Interview with Chris McGuiness
Chris McGuiness talks to Frisco broadcaster Alex Vispoli about the intricacies of hitting, the difference in pitching, and how military school has helped him in professional baseball.
Vispoli: We’re joined by the first baseman for the RoughRiders, Chris McGuiness, who drove in a run with a double (Monday) night. Chris, you drove it in against a lefty who throws pretty hard. You’re a left-handed batter. That was a heck of a job considering he had not given up a hit all year.
McGuiness: Yeah. He’s one of those guys, you know, he’s got two good pitches, a fastball and a slider and both are good pitches. He’s kind of one of those guys you got to pick a pitch and maybe pick a side of the plate you think you can handle and put your money in that spot and if he throws it there you can’t miss it. Luckily, I was looking for something out over the plate and he threw there and I was able to get the barrel on it so it worked out good for me.
Vispoli: You don’t have a ton of success against lefties this year but you have picked your spots. You hit a home run off of Robbie Erlin, your old teammate.
McGuiness: Yeah. I’ve always been like that. I didn’t hit off lefties much in college so, you know, it’s one of those things, hit or miss. It’s different but lefty starters are one thing but guys out of the pen specialize in getting left-handed hitters out and San Antonio has a few of them. Corpus does too so it makes it kind of tough but then you only see them one time so it’s kind of a hit or miss thing but it’s part of the game and that’s their job to get us out.
Vispoli: Your approach when facing a lefty, I was talking to Jason Hart that really any left-handed batter when he faces a lefty, he really has to go middle away. Is that what you try to do?
McGuiness: Yeah, generally that’s the typical approach. You have some guys that come in from San Antonio or whatnot that don’t throw very hard, that throw more breaking balls per say so you might change your approach a little bit there but being a left-handed pitcher in college, I knew how I pitched left-handed batters and I’d throw a fastball away or a breaking ball so those are the kind of the two things that I hone in on and depending what his better pitch is, you pick one and sit on the other.
Vispoli: Chris, (Monday) night’s ballgame, it was an entertaining one. I guess you could say something about it but it was a bizarre ninth inning. Tell me about everything that you saw from your perspective. You’re standing right there near the first base umpire when he threw Profar out of the game. What was the chatter going on as far as you can tell us?
McGuiness: It all started with the missed bunt play where it was pretty clear to me and, you know, most people in the stands that the guy went to bunt. Profar thought the same thing too and he was chirping at Alex over there a little bit and from my understanding, it was all in Spanish of course, Profar was chirping. Alex told him he’d heard enough and then G-Rod got in the middle and said hey, you know leave him alone. I’ll take care of him. Alex said alright. Profar kept chirping, he said so he thought he heard Profar say more stuff so he tossed Profar. It was the second time when we’ve had guys chirping back to them where he thought he heard stuff so I’m sure he was a little aggravated but it’s a tight situation. Everybody’s on pins and needles at that point in the game and it’s one of those things that happen and you got to move on with it.
Vispoli: Tough for either team to lose a ballgame like that. I know it looked like there was light at the end of the tunnel there in the ninth inning. You get ahead 0-2, bases loaded, two outs, and just can’t get it to go your way.
McGuiness: Yeah. You know that game up in the, I think it was the bottom of the top of the ninth that had a right-handed reliever in and I got in a good hitter’s count. I thought, you know, I hit a ball that could have went either way. If that gets through up the middle, that’s one run and we got guys at first and second with one out so it completely changes the face of the ballgame but that’s baseball and we catch a break with the guy getting picked off of second base so we thought we were back in the driver’s seat but you know we had a guy on the mound that we wanted out there that can, he’s another left-handed specialist and they got a left-handed hitter and (Shane Peterson) hit a good pitch to left field that drove in the run so you know, he deserved that.
Vispoli: When you hit a line drive like you did in the ninth inning and it settles in the pitcher’s glove like that, you know there’s some satisfaction in being able to hit the ball hard in that situation but also the frustration of having it go to the exact wrong spot. What are you feeling in that spot?
