MLB Exclusive Interview: Detroit Tigers' Will Rhymes and, Hopefully, Steals Too
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Towards the end of the 2010 season the Detroit Tigers may have found their 2nd Baseman of the future. And with a name you'll never forget, we introduce you to none other than Will Rhymes.
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with The Fantasy Fix. I'm sure our readers would love to know a little bit more about you.
TFF: Did you play other sports growing up?
Rhymes: Not really, I focused on baseball from a young age. I only played one year of organized sports other than baseball. Somehow I made the middle school basketball team in 7th grade. I was about 4‘10” and I would just run up the court and pass the ball to Emeka Okafor, who turns out is a pretty good basketball player. I think I scored like ten points the whole year. I did foul out a lot; I was a tenacious defender.
TFF: Wow, Emeka Okafor? Sports stars always seem to gravitate towards each other even at a young age.
TFF: Who was your favorite baseball player growing up?
Rhymes: That is a hard one for me. I grew up a huge baseball fan, and I had a lot of guys I really liked and respected. Honestly, I’ve always been a fan of the game first and of players second. I liked Kenny Lofton a lot because he came up with the Astros and had a great career. I also liked Roberto Alomar. He was just a really solid all-around player.
TFF: So since you are from Houston, did you want to play for the Astros?
Rhymes: In college I just wanted to get drafted and get a chance. Obviously playing for the Astros would have been great. I went to a lot of games growing up, and playing in your hometown has to be amazing. On the other hand it might be a pain because everyone you know would be asking for tickets all the time.
TFF: What did you major in at William & Mary? If baseball doesn't work out long term, what would you want to do?
Rhymes: I majored in Biology. I was thinking about medical school, if I had washed out of pro ball after a couple years I think that is what I would have done. Now I have absolutely no idea what I would do. I’ve considered myself a baseball player first all of my life… its hard to imagine not putting a uniform on everyday.
TFF: What was it like getting your first paycheck and seeing that many zeroes?
TFF: Damn straight. By the way can I borrow five bucks?
TFF: What's it like playing for one of the best coaches of all time, Jim Leyland?
Rhymes: It is great. He demands a lot and he expects the game to be played a certain way. That being said, he is a good teacher, and really works well with young players. He gave me an opportunity to play in the big leagues and I am forever in his debt for that.
TFF: Is it hard being a relatively smaller player of your size (5'9" 155 lbs)? What was the learning curve like once you made it to the Bigs?
Rhymes: The path to the big leagues is certainly harder if you are small, there are going to be a lot of obstacles. But I don’t think being small makes it any harder to play the game. People always talk about upside and potential. The big leagues is about performance, not potential, so if you get there you are on a somewhat level playing field.
There is a learning curve. The competition is much better in the MLB than the minors. The pitchers have better stuff and there is a lot of depth. The last couple guys in the bullpen are throwing 95 these days so you just have to learn to grind out every at bat. Consistency is what separates players, you have to win the mental games and be prepared and confident every day.
TFF: There's an interesting story behind your first major league home run? First called a triple and then changed to a HR. So let's hear it from your side.
Rhymes: I was facing Zack Greinke who had got me out the previous ten at bats or so, and I got a hold of one pretty good. I thought it was gone off the bat but Comerica is big and the ball doesn’t travel a lot of the time so I knew it would be close. Mitch Maier jumped up and tried to rob it, obstructing everyone’s view. Turns out the ball hit off a railing just over the fence. I am now a fan of the instant replay system, they overturned the call on the field and I got to jog home after short break on third.
It was awesome, the guys gave me the silent treatment in the dugout, I’ll never forget it. Not surprisingly I was the first person to get his first homerun via instant replay.
Thanks Bud Selig.
TFF: What's it like being the new guy in the clubhouse? Did the other players put you through hazing?
Rhymes: It is a little weird at first, you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. I knew most of the guys from spring training but I just tried to speak when spoken to. Our veteran guys like Inge and Damon, really went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and settle in.
Of course there is a little good natured hazing. You have to bring drinks for the older guys on the buses and planes. You have to take cabs to the visiting parks to beat the bus with the veterans. For the main hazing event all the rookies had to dress up in ridiculous outfits in Chicago, that wasn’t pretty. Well some of the guys were a little too pretty.
TFF: Part of me wants to know which of the guys were too pretty, but I think its better left alone.
TFF: Which guys on the team have you become the closest with?
Rhymes: We really have a pretty knit group, we are all friendly. I hang out with a lot of the younger guys; Austin Jackson, Casper Wells, Brennan Boesch, Daniel Schlereth. Also with Don Kelly and Ryan Raburn.
TFF: Speaking of friends, I hear you are close friends with Jeff Niemann? How do you know each other, how long?
Rhymes: Jeff is one of my best friends, and someone who has really helped me through the years. We played on the same team from age 13 through high school. We live in a kind of strange world, it is not quite the real world. Unless you have played professionally you just don’t understand a lot of the stuff we go through. So, it is good to have someone who has been through more or less the same things as you from a young age. Plus he has good stories.
TFF: Good stories huh? Well then Jeff will have to be our next interview.
TFF: Have you ever played Fantasy Baseball? If so, how did you do?
Rhymes: I haven’t, I’d probably be terrible. I’d just pick my friends and people I like; probably not the best strategy. I’ve kind of sworn off fantasy sports after witnessing the fantasy football draft and aftermath last year on the team plane. These guys take it entirely too seriously, and it is all they talk about. I’ve never seen baseball players read or do so much research.
TFF: Professional baseball players going nuts over Fantasy Football? Crazy! I suppose now is an appropriate time to promote our Quick Fix program for all you Tiger players/fans out there reading this. Just email us your question about baseball, football, basketball or hockey and we usually get back to you within 24 hours. Will – I think its safe to say we won’t be getting any emails from you.
TFF: You ran the bases a lot in the minors, can fantasy owners expect some swipes in 2011?
Rhymes: I hope so. When you hit in front of Miguel Cabrera, one of the best hitters in the game, you can’t afford to run into an out. I think I only had three attempts last year. If I steal second and Miguel is coming up, they will walk him and that is not in the best interest of the team. I’m going to run a lot in spring and try to show them that I can run effectively, but if I’m hitting in front of Miggy, I might as well chain myself to first base.
TFF: What are your goals for this season? How about some stats projections...
Rhymes: My main goal for the season is to help the Tigers win. If I can do that I really don’t care what my numbers are. But since this is a fantasy site, I’d look at my numbers from AAA and the big leagues last year. I think those are fairly representative of what I’ve done my whole career. I usually hit around .300, steal 20-30 bags and hit a few homeruns. I guess I’m not much of a fantasy player. I got a couple teammates who are, Miggy and Victor are going to have huge years. And if you can get Magglio he might go off as well.
TFF: Well The Fantasy Fix has faith in you to pop onto the fantasy radar, just like your teammates Brandon Boesch and Austin Jackson did last year.
A million thanks to you Will. I personally know you are a straight-up hard working guy and have no doubt that you will succeed in Detroit. And for all you fantasy nuts out there, keep a close eye on Mr. Rhymes this year.
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Written by Evan Marx exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com
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