After spending September of 2011 with San Francisco and making the Opening Day roster this year, Brett Pill finds himself back with Fresno with an opportunity to improve his game and try to top a 25 HR, 107 RBI Triple A-performance a season ago. I sat down with him Friday night in Sacramento to talk about baseball, life in the minor leagues and what he’s doing to be productive in Triple A.
Let’s start things off lightly. Tell me about your Twitter name, @PillzRgood. What’s the story behind that?
It was spring training and we had “Dumb and Dumber” on the TV and I just had the standard @BrettPill6 or whatever it was and I heard that line [from the movie] and thought, “hey, why not?”
How do you think social media has had an impact on your career, especially with regards to the fan interaction?
You know, I had no idea about it. I tried to, I guess, stay away from it but we had FanFest up in San Francisco and saw what kind of fan base the Giants have and saw a few guys with it so I thought I’d try it out and, you know, it’s unbelievable. Last night we had fans come to the game and say something on Twitter like , “hey were going to be at the game.” It makes it a little easier for fans to get to know you and to send out what kind of message you want to have out there.
You’ve been on just about every minor league team in the Giants system. Tell me about some of your favorite teammates you’ve had a chance to get to know.
I played with Brock Bond for a long time; a couple years down in AA. Tyler LaTorre, Jackson Williams, those guys I’ve pretty much been with them every year. Other than that, some of the guys I’ve seen go up to the big leagues like Buster and Madison, when I went up there they treated me like I belonged there too, so it was just good to see those guys come and go up to the big leagues and to see them still be grounded.
It must have been nice to know those guys so well before going up to San Francisco.
Yeah, man, that team was easy. Everybody was having a good time and everybody was treating everybody the same. Even the veterans were awesome.
Are there any habits or routines that have stuck with you through the years or any new ones that you’ve got going?
I’m pretty much going to hit BP before every game, nothing really out of the ordinary. I’ll go out maybe 30 minutes before the game and stretch and run some sprints which everybody has you do in college, you know, to get away from the TV and the food to kind of get your mind right.
In 2009 and 2011 you had easily your best statistical seasons. Tell me about those years. How were you able to be as good as you were?
Both years we had really good teams. In AA, Brock was the batting champ that year in 2009 so he was on base every time I came up so it was easy to drive runs in. And last year we had a lot of great hitters on our team that were older guys that were on base. I got good pitches to hit because we had such a good team and I wasn’t missing them very often. I just had a lot of fun. If you start off well it’s a lot easier to continue playing well. All the other years I started off bad, you know, had a bad April or something and I kind of started pressing.
You’ve mentioned your experience with the Giants a little bit already but it was that 2011 season that earned you that call-up in September, and then you got a spot on the Opening Day roster. What was that experience like for you?
It was awesome. I went into last season with it being my second year in AAA and I didn’t have a great season my first year. I struggled hitting and I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know if I was going to struggle again and I actually thought I would start the year in AA and play third. Then I got to start the year [in AAA] because some other stuff happened; the other first baseman got hurt so I just came here and tried to have a good time. I didn’t know what was going to happen so I just tried to enjoy the team and be a better teammate with the guys and it kind of worked out. The pressure was off of me and I just went out and played like I did when I was four years old and just kept working at it the whole year. That was totally unexpected last September. The team was in a playoff chase and for them to call me up was a big honor because we were so close to making the playoffs. Things just kept working out.
I was at Petco the day you hit your first big-league bomb. Talk about that experience for you, what was the reaction like in the dugout?
That was probably the coolest part for me, because you know in the minor leagues sometimes you can get caught up in what your doing. You want to get called up and you get a little bit selfish. To see how everybody in the dugout was genuinely happy and jumping up and down and stuff, it was a good feeling. It made me want to stay there for a long time. Everybody is pulling for you. It was unbelievable. I’ll do that in the cage sometimes, you know, pretend like it’s first pitch, first at-bat. But now, you know, we’ll say “first at-bat in the World Series” or something, but for it to actually happen, to hit a home run like that , it was something else. I’ll always remember it.
How much of an effect do you think not playing everyday in San Francisco had on your game?
I think I had enough practice in BP and stuff like that so I think my game was okay, but for me it was more mentally. You don’t play for a few days and you finally get in there and so instead of just seeing some pitches and getting on base you want to hit a three-run homer every time so you kind of swing at some bad pitches that you shouldn’t have swung at and I get myself into trouble. It’s tough enough to hit big league pitching and then when you put extra pressure on yourself it gets even tougher.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve got to change in your game if you want to get back to the bigs?
It’s really just being more relaxed and not getting up there and swinging first pitch, no matter what. Because I did that up there and had a little success but then once big league pitching finds out about that, that will kind of spoil your fun. But I’m just trying to see as many pitches as I can and not swing at pitches that I don’t want to swing at.
Describe the life of a minor-leaguer. You’ve been at it for 6 years now. And if you can, what advice would you give the new guys in San Jose, what would you tell them about how to work through the system correctly?
I think the biggest thing is to find a routine. Once you get to the big leagues there is a lot of things you can do outside of baseball. The Giants are pretty good about having strength coaches everywhere that you can do training with at home. So for me, you know, I’ll get up, go to the gym, get here early and stand in here on some bullpen and see some pitches. So I think it’s just finding your own routine and sticking with it and trusting that all your hard work is going to pay off.
Are there any distinctive features of each league that you’ve noticed?
Yeah I think AA had a lot of guys that throw really hard. In AA they really don’t command their off-speed stuff as well, and then in AAA you’ve kind of got your crafty guys with off-speed. AAA was probably the biggest jump for me because you actually have to see the ball, you cant just go in looking fastball. And then obviously up in the big leagues you’ve got everything; the guys who throw hard and off-speed stuff.
Do you set goals for yourself? On a daily basis or even a monthly basis?
I don’t really set number goals, but I’m kind of keeping track of if I can go the whole game and hit the pitches that I want to hit. If I can eliminate swinging at the 1-0 slider that’s a ball or the 2-0 slider. That’s what I’m really trying to do right now because that got me in trouble up there. I would get into a good count and they would throw me something that I shouldn’t be swinging at. So I’ve got to keep the power numbers up still but still be selective.