Offseason Q&A–Chris McConnell

The first three months of last season were adorned with glitzy, yet effortless defense from the shortstop position thanks to a young man from New Jersey named Chirs McConnell.  His flair between third and second was a nightly treat.  His bat, though, admittedly, was behind his defense.  I caught up with Chris by phone today and asked him about his winter, his offense and his budding literary career.

Jason Benetti: What are you doing in the offseason?
Chris McConnell: Baseball lessons.  In the afternoon until night I basically give individual lessons or team lessons.

JB: What do you teach?
CM: Hitting and infield.
JB: Where do you do it?
CM: It’s a baseball academy that a kid a year older than me who used to play pro ball.  He got a hold of me on Facebook and wanted to know if I wanted to do lessons so I’ve been doing that for the past two offseasons.
JB: You go anywhere on vacation?
CM: I saw some friends in Massachusetts.  Then, we went up to Maine for a few days.  I went to Florida.  New York and Philly right near me.  I had a friend from California come.  That’s pretty much where I’ve been.

JB: You ready to play baseball again?
CM: Yeah, you know this time of year it gets boring around here and I’m ready to take off and get the season going.
JB: When did you know you’d be back with the Nationals?
CM: Four days after the World Series, you’re a free agent.  Even before then my agent was talking to Doug Harris and he said they wanted me back.  I kinda knew around October I was going to come back.
JB: Was that a good thing?
CM: Yeah.  My agent talked to Doug and they said we envision Chris as a big-leaguer and not just a fill-in.  Saying they wanted me back as a free agent felt good.  I didn’t want to go to free agency.  I liked where I was at so I signed back.
JB: Did you feel like you were hitting the ball better in Harrisburg (after being sent down)?
CM: I learned a lot from Troy Gingrich.  He knows a lot about hitting.  I really wasn’t using my legs.  I knew it for years but I didn’t know exactly what….I couldn’t put two and two together.  He noticed it the first two days I was there and started putting it into the games.  It’s hard to learn something so big mechanically and put it right into the games.  I could definitely see the results.  It’s not the result I wanted but I think it set me up better for this year.
JB: Have you been working on that this offseason?
CM: Yeah.  A few drills we did in Harrisburg, I pretty much do them every day when I hit.  It’s pretty much getting cemented in.  It’s pretty permanent now.
JB: How frustrating was Syracuse last year?
CM: It was frustrating.  It was my first time in Triple-A.  I guess for a few weeks I tried to use that as an excuse for me to feel better.  It never came around.  I was disappointed.  I was a free agent with a new team and wanted to impress.  It never came around, but hopefullyI learned something from it.  I think this year I’m definitely going to benefit from it.
JB: Was there a part of you when you went to Harrisburg thinking, “Where do I go from here?”
CM: I wasn’t ever worried about my career so much.  It was more trying to make the best out of it.  What am I gonna do.  I think earlier in my career I would have been real mad.  There’s nothing I can do about it and tried to make the best of it.
JB: You read any good books this offseason?
CM: Yeah, a good amount.  I finished school, so I had all of those books.  Ever since I’ve gotten done, I’ve had all this free time.  Power of Myth by Steve Campbell.  The Dharma Bums, which is a Jack Kerouac book.  I started reading Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, but that comes in spurts.  I’m always reading newspapers and stuff.
JB: What’s spring training for you?
CM: I enjoy getting down there at first because I’m stuck inside all the time so to get outside and do all that.  By the third week, everyone wants to go to their affiliate and just start.  You’re just playing the same team over and over and you just want a change of scenery.
JB: Is there anything good to do exploration-wise in Viera?  I know you’re a big explorer….
CM: Melbourne has a pretty good little downtown.  Every other Friday they had live bands downtown and I’d make my way over there.  Or, me and my wife would go to the beach.  I didn’t have cable or internet in my apartment.  I literally had nothing to do.  I didn’t have furniture.  We just had two director’s chairs and an Aerobed.  I would get home, sit for a little bit, get bored and go wander off somewhere.  I can’t sit and lay on a beach.  I get bored too quick.
JB: You said you finished school.  What’s your degree in?
CM: I got my associate’s in December.  Now I’m going to take a few months off and go ahead and get my bachelor’s in the fall, September.  This’ll be the first time in two years I actually won’t be doing any homework  in the baseball season, which is a relief.
JB: You told me by text that you’re having something published.  Is that still happening?
CM: Yeah.  In April.
JB: And what is it?
CM: It’s kinda, basically just a short story.  It was just—there’s only so much to do around here.  I just wrote this up and sent it in to a few places.  It’s getting published, I guess in April in Ascent Aspirations magazine based out of California.

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Culture Challenge Thursday…..Subway v. Domino’s.  On a neutral site.  Kevin’s got the tale of the tape.

Jason

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