McGuiness: It’s just mixed. It happened so quick but I don’t know if, I’m sure every hitter feels that but I feel like finding gloves so much out on the field that it’s frustrating but you kind of get used to it. You know, it’s part of the game. They say it all evens out so maybe I’ll get a hit here or there or get one to bleed in but it would’ve been nice to have that one fall for sure last night.
Vispoli: That said you still have done a nice job raising your average around .250 or so based on where it was a couple of weeks ago and you seem to be settling into a pretty good spot here in the Texas League. Describe what the difference in pitching that you’ve seen has been like versus 2011 in the Carolina League.
McGuiness: Everything last year was a whirlwind. Being hurt, guys in High-A are still good, you know, so you take me being hurt, them being on their game, those are kind of the same as they are here. You know it’s a step up in competition. I feel like everybody here throws 95 so if you don’t throw 95, you got to have good secondary stuff and then they do throw 95 and have good secondary stuff. There’s been maybe one or two days that we face guys who are like oh, this is a guy you got to really get your hits in because you don’t see guys like this too often in Double-A but those are normally the guys you come back to the dugout 0-4 and mad at yourself about more than the other guys. It’s tough but you get thrown in that situation all the time, you start to get acclimated to it a little bit more. I feel a little bit more comfortable so I feel good at the plate, not overmatched. It’s just getting to pitch the ball when they do and going up there and trying to have a good at-bat every day and stick to your approach and let the balls fall where they lay.
Vispoli: I want to ask you a little bit about your college background. You went to The Citadel which is the military school in South Carolina. For folks that don’t know, how did you end up going to The Citadel?
McGuiness: I had a lot of buddies go there the year before that so I knew a lot of the guys on the team. I grew up playing ball with the head coach’s son Freddie Jordan and his son Kyle and we played ball together. I knew I had a good relationship with all the coaches. The Southeast, on the East coast more so, even throughout the United States still has a good reputation. They got a really good degree and if you wear that ring, it opens up some doors so that all weighed into it. Money was a big factor of it. You know, my parents also have to worry about money and stuff but to have that much money thrown at you and you have to take out student loans and stuff like that and would it be a loan that the pros definitely outweigh the cons. I’ve gone there and I don’t regret it. It was a good experience. I learned a lot there.
Vispoli: What military school commitments do you have at that school, if any?
McGuiness: After we’re done, you don’t have to serve. As far as at school, you know, you’re a regular cadet. I woke up at 7:11 every morning. We had a 7:15 formation. It gives me four minutes to get ready which they didn’t like it too much because I didn’t look very good in my uniform but, you know, it’s kind of clear, athletes who go there for athletics and other guys go there for the military instruction stuff so we had to march to breakfast, lunch. We had to march to class my freshman year wearing our uniform every day so it was, you know, the five o’clock runs and all that stuff. It was pretty tough but it’s nothing you can’t do. It’s just you have to be tough, more so mentally tough than physically tough.
Vispoli: Did that sort of experience help prepare you for professional ball where it really is a self-starter thing? You come to the ballpark and there is a regimented program for you to do but in terms of off-season work and everything that goes into the time that you spend building your game outside of the ballpark, does that sort of discipline that gets built into you at The Citadel help you in professional ranks?
McGuiness: Yeah, absolutely. The days just melted together. A Monday was the same as a Saturday. It felt like you got up every day and did the same kinds of stuff, get up, breakfast, class, weight-lifting, practice, eat, do homework, and go to bed. Minor league ball is kind of the same thing. You get to the park and you have a routine that you do every day. You come in. You play. You eat dinner. You go back to sleep and you wake up and do it all over again and that’s basically what the off-season is for me. I lift Monday through Friday around the same time. I hit around the same time so that structure, getting into a routine and sticking to it and finding out what works for you. I have definitely benefitted from being at The Citadel. It was a good fit.
Vispoli: Chris, congratulations on the good game last night. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out in your guys’ favor but go out there and get them today. Thanks for the time.