Kyle Tucker Interview
CTH: I know 2015 must have been a pretty crazy year for you. Now that we are in 2016, and you have had some time to reflect on this past year, can you take me through the whole experience of getting drafted by the Houston Astros and becoming a professional baseball player right out of high school?
Tucker: First of all, not too many guys get drafted, so getting drafted that high and going to the same organization as my brother was a great opportunity for me to start my baseball career. After that, I was sent to Kissimmee, and I started playing my debut there for the GCL, which was quite a good experience. There were a lot of international guys that I got to play with and meet there, also new guys all around the country. I ended up getting called up to Greeneville, Tennessee which is our advanced rookie ball. That was another great group of guys there, and I didn’t have any problems with anyone.
I started out a little rocky playing-wise just trying to get used to the competition that was a lot better and there were a couple of guys who were more experienced than me. After a little while, I started getting into the groove of it and feel more relaxed playing pro ball, and we ended up winning our Advanced Rookie Ball Championship up there in Tennessee, so that was a thrill. We are going to get a ring in Spring Training, so I was really excited about that. It was pretty cool to get a ring after only my first season of pro ball. I really enjoyed the short time that I had played and I’m really looking forward to next year.
CTH: As a second part to that question, I know most people have their New Year’s Resolutions in line right about now, so what goals do you have for 2016?
Tucker: Really, everyone’s goal is to make it up to the big leagues as fast as they can. I’m trying to play hard, play my game, improve, and get better obviously. I’m thinking I’ll go to Low-A, and I might spend the whole year there or maybe get called up. Hopefully, I’ll get called up to High-A, depending on what the Astros want to do. My goals are to improve overall, get more power, and improve my solid contact with the bat. Getting another ring would definitely be another goal.
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CTH: What have you been doing this offseason to get ready for your first full year as a professional baseball player and what key differences have you noticed in your offseason training this winter?
Tucker: In high school, you’re still a kid and a bit immature. Maybe you don’t take working out as seriously as a professional guy would. After playing a professional season, I felt like I really grew up and matured, and this offseason I have started working out more seriously.I started lifting heavily in December and tried to gain weight and get stronger to get ready for next year. I can tell the difference between last year and this offseason in my training. I’m really getting after it this year and trying to be ready for spring training in a few weeks.
CTH: Obviously, the recent Hall of Fame class is a hot topic in baseball right now. What are your thoughts on Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. getting in and are there any others you thought deserved getting the call this year?
Tucker: I was sitting on the couch watching TV, and my dad comes up and tells me that Griffey just had the highest % of anyone going into the Hall of Fame. Growing up, that’s really the guy who my brother and I looked at while we were watching TV. He was always my brother’s favorite, and I always watched him because my brother had control of what we watched. I obviously knew he was going to get in the Hall of Fame sooner or later, but he definitely deserves the high percentage this year. And Mike Piazza, one of the best catchers to ever play the game, he definitely deserves it too. I saw some stats on Jeff Bagwell in certain categories, and I saw that he was leading for the Astros and his position, so hopefully he’ll get in real soon too.
CTH: Going along with that, are there any players that you watched closely or idolized growing up?
Tucker: I watched Chipper Jones a lot, I was always a big fan of his. I also watched a lot of John Smoltz. Lance Berkman, is not eligible for the Hall of Fame yet, but he was always one of my favorites growing up as well.
CTH: For Astros fans that may not know much about you yet, could you describe your game and what your best asset is as a player?
Tucker: I’m really trying to work on hitting a lot more right now. This season, I felt like I didn’t personally have great games offensively, but I got more comfortable as I got more at-bats and got settled in. I’m trying to produce a little bit more power and keep my average up. In the outfield, I keep it simple by keeping it low, throwing it to the cutoff man, picking up my pitcher when they need me, and laying out for some fly balls.
CTH: I noticed that you struggled a bit in the Gulf Coast League, but then your numbers spiked up with Greeneville, was that just a product of being more comfortable out there and what kind of shift did you feel in your game when you made that transition to Advanced Rookie Ball?
