Rays Digest: You have had a very good college career at the University of Georgia and currently lead the Bulldogs in RBI. As you begin play in the SEC tournament, what are some of your personal highlights from your collegiate career so far?
Kyle Farmer: Freshman year I got Louisville Slugger 1st team All-American. Last year I led the team in home runs and RBI. I’m proud to currently hold the record for fielding percentage for shortstop in school history.
One of the most memorable games was last year against Auburn when we were down 9 runs and I hit a grand slam in top of 9th to take the lead, a game we ended up winning.
Another highlight is when we beat Florida last year to make the regionals for the NCAA tournament.
Rays Digest: I know that academics are important to you as evidenced by your being named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll last spring. Can you talk about the balance between baseball and school?
Kyle Farmer: For me, as a student-athlete, the student part comes first. You have to make good grades to be eligible to play baseball, so school comes first. I’m majoring in speech communication and I have 32 hours left to graduate, and I’m on-time to graduate. Georgia has a great academic reputation and I took advantage of it. I was very lucky to get a scholarship to the University of Georgia because it is a great academic school as well as a great athletic school.
Rays Digest: You played in the Cape Cod Summer League last year with some of the best collegiate players in the country. What did playing against that level of competition do for you as a player to help you improve your game?
Kyle Farmer: Playing in the Cape helped me realize how good the competition is out there. It got me to focus on more of the game, and showed me how much I loved the game. Everybody has the same goals, to try to be the best at your position, play hard to win.
I learned that no matter what happens, you have to stay positive. If you do not stay positive in a league like the Cape Cod League things will not go the way you want it to go. Playing in the Cape also gave me a taste of what minor league baseball will be like. Not only are you playing against the nation’s top athletes you are also living on your own or with host parents. It gave me a taste of what it’s going to be like with no family around. You are just out there playing the game you love with no distractions.
Rays Digest: Baseball is a game of constant adjustments. What kinds of things have you worked on this season at the plate and in the field to make you a better player?
Kyle Farmer: At the plate, I’m trying to focus on one pitch and hit it hard. As long as I can put a good swing on it and hit it hard, I’ve done what I can. That’s what you can control. This year I have learned offensively that you can’t worry about the things you can't control. I have hit a lot of baseballs hard and they have not fallen. You can't control where the opposing team is playing you in the field. The only thing you can control is hitting the ball hard and putting a good solid swing on it.
Defensively, I’ve strived to be more of a leader on the field, a general. I want to let the pitchers know we have their backs, and take the pressure off of them. They can just throw their game and not worry about what happens behind them.
Rays Digest: You have managed to stay very healthy throughout your career. What do you do to prepare your body for the rigors of playing shortstop all season?
Kyle Farmer: After most practices, I take an ice bath which helps me re-energize my lower half. During the fall, we work out almost every day. Stretching is a big thing, keeping your muscles loose. Lifting weights is also important, to keep your body strong. I also do a lot of running to keep in shape. During Christmas break, I go back to my high school, Marist, in Atlanta, and I work with my high school baseball coach every day. We do a lot of reps of many different exercises such as hang cleans and squats and we also do a lot of running. The off-season in baseball is not really considered an off-season. I work extremely hard to get into shape and put on weight because during the hot spring and summer you have to be physically and mentally in-shape.
Rays Digest: You are a hitter that makes a lot of contact at the plate and you have only struck out 26 times in 237 at bats this season. Can you tell me a little bit about your approach at the plate?
Kyle Farmer: I go into the batter’s box with two approaches. With no strikes, I’m aggressive, and I’m looking for my pitch and I’m trying to hit it hard. With two strikes, I want to see the ball deep and drive it to right field. It’s a battle between you and the pitcher. You have to tell yourself, this guy cannot get you out. I love hitting in pressure situations and love hitting with runners in scoring position. My approach with runners in scoring position is to just get my teammate home no matter how I do it. I look for a pitch that I can drive and hopefully score the runner.
Rays Digest: There were a total of 18 Bulldogs from the 2011 team that were chosen in the last year’s draft, many who ended up returning to school for their senior years. Have you talked to any of them about their experience last summer and discussed with them what factors to consider when making your decision?
Kyle Farmer: Yes, I’ve talked to them and they felt they have unfinished business at Georgia. They wanted to graduate and also get back to the College World Series. But they said it’s really an individual choice. If the time is right, and you’re ready to go, you have to make the best decision for you.
Rays Digest: What people have been the most influential in your life in helping you develop as a player and mature into a man?
Kyle Farmer: Two people that have helped me the most are my grandmother and my father. My grandmother taught me the game of baseball because my parents worked every day from when I was born to six years old. She threw me pinecones when I was two. When I moved up to wiffle ball, she threw waffle balls in the front yard every day. We would do this every day until she was too tired to throw anymore. She taught me how to love the game and she’s taught me that it’s the greatest game on earth.
My dad was my coach my whole life until high school. He taught me pretty much everything that I know about how to play the game. He also emphasized for me to be a great leader and that team comes first. He said you have to respect the game to get what you want out of the game. If you stay positive, good things will happen to you. Baseball is a team game, and he taught me how to be a winner.
Rays Digest: Are there any current or former MLB players that you admire and try and emulate your game after?
Kyle Farmer: I really like the way Chase Utley plays the game. I can relate to him, even though he hits from left side. He plays the game hard and respects the game.
Also, once I went to a Yankees game early and watched the Yankees practice, and saw Derek Jeter take ground balls. He took practice very seriously and it shows that practice makes you the best player you can be.
Rays Digest: Any hobbies or interests outside of baseball?
Kyle Farmer: I have a hunting cabin in LaGrange, Georgia, and I like to go there in the fall to hunt and fish. I’m close to my grandfather who is down there and we just hang out and talk about life. Family plays a big role for me and they are always there for me.
John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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