I got in touch with NY Mets outfield prospect Travis Taijeron this week and he was nice enough to agree to an interview with us here on MetsMerizedOnline.com. The righty-hitting Taijeron played CF, and LF last year for the Brooklyn Cyclones after being drafted by the Mets in the 2011 Amateur Draft. It was an excellent pro debut for Taijeron, who not only played solid defense, while leading the team in 3B’s, HR’s, RBI’s, and SLG%, he also came through many times as a clutch-hitter, and had the respect of all his teammates. Let’s check out what Travis had to say as he sheds some light on where he feels his game is now, and where he sees it going.
Petey: First of all congratulations Travis on a terrific year! From being the 18th round pick by the NY Mets in this past year’s draft, to making your professional debut playing in front of the awesome fans in Brooklyn, to helping the Cyclones get into the New York Penn League Playoffs, and very nearly winning the whole thing! It must have been a very exciting year for you. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers at MetsMerizedOnline.com. How are things going in sunny California? When the Mets drafted you in the 18th round of the 2011 MLB Player Draft, out of Cal Poly Pomona, how did you first hear about it, and what was that feeling like? Did you know the Mets were interested in drafting you? What round(s) were you thinking you might be taken in the draft?
Travis: When I was drafted it was really exciting. It just so happened that I was working out with some of my teammates from Cal Poly when I got the call. I had somewhat of a feel that the Mets were interested in me since they had invited me to a few pre-draft workouts. During the draft I really had no idea what round I was going to be drafted in just because it was my senior season.
Petey: Is there one person, a coach, a friend or family member, or even another player, who you learned the most from, or who inspired you to chase your dream of becoming a major league baseball player?
Travis: My whole family and friends have always been there for me but most of all my dad has been there driving me and inspiring me to get better. Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to play professional baseball. I loved the sport and I had a talk with my dad when I was going into my freshman year of high school. I told him that I wanted to do whatever it takes to make it, and that I wanted his help no matter what to push me through the hard times. He has always been there to push me to the next level.
Petey: It must have been an unbelievable experience to break into professional baseball in front of those fabulous Cyclones fans! What was that experience like to play baseball at Coney Island, for the Brooklyn Cyclones, getting to play in front of the home-town folks? Seeing as you’re from California, did it take time for you to get acclimated to living and playing ball in NY?
Travis: Playing in Brooklyn was such a great time! I have never experienced anything like that. I have never played baseball in front of so many fans before. It really made it so much fun to play. The city life was really different, but baseball is still the same sport no matter where you go in the United States.
Petey: You made the NYPL All-Star team last season, and you were named the NYPL Player of the Week at the beginning of August, two very nice accomplishments as a reward for a job well done. What’s the biggest thing you learned from the experience of playing for the Cyclones last year?
Travis: I learned most last year how to control myself in a professional environment. In college everything is controlled. I had to adjust to baseball as a career that I want to excel at and set my own goals for what I want to accomplish.
Petey: You put together a very productive and consistent 2011 season at the plate. In 194 AB’s, hitting from the right side, you put up a slash-line of .299/.387/.557, with 13 2B’s, 5 3B’s, 9 HR’s, and 44 RBI’s. Nice work Travis! At first glance the only issue I see so far, is a fairly high strikeout rate, as your K/BB ratio was 64/22. If you could, give us a scouting report on yourself as a hitter. What are your strengths? In addition to cutting down on the K’s, what else do you need to work on as a hitter, to take your game to the next level?
Travis: I understand that I need to cut down on my strikeouts and I have been working on that most this of season. I personally I think that I am a power hitter and I like it when there are people on base. I try my hardest when someone is on base to score them no matter what it takes. I enjoy the pressure especially with runners in scoring position. This off season I have been working most on my strike zone judgment, I believe I was swinging at a lot of bad pitches that I should not have been swinging at and getting myself out. This next year I want to make the pitcher really earn it to get me out.
Petey: If last year was a sprint, this year will be a marathon, as you will find yourself in a full-season league for the first time. Since you will be playing regularly this year either at Savannah or St. Lucie, in a league where you will have approximately 140 games on the schedule, are you preparing any differently for the long season ahead? Can you describe your workout regimen?
Travis: I understand that I have to be more prepared this next season so I have been working really hard with my trainer, Carl Thiessen in Imperial Beach and on my own, to make sure that I come into this next season in top shape. The weather has been great out here so we do a lot at the beach in the sand.
Petey: What was your favorite baseball team growing up? Your favorite player? Is there a major league player, past or present, that you think you are similar to in style? Or someone that you can see yourself playing like someday in the majors?
Travis: Well, being from San Diego I have been a Padres fan. My favorite team was the 1998 Padre team. One player I have always liked is Josh Hamilton, he has a great swing and a lot of power. But I like so many different players for different reasons, so it is hard for me to narrow anything down.
Petey: What do you like to do for recreation, when your not working out or playing baseball?
Travis: Most of my days are working out and all that, but when I have time I like to go to the desert and off-road my Ranger. I also own a few radio-controlled trucks that I race, so I do that as well.
Petey: Pick one teammate, position player or pitcher, that really impressed you with his play this year at Brooklyn, and tell us what it was that made you take notice.
Travis: We had so many good players last year, but Danny Muno was one guy that has a really nice swing and can just smack the ball around the field. Also a pitcher that really impressed me was Jack Leathersich. That kid just did really well every time he stepped on the mound. But really the whole team was great, we had so many good players.
Petey: Danny Muno was kind enough to do an interview with me earlier in the off-season, he’s a terrific player and a very nice guy. And yes, “The Rocket,” Jack Leathersich is an intriguing player as well. To finish up Travis, just a little personal info, not pertaining to baseball. What is your favorite movie? Favorite musician or band? Favorite food?
Travis: My favorite movie growing up was The Sandlot. I don’t really have too much of a favorite band, but I like country and rock music. I really like any Italian food.
Petey: Haha! I love The Sandlot! Especially the scene where the kids all have chaws of chewing tobacco, and they go on that spin-ride at the carnival, hilarious! Hey thanks again Travis for taking time out for this interview. The readers and staff at MMO really appreciate it! Have a great rest of the winter, enjoy your time off, and we’ll see you in ST!
Well I’ll say two things for Travis, he’s a very promising and toolsy outfielder, AND he’s got excellent taste in movies! I expect him to be the starting left-fielder in Savannah next year, and it will be great to see how he does in a long-season league. He should be an important part of a very talented Sand Gnat team that will once again, contend for an SAL Championship.
For more of my player interviews, and some other cool stuff, click here.