Tyler Pastornicky was recently ranked 7th overall among Braves prospects by Baseball America and is considered a candidate for the starting shortstop in Atlanta in 2012. I spent 15 minutes talking to Tyler over the phone earlier today; here’s what he had to say.
Kevin Orris: First things first, we’ve heard a lot of people pronounce your last name in many different ways. Can you end the discussion and tell us how to pronounce it?
Tyler Pastornicky: It’s pronounced just how it’s looks… Pahst-or-nick-ee (or simply Pastor-Nicky).
KO: You grew up in Bradenton, Florida – talk about your baseball experience growing up. Who were some of the players and teams you watched growing up?
TP: With my dad being in baseball, I grew up in a baseball atmosphere. I think that really benefited me a lot, going through the ups and downs of the minor leagues and through long seasons and stuff. Growing up, I think my favorite player was Jimmy Rollins – I liked to watch him and try to get stuff from him. Lived in Bradenton since I was about 14.
KO: Talk about the influence your dad has had over your baseball career.
TP: My dad being a scout and what not, it put me a little ahead of the curve before I was drafted. He told me what scouts look for and how I should go out there and play. Told me to play hard and hustle, that doesn’t take talent. It’s a good trait to have. It’s definitely something that he helped me with. Him playing before also helped. He’s been there done that, he knows what the ups and downs of a long season are. When you get to call your dad and he can give you pointers, it helps. He’s been there and done it and knows how to work through it. He currently scouts for the Toronto Blue Jays, but was with Kansas City when I was drafted.
KO: Take me through the 2011 season, starting in Mississippi.
TP: I set some goals for myself – in previous years I felt like I would look at my numbers and feel like I had a better year than that. I thought, ‘I only hit .270 this year or .260 this year? I’m a better hitter than what my numbers are showing me.’ I really worked on becoming more consistent. I was throwing away a lot of at-bats. It really helped me when I felt like I’d have a 1-for-4 day, I’d work a walk or get another hit. I felt like I was more mature as a hitter – definitely became a little more consistent.
KO: You were promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett in late July. Talk about that transition
TP: I was a little nervous going up there, with older guys and they have big league experience, but you know my team made it really easy and the manager made it about as easy as it can be. I had a lot of fun. Going up and having success let me know that I could play there. It helped me grow as a person, going to a different league and getting to experience the travel in Triple-A – it was definitely good. I was happy to get the experience.
KO: You were called-up on September 28, but you didn’t get in the game. First, talk about how you found out about the call-up.
TP: I was rehabbing my ankle [in Orlando] and everything was going well, was supposed to be leaving there to go home in a few days. Me and a buddy went to Disney World that day and went park hopping until 9 pm and [Director of Minor League Operations] Ronnie Richardson called and asked what I’m doing. Said ‘I just got done with Disney,’ he told me I needed to get back to the hotel and pack up and told me I’m going to Atlanta. I said, ‘Oh my, no way.’ I had no idea, but he said I’m going to Atlanta. At first I couldn’t really believe it, felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. It didn’t really sink in for a while – first call to mom and dad, got to talk to them. I sat down for a couple of minutes to realize how crazy it was. Got to talk to some of my friends – something I’ll always remember, that’s for sure.
KO: You watched one of the most depressing games in franchise history from the dugout. What did you take away from that game?
TP: When I first in and went up to Fredi, he said you sure know how to pick them, how to pick the games to come to. That’s what everyone was telling me – you sure know the games to get called up on. It was electrifying. Some people go 10 years in the big leagues and don’t play in a game that was that meaningful. It was just, you know, my first day. It was intense, glad I got to be a part of it. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to but, you can see how much it means to those guys up there. We fought hard but it wasn’t meant to be.
KO: How did some of the veteran players react to the loss?
TP: With everything going on before that, with the tough September and stuff, it wasn’t easy. You’re never going to be too happy after something like that happens. It definitely wasn’t the best mood in the world. A lot of guys had a lot of good years and a lot of guys accomplished things. It definitely wasn’t the way they wanted to end the season, that’s for sure.
KO: Going back to your production, you cut your strikeout rate in 2011. Talk about how your approach changed from 2010 to 2011.
TP: Just the consistency thing. Before I was always a good hitter, but I was just throwing at-bats away. Mentally, something kind of clicked and I told myself I’d be focused and locked in on every single at bat and I wouldn’t try to miss as many pitches this year. It was the biggest thing that could help me with the strikeouts.
KO: You were part of the Yunel Escobar deal in 2010 – what has been the biggest difference playing for the Braves organization and the Blues Jays?
TP: Both are great organizations. I went through a couple of changes with the Blue Jays, but I have nothing bad to say about them. They run things the right way. The Braves are just… you hear so much about… when I got told I was coming here everyone said going to a great organization. They told me, ‘you are going to a Class A organization.’ I could see it right away. Everything’s organized; they run stuff the right way. They have great coaches, great rovers. There’s a reason why they keep producing guys out of the system. Definitely a great organization
KO: There’s speculation that Alex Gonzalez will not return to Atlanta. What mindset do you have heading into 2011 with the shortstop position open?
TP: Definitely trying to get myself ready – already began working out, speed work. I’m definitely trying to get a leg up on everyone. I’m going to try to work hard and not try to think of stuff like that. I can’t control any of that stuff. Basically trying to get myself ready to go, show up to camp and perform as best as I can.
KO: Where do you expect to be playing on April 1?
TP: I couldn’t even tell you. I don’t even want to start thinking about stuff like that. As soon as you start thinking about stuff like that, it gets to your head and you lose focus. I’m just trying to get myself ready, got to camp and be the best player I can be. I’m up in Tampa this offseason, working out with my trainer. Getting some good workouts in, he put me on a good nutrition plan and I’m sticking to that. I was going to take a little more time off, but I was ready to get back in the weight room and to get back at it.
KO: When can we expect to see you on Twitter?
TP: I don’t know. I’m not a huge social media guy – haven’t been on my Facebook in 2 to 3 months. My agent is trying to get me to get a Twitter going. Maybe if he keeps egging me on, I might get one going. Mycal Jones is a good friend of mine – he’s my roommate everywhere we go. He always posts stuff about me and stuff we’re doing, and I never knew that’s how they knew. I kept asking him how everyone knew everything and he’d always be putting it on Twitter.