10 Questions with Kevin Pillar
* Kevin Pillar was a 32nd round draft choice as a college senior from Division II California State University-Dominguez Hills. Yet, he’s putting up numbers better than most higher drafted players at class-A Dunedin ….
By Clayton Richer
Baseball Hot Corner
Kevin Pillar is storming through the Blue Jays minor league ranks proving to Jays management that he is a force to be reckoned with. Pillar is rising up the depth chart and quietly becoming a household name with the likes of Jake Marisnick, Travis d’Arnaud and Daniel Norris.
Pillar was selected by the Jays late in the 2011 amateur baseball draft out of California State University-Dominguez Hills. Since signing with the Jays, Pillar has rocketed through Bluefield, Lansing and now finds himself tearing it up for the Dunedin Blue Jays. Pillar has not hit under .300 in any of the three levels he has been assigned.
To put his progress in perspective all you have to do is look at the numbers. In 164 career pro games Pillar has posted a .335 average, 212 hits, 12 home runs, 112 RBIs, 50 stolen bases and an OPS of .871. Not too shabby for a guy drafted in the 32nd round.
The 23 year old can play all three outfield positions and currently leads the Dunedin Blue Jays with a .353 average in 18 contests since his promotion. Stay tuned because as opposing pitchers are quickly realizing this will not be the last time you hear the name Kevin Pillar.
Interview With Kevin Pillar:
1. In your senior year at Cal State Dominguez Hills you had a 54-game hitting streak in which you shattered a Division II record. Why do you think you were taken in the 32nd round and had you expected to go higher, and how has it motivated you?
Yes, I definitely thought that I was going to go earlier in the draft in fact I thought I was going to go after my Jr. year in which I had the 54 game hitting streak. I ended up going as a senior sign in the 32 round and it has definitely a motivating factor in my career and I believe it will always be something that will motivate me. Any time you feel under-valued or unappreciated there is always going to be a chip on your shoulder to prove not only to the other 29 teams that passed up on your but even your own organization.
2. You began your pro career last season in Bluefield and have since been promoted to Lansing and now Dunedin where you have excelled at every level? What do you attribute to your success and have you been surprised by how fast you have progressed?
I think what I credit mostly to my success thus far is being a relentless competitor. I have always trusted my ability to do baseball things and have put a lot of trust in the coaching staff that I have been around to help my ability come out every day. I think the thing I credit the most though is my work ethic. I have also prided myself on being an extremely hard worker, not only on the field, but in the cage and in the weight room. I feel like all the hard work that I put in pre-game, has allowed me freedom to go out and have fun and only think about competing.
To answer the second part of the question I can’t say I am surprise because I feel like I can compete at any level that they decided to put me in but I am surprised that I have moved through the a couple levels as fast as I have.
3. What baseball team did you follow growing up and do you emulate your style around any major league players?
I am born and raised outside of Los Angeles and have been a life time long Dodger fan. Growing up I always emulated playing styles of Pete Rose and Cal Ripken Jr. I loved Pete Rose for the way that he played the game with his hustle and Ripken for his ability to find a way to play regardless or injury, soreness or whatever would cause most people to sit out.
4. For people who have never seen you play, what type of player can they expect from Kevin Pillar?
I think for someone that is coming to the ball park they can expect me to play not only play hard, but with a passion and a true love for the game and I try to let that show every time that I play. They are going to see someone who is going to try and be the toughest batter a pitcher is going to have to face and the most competitive defender in the outfield.
5. What has been your biggest baseball related accomplishment to date?
I didn’t think that the 54 four game hitting streak would ever been topped in my baseball career but I think my 6-for-6 game in Dayton this year and finishing it with a grand slam was pretty special. I would have to put them 1A and 1B.
6. Who has been the most influential person in helping you develop as a baseball player throughout your career?
I have had a couple people that have been very influential throughout my career. My college coach Murphy Su’a has probably been the most He has taught me so much and more importantly things outside of baseball that have helped me so much in my baseball career things like: responsibility, accountability, hard work, communication, ownership. All this things have directly helped me in my baseball career. He was the only college coach that believed in me and in returned allowed me to believe in myself. Without him I know I would not be doing this interview right now. Also my college pitching coach/high school coach Sid Lopez. He also told me “if you’re a good worker then you are a good man”. He is also the person who moved me to the outfield in high school and allowed me to further my baseball career. Lastly Kenny Graham, hitting coach in Bluefield and Lansing. He has been the biggest influence in my pro career hands down. I cannot start to list the things that he is done for me; all I can do is thank him.
7. What is the one facet of your game you think you need to improve to make it to the majors?
Being someone that holds very high standards for myself, and expecting greatness I think there is a lot of areas of my game that can improve and that will improve before I get to the major leagues. But for this interview I will say arm strength. If I can approve my arm strength from the outfield I feel I can fit the major league mold in all three outfield positions.
8. What has been the biggest transition for you getting accustomed to life in the minors?
The biggest adjustment for anyone coming into the minor leagues in the grind of playing every day, adjusting from living away from family, friends and loved ones, and budgeting the small amount we get paid. They all each have their own individual battles but are also part of the development in order to get to the major leagues.
9. Who is the most challenging pitcher you have faced to date and why?
I do not like to give pitchers especially an individual pitcher to much credit so I will say that I have been challenged by a lot of pitchers but will never give them credit. As a hitter you just can’t do that or you are already at a disadvantage.
10. What has been the biggest difference between the three different levels you have played at so far and what are your short and long term goals?
The biggest differences in all three levels have been the speed of the game. Position players have more range in the field and better arms. Pitchers can throw more pitchers consistently or strikes and locate their pitches better. Each level has been different from one another but I have been able to adjust quickly. After the first at bat or first play you make in the field it becomes the same game. My short team goals are just continue to work hard every day and improve all areas of my game. Get my strengths stronger and improve on my weakness so when I eventually get the call to play in the major leagues I know that I have done everything in my power to have prepared for that moment. My long term goal is to not only get to the major leagues but stay there and be an everyday player for a team and help lead them to the World Series.