Leading Off First with Conrad Gregor (w/Interview)

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In June 2010, the Chicago White Sox drafted a first baseman out of Carmel High School in Indiana by the name of Conrad Gregor, in the 40th-round. Gregor decided to go to college instead of signing with the White Sox. He attended Vanderbilt University, where he played for three seasons as a Commodore. He was drafted by the Astros in 2013 along with his teammate Tony Kemp.

You might remember the name Conrad Gregor, because last year his father caught his first home run of the season. What did Conrad think of this rare occasion? Keep reading a you will find out.

May 26, 2013; Hoover, AL, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores infielder Conrad Gregor (55) celebrates his run scored against the LSU Tigers during the championship game of the SEC baseball tournament at the Hoover Met. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

CTH: What have you been doing this offseason to get ready for the 2015 season?

Gregor: After the season ended this past September, I evaluated myself and my game. After my personal evaluation and the feedback that I received from the Astros player development staff and coaches that I played for, I started addressing the areas of my game that needed work. I felt that all the areas of my game needed some addressing and I started chipping away at the areas that I concluded needed the most attention first.

While I started with this process, I began working towards completing my degree from Vanderbilt University. The best part about going back to Vanderbilt is the ability to work towards getting a great education, along with having access to the top baseball facilities to improve on my baseball skills.

CTH: Do you get to work with other Big Leaguers during the offseason?

Gregor: Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt’s head baseball coach, allows for professional players to come back and use the facilities and a good number of former players do just that. It is a very unique that this situation occurs but since Vanderbilt is located in Nashville, TN, it draws a good crowd of former players back. Having the ability to workout with 15-20 pro players including five to ten big leaguers on a given day builds great camaraderie and adds an element of fun to each workout.

As I have been addressing certain areas of my game, it has also helped having former teammates and household names (David Price, Sonny Gray, Pedro Alvarez, etc.) to bounce ideas off of. While the 2015 offseason is winding down, I feel that my time spent down at Vanderbilt has not only prepared me for the 2015 season but years to come. I am one semester away from completing my degree from Vanderbilt and the knowledge base that I have accumulated while working towards this degree will not only help me with baseball but in all areas of my life.

It has been a great offseason. I have had the ability to rest, recharge the batteries, spend quality time with friends and family, work towards completing my degree from Vanderbilt,  and get ready for the upcoming 2015 baseball season. I am excited to get done to spring training and reconnect with the guys. One of the greatest feelings in the world is going out for that first time on that field again after the long offseason.

I have looked forward to this moment and cannot wait to get going this spring!

CTH: You were originally drafted by the White Sox in 2010 in the 40th round, what made you decide to go to school?

Gregor: Numerous things changed between the time I was drafted in 2010 out of high school and being drafted in 2013. I felt that by sticking to my commitment to attend Vanderbilt has been one of the best decisions I have made thus far in my life. The countless lessons I have learned on and off the baseball field have helped prepare me for professional baseball and life in general now, and in the future. I give much credit to Tim Corbin and the Vanderbilt baseball coaching staff for teaching me how to become a great teammate and player.

I felt that each year I got better as a player and much of this can be accounted to the culture that Coach Corbin created. Coach Corbin created a great learning environment that challenges you to be the best you can be. Coming in as a young, eighteen year old kid you have a lot of growing up and maturing to do. In the culture Coach Corbin has created, the upperclassmen take in the freshman and help them with this transition from high school to college. Immediately, there is this sense of unity and from this you are able to grow both as a player and a person.

CTH:  You were drafted by the Astros in the 4th round of 2013 draft, what specifically changed your stock as a player to be drafted 36 rounds earlier?

Gregor: In the three years that I played baseball at Vanderbilt, I felt that each year I matured more as a person and I would say that this was one pivotal change between the time I was drafted in high school to the time I was drafted out of college. The maturity aspect that I learned from being away from home and going to school at a prestigious University such as Vanderbilt, challenged me which over time helped me mature and bring out the best in me.

