In the first part of our interview with Yankees prospect Addison Russ we discussed his trade to the Yankees, life at the Yankees alternate training site in Scranton, and adjusting to a slower paced season. You can read that here. Below, Addison discusses his path through college and some of the coaches and players who have been key mentors for him at each level of baseball.
Dan Kelly - Your hometown of Amarillo, distance wise to Houston where you went to college, I took a couple minutes on google maps, because while they are both in the state of Texas, the distance is about same as going from Yankee Stadium to Charlotte, North Carolina.
Addison Russ - I believe it
DK - So it isn’t the local college; what was your path to going to college at Houston Baptist University? Was there a coach, or anything specific that took you to that University?
AR - The coaching staff there is a big deal for me. The pitching coach Xavier Hernandez really knows his pitching and has his connections and he understands what you need to do to reach the next level, and what he needs to do to help you get there. On top of that Jared Moon the head coach, and Russell Stockton the assistant coach, they are good guys, they understand the game and they have your best interest at heart... The coaching staff was the big reason I signed there.
DK - What point in your college career did you realize that scouts were looking at you, and did you start to think that pro ball and the draft was going to happen?
AR - My senior year, I started a mid-week game against U of H (University of Houston), and they were throwing one of their weekend guys because it was early in the year. So I went head-to-head with him and ended up pitching really well. That next day I started getting some phone calls and buzz from scouts...
DK - You were not a big strikeout pitcher in college, but after you got drafted your strikeout numbers really spiked, was there a observation from the Phillies coaching staff or another change that triggered that?
AR - I think it was a little bit of everything, I had a really good pitching coach my first year in Brian Sweeney, he really understood pitching and was good at talking me through the transition into pro-ball from college. The other thing was just going from a starter to a reliever, it was just going out there and laying it on the line, trying to get guys out. It wasn’t about trying to get your team six or seven innings in a game. It was just get through that inning right there, and I think that helped with everything.
DK - Now that you are knocking on the door of the major leagues, what can Yankees fans expect? Is there a player that you have modeled yourself after?
AR - I don’t think there is any specific player. Obviously coming up through Philly, being a spilt, fastball guy I always got compared to (Hector) Neris a lot. But I don’t know if there is any one player that I’ve looked after and said I want to be just like him. The big thing for me is that I’ve tried to pick the brain of all the pitchers that I’ve come in contact with that have been successful and I try to take a little bit of them and what they do, and a little bit from somebody else who has been successful. Zack Wheeler is one of my main guys I talk to about a lot of things. We got close in spring training so anytime I have some problems or some questions about something I need to fix, I can usually talk to him about it. He is usually pretty good about taking to me about it. On top of that the coaching staff here is great, if I need to fix something then they are right there with me.
DK - Who are the pitching coaches that you are primarily working with at the Yankees Alternate site?
AR - Sam (Briend) and Desi (Druschel).
DK - Who was your team growing up?
AR - I watched Texas play a lot, just because we were six hours from Arlington, I know its six hours, that’s Texas, it’s huge, that’s a drive. So I went to a lot of Rangers games but I just loved watching baseball... The more that I got into advanced baseball and started meeting some guys, the more I started following players.
DK - Did you have other sports growing that you played, and when did you focus in on baseball?
AR - As a child I played as many sports as I could, I think I played everything. I played baseball and football all the way up to high school. Then in high school I started focusing exclusively on baseball. I love sports, my little brother plays college football.
DK - Oh, where does he play?
AR - He plays for Eastern New Mexico, he is a defensive back. I love watching him play.
DK - Was there any coach or family member going back to high school level that was influential in helping you negotiate your way though high school and to the D-1 level?
AR - Yes, I was very fortunate to have a great high school coaching staff. My coach Cory Hamilton at Randall (High School), he was phenomenal, he understood baseball, he understood how to take care of me as far as making sure I was healthy and he wasn’t overusing me. On top of that I had Jermaine Van Buren as a pitching coach, and I owe a lot to that guy. He took me under his wing and taught me the split, and to throw everything that I throw now. I owe a lot to Jermaine.