Tucker: I talked to a couple of guys who went through the GCL, and they told me how it was one of the toughest leagues because you have to wake up every day at 6 a.m. for half a season and play in the middle of the day when it’s hot in Florida, so that was a little bit of a grind. When I got called up, it felt more like real baseball getting into the season, playing at an actual stadium at night with fans there, and I got more comfortable. GCL got my feet wet and then when I got comfortable with everything that was going on.
CTH: Have you enjoyed playing with Daz Cameron in Greeneville? Also, what have you learned from your hitting coach, Cesar Cedeno, thus far?
Tucker: Daz is very fun to play with, being in the outfield with him I got to know him quite well. I got to joke around with him a little bit and hang out a little bit more, so that’s been good. He’s a great kid and a great player. Having CC as a trainer for hitting, he’s quite a character. I really like him a lot; he’s out there joking around. When it comes down to business, he’ll get serious, but he makes baseball feel like a game, not just some job that we had to do. It’s a better environment for us with CC around.
CTH: I’m a pretty big baseball fan myself, and my dad and I are trying to make it to every MLB stadium. I know you’ll see them all eventually, but I’m wondering how many you have you either played in or taken batting practice in thus far and which one is your favorite?
Tucker: I’ve taken batting practice in Houston, at Minute Maid Park. I played in an All-Star game at PETCO Park (in San Diego), and I played at Wrigley Field. I’ve also taken batting practice at the Twins stadium, but I think that’s it. They were all nice stadiums, but I like playing in Houston, so that might be my favorite because of the roof. I know my brother loves it because when they play in the middle of the summer the Astros just put the cover over the stadium and they can play inside. The area around the Twins stadium was really nice, and the ballpark was really nice as well. PETCO is a big park, but a great place and my first time playing there was cool. Playing in any big league park is what you dream about, so all of the parks were really cool.
CTH: Alright so I couldn’t really avoid it any longer, I have to ask a couple questions about you and your brother. I want to start with the important stuff: Why does Preston walk up to Taylor Swift and how much do you smack talk him about it? Also, what is your walk-up song?
Tucker: Taylor Swift is Preston’s favorite singer. He always loved her when he was a little younger, and then I get on him a little bit. I’m always just like, “Dude, come on. T-Swift is great and all but that’s your walk-up song? It’s not very intimidating.” My walk-up song is Hero by Skillet, which is a rock song.
CTH: On a different note, what are your thoughts on possibly playing with your older brother one day?
Tucker: Hopefully that will happen. I’ve never been able to play with him except for whiffle ball in the backyard. I’ve always just grown up watching him, never had the opportunity to play with him. That’s one of my goals, to either play with him or against him. Hopefully, one day it will happen because that would be pretty special.
CTH: My editor Eric Huysman did an interview with your brother a couple of weeks back, and he said he would no question beat you in a wrestling match if you guys went at it right now. Can I get your comments on that, and then my question is, who would win a Home Run Derby?
Tucker: Ok, wrestling, probably him. Right now, at least. If we were the same age and I was seven years older, I might be able to get him. In a home run derby, I might win. His balls would go further than mine, though.
CTH: I want to give you a shot at some trivia questions that Preston answered about his first minor league season and your first minor league season. Ready?
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CTH: Who had the most home runs?
Tucker: Him. I only hit three during the season. (Correct)
CTH: Who had the most plate appearances?
Tucker: I’m going to go with me. (Correct)
CTH: Who had a higher batting average?
Tucker: Him. (Correct)
CTH: Who scored the most runs?
Tucker: Probably him. (Correct)
CTH: Who had the most hits?
KT: Probably him because he had the higher batting average. (Nope, it was you Kyle)
I would like to thank Kyle Tucker for doing this interview; he clearly has a bright future ahead of him. I know he’s younger than me but this was my first Astros prospect interview, and he was very patient with me and respectful the whole time. I hope I get to meet Kyle one day because I have heard nothing but good things. If you would like to follow Kyle Tucker on Twitter, his account name is @KTuck30