In your senior yearbook you were voted “Most likely to be famous.” And now that you’re actually famous, what’s it like reflecting on how far you’ve come?
I don’t know if I’m actually famous or not, it was one of those things, where I’m sure that you guys still do today, where everyone votes on in the yearbook superlatives for the year and that happened to be mine and it was a joke at the time, obviously a lot of stuff has taken place in the last 10 years.
How would you describe yourself in high school … were you involved in anything, did you go to any games or dances or anything?
Yeah, you have the homecoming stuff and prom and all that. I think I went to a few basketball games back in the day, football games, just do all the normal high school stuff, hung out with my friend, did all the same things you guys probably are still doing. It was a good time, for sure, and it’s really the last time that you guys get to hang out with the people you grew up with your entire life, because once you graduate high school, everyone goes to college, they go to do their own thing, so yeah I remember really enjoying that.
What was your perspective in high school about baseball; did you always want to go pro?
Originally I just wanted to try to go to college, like see if I could go to school, get a scholarship, use it as a way to get free education. I don’t think I knew I had a chance to go pro probably until senior year, right around there: junior, senior year. Because, you know I was going to go to school unless I was drafted high enough where it was worth it to not go to college which I ended up being but I didn’t know I was going to have the possibility to do that until mid way through my senior year and even then I didn’t make the decision until the end of August and so I almost really ended up going to college, and it ended up working out.
What kind of role did baseball play in your life? Was it something you focused on your entire high school? Was it the main focus?
Yeah, I mean it wasn’t anything to where I still didn’t enjoy life and being a high school student. You have to be dedicated to it if you want to perform at that level. To make that level, you have to make sacrifices and you can’t do the things that a lot of other people do in high school, but I still felt like I had a relatively normal high school experience and towards the end was when it was becoming abnormal: I got drafted and still had like three or four weeks of school left, that’s when it got a little weird, but before that it was all good, it was normal.
Is there anything you’d tell your newly drafted, 18-year old self?
Probably just to just enjoy the process. I think you get just so caught up … it happens in everybody’s life whether you’re in sports or in life is that I think you get so caught up in the end goal, where you want to be in life, where you want to make it to and you don’t necessarily enjoy the journey and everything that comes along with it. You don’t live in the moment as much as you should and you know, you get there and everything happens so fast. It goes by so quickly once you graduate. I’d probably try to enjoy it a lot more instead of being so worried or so stressed about certain aspects. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it because I really did. Because once it happens, it happens and it goes by really quick, you just want to enjoy it and everything that comes along with the journey that gets you to your end goal, good and bad.
You started the campaign “California Strong” with your teammates [Ryan Braun and Mike Moustakas]. What was your initial thought in starting that campaign, and why did you think it was so necessary to do something major, like a campaign?
You guys know from being in this area it was just a really bad couple of weeks here, it just sucked. It started with the Borderline type deal. I know it was a place I went to in high school. 18 and over you can go, it’s a bar, you can’t drink, but you could still go, and so we all went there and I had a lot of friends that went there, so that was sad in itself, and that night to have the fires happen, it just seemed like all hell was breaking loose here for a few weeks and you just, in the community, see how much people are impacted by it. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position to help and give back and use your platform for good and I think once it all settled down, we all realized that we were fine, it turned immediately towards “how can we help out?” and we didn’t know how, or what we were going to do, and we ended up getting in touch with the YMCA, partnering with them, and they allowed us to really turn this thing into what it is. I don’t think we envisioned starting this big charity; it started over a group text, and that’s really how it happened. “Hey, we should help out, let’s do this softball game,” and then it really is hard to do … there [are] a lot of things that have to take place, you need to set up everything correctly to avoid legal issues. It ended up being great though. We raised a lot of money to help all those who are in need and just give back to the community.
After such a notable 2018 season, are you thinking about changing anything in 2019, or going at it the same way?
Just going at it the same way. I don’t think there’s any more pressure associated with that. I think as an athlete you always have higher expectations for yourself than any weight from the outside can put on you no matter how lofty they really are. I think you hold yourself to a higher standard than people can comprehend sometimes, just because you know what you’re capable of, and the work that went into it. I’m just looking forward to it, I’m excited have fun obviously we came up a game short of the World Series, lost to the Dodgers, something I’m not stoked about. So yeah, we ended up losing to the Dodgers, and we got close to the World Series, so I think everybody is excited to get back after and see if we can take that next step. It was definitely fun playing against your hometown team with a chance to go to the World Series. High school me would be pretty stoked about that. [I lived] so close to the Dodgers stadium, so anytime you go to a baseball games as a kid it would always be a Dodgers game. Playing in that stadium and having grown up here having gone there so many times as a kid, and then you’re playing in it during a playoff game and there are 55,000 people there, it’s like it’s pretty sweet, you know. It’s one of those, I know I was talking about earlier, you kind of take a step back sometimes, and you realize, who would’ve ever thought that some kid from Westlake could’ve been playing in a NLCS game against the Dodgers, so it was cool and hopefully we can get back to that.
As someone who went an unconventional path in life, to do pro baseball, what your advice for other people who want to go the non-traditional route?
I think that if you have a dream, you should stick to it. Who says that it’s not possible or you can’t do it? If you know yourself, if you have the drive, if you’re passionate enough about it, why not go for it? It’s your life, if it’s your dream. Give it everything you have, and if it doesn’t work out, that’s fine That’s life too: not everything is going to go according to plan. If you believe in something strong enough and [you’re] passionate enough about it, then I don’t see why you shouldn’t do it. Obviously, why would you not do something you love, for something the odds are in favor of? Nothing in life is guaranteed anyways. Do what you’re passionate about, and everything will work itself out.