches in an at-bat. If you go up looking for a hit, you're a little more selective and you're looking to hit a pitch – then you lay off stuff, end up being more selective and you walk more.

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