Vanderbilt was not only a competitive on the baseball field, but was also competitive in the classroom. The competitive nature helped me develop a good routine that helped me sustain success in both arenas. Since professional baseball is as much as a routine profession as you can find, with 142/162 game schedule and playing a game almost daily, this notion of routine that I learned to establish at Vanderbilt has helped me thus far in professional baseball.

May 26, 2013; Hoover, AL, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores infielder Tony Kemp (6) tosses his helmet after grounding out in the tenth inning against the LSU Tigers during the championship game of the SEC baseball tournament at the Hoover Met. LSU defeated Vanderbilt 5-4 in 11 innings. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

CTHWhat was it like to be drafted the round before fellow Vandy player Tony Kemp?

Gregor: It was surreal. The moment that we found out, we could barely control our excitement.

I remember that we were at practice while the draft was taking place. One of the Vanderbilt baseball staff was keeping us updated throughout and when Tony’s name got called, we had a mini celebration during the middle of practice. I remember vividly running across the field and giving him a big hug because I was extremely happy for him and could not even imagine what it could be like in the coming years to continue taking the field with him.

Tony is one of my closest friends and being able to go through the road of professional baseball playing with one of your best friends is very rare. I truly cherish every time that I get to take the field with him.

CTH: What can you tell Astros fans about Kemp and how much have you played with him in minors?

Gregor: Do not get out of your seat when Tony Kemp is on the field or you will miss something spectacular! The kid is a human highlight real!  He is a spark plug for any offense is a gold glove defender on defense.  Excitement, Energy, Savvy, and Smile are all words I would describe him by.  He always has a smile on his face and he plays the game the right way always hustling on and off the field.

I enjoy every moment I get to play with him.  We know how each other plays and this knowledge gives us an advantage especially on defense.  We know each others range and limitations and are able to communicate non-verbally and instinctively as one through the hundreds of games we have played together.  We also support and pick up one another.

We have a great understanding of one another for when Tony or I needs motivation or support we know how to engage this dialogue with each other.  Having a friend like him to go through this together is priceless.

CTH: Are you expecting to start in AA or AAA in 2015?

Gregor: Honestly, I am just thankful for the Houston Astros for giving me the opportunity to play baseball.  I do have expectations but they are on things that I can control, such as how hard I play, being a good teammate, and staying humble.  Outside of my personal expectations, wherever the Astros decide to start me is their decision.

CTH: What was it like for your dad to catch your first home run ball of 2014?

Gregor: It was unbelievable and I could never of dreamed of that happening.  What are the odds?  To this day I am still wondering why he was out there during the game.  It was great to hear from family, friends, former teammates and coaches that reached out to my dad and I when it happened.  I am just glad that he was able to make the highlight real catch and come down with the ball!

Summary of Interview

Players like Conrad Gregor, who finish school even after they are drafted, really impress me as a teacher. Most students say they don’t need school, because they will become a professional athlete. Gregor had two chances to get out of going to college by being drafted twice. However, Gregor saw the importance of getting his degree.

While Conrad Gregor might be one of the lesser known Astros prospects, it sounds like he is working to improve himself this offseason. With the possibility of Jon Singleton starting in Triple-A, I see Gregor starting the season in Double-A in 2015. Once Singleton proves himself and gets the promotion, Gregor will see his first playing time in Triple-A. If Singleton breaks camp with Astros, I still see Gregor still making his Fresno debut later in the season.

Don’t overlook the Vanderbilt boys in the Astros’ future. Conrad Gregor could find his way into the first base picture, while Tony Kemp should be stealing bases and playing center field. Tony Kemp, you are my next target for an interview. Conrad has my email. We will check back with Gregor later in season, to check in on his progress.

Next: Stealing Second with Astros Prospect Brett Phillips (Humor)

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