I was able to do a Q&A with NY Mets minor league prospect Joe Bonfe the other day. Entering his 4th season with the Mets, the 24-year-old Bonfe looks to shed the label of super-utility guy, and take on the role of starting player for an entire season. Joe did a great job in the interview and his questions are very interesting. Keep reading to find out how Joe continues to improve his game, and what he sees himself accomplishing this year:
Petey: Today we are chatting with Joe Bonfe, Mets minor league jack-of-all-trades, who played at Savannah last year. Joe plays first-base, third-base, and the corner outfield spots for the Mets, and if everything goes according to plan, he should open up 2012 in the Florida State League as a member of the St. Lucie Mets. Hi Joe, thanks for taking a little time out to answer some questions for all of us at MetsMerizedOnline.com. You are from Minnesota, is that where you’ve spent this off-season? Did you guys even have any snow this winter?
Joe: I am spending my off-season in Minnesota and it’s been a warm winter thus far, we didn’t even have snow on Christmas.
Petey: When the Mets drafted you in the 21st round of the 2009 MLB Player Draft, out of Sierra College, 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?
Joe: I first heard I was drafted when I was listening to the Draft Tracker the second day of the draft, I was super excited because it has always been a dream of mine to play in the Major Leagues and hearing my name brought me one step closer to that dream. The Mets followed me through fall and spring ball the year I was at Sierra College so I knew I had the possibility of getting drafted by them. I didn’t have any rounds in mind I just wanted to let scouts know I wanted to play at the next level and be given the opportunity.
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?
Joe: My parents have been my biggest support through my baseball career and they have always been there for me and helped fine tune me into the player I am today. They taught me to be a hard worker, play hard from start to finish, and play the game the right way.
Petey: You were log-jammed at the infield corners when the 2011 season began, but spent some time working in the outfield corner spots and held up pretty well. Was it your idea to seek more playing time by working in the outfield, or one of your coaches? Although a natural third baseman, after playing both LF and RF for the Gnats, did you become as comfortable in the outfield as you are in the infield? There has been speculation about the Mets perhaps moving both Aderlin Rodriguez, and Jefry Marte from 3B. That could leave a big hole at the position at St. Lucie going into this season. Have the Mets indicated whether they see you filling that role for them heading into next year, or is it a matter of seeing where the cards fall in ST?
Joe: I have always wanted to be a versatile player my whole career because I know in this game the more positions you play the more opportunities will come your way, I really wanted to be able to help the team and be an everyday player so the coaches and I decided it would benefit me more to play more positions and it worked out great. My first game I played outfield I was a little nervous/excited but I knew that with the hard work and practice I put in, everything would take care of itself. When I caught the first fly ball I felt instant comfort and knew I could help the team in the outfield. I am heading into spring training trying to prove myself that I can be an everyday player at any of the corner positions and would be willing to play other positions as well.
Petey: Between you and me Joe, I’d hold off on telling them you’d be willing to catch, if you know what I mean. How about a scouting report on Joe Bonfe as a hitter? What are your strengths and what do you need to work on? You are a big guy, 6’4″, 220 lbs., and swing right-handed, do you see yourself developing into a HR hitter some day? I noticed you hit about .50 points higher with runners in scoring position last year, then with the bases empty, and then you hit very well in the post-season. Do you think of yourself as a ‘big game’ guy, and a clutch performer?
Joe: I am always tuning up my game, but I would have to say I am working on my bat speed, defense, loading earlier and driving the ball with backspin to all parts of the field, with that said I believe I can become a HR hitter. As always I just try and help my team in any way possible to win the game and I like getting the opportunity to be in those situations. I know in those situations the pitcher is the one who is in trouble so I don’t put any pressure on myself, I just treat it like every other at bat and let the pitcher make the mistake.
Petey: Tell us a little about your speed and base-running. You are fast enough to hold down a corner outfield spot, which opens many opportunities for playing time moving forward. Plus you have interesting stolen base totals from the last two seasons. In 2010 while at Brooklyn, you stole 8 bases while getting caught twice, then last year in Savannah, you stole 8 more bases and didn’t get caught at all. Very good Joseph! It seems like you have pretty good instincts on the base-paths, something Mets fans appreciate, do you work hard on your base-running?
Joe: A lot of it is instincts and preparation before the pitch, because every base counts and the closer to home plate the better situation for the team, I am always looking for that extra base and I try to take advantage of a lazy player. I want to keep the other team on their toes and put the pressure on them. All of my coaches from little league on up have always stressed to run hard and always look for the extra base and I always stress being an aggressive, smart runner.
Petey: Coming from Minnesota, you must be used to playing in cold weather. What was it like growing up there as a baseball player? Did you play other sports? When did you decide it was baseball that you would pursue?
Joe: Like you said cold weather for me is freezing for most people. I like the cool games and almost prefer them over a hot day. Our season for baseball didn’t start till April, so you can imagine our season was half as long in the spring. I played hockey and football in high school and was a State Champion in hockey; I played on the same line as Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers. I chose baseball because of the love for the game and I have always had fun no matter if it was practice or a game. I enjoy being around the sport.
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?
Joe: My favorite team growing up was the Minnesota Twins. Kirby Pucket and Joe Mauer have been my favorite players and I think I have similar hitting style as Joe Mauer. He was four years ahead of me at my high school and I have watched his career develop and since he had so much success I tried to imitate his style of play.
Petey: A good guy to emulate for sure. What are your goals for next season? And how do you prepare over the winter, can you describe your workout regimen? What do you like to do for recreation?
Joe: My goals this year is to be in Binghamton by the end of the year. Over the winter I work out to improve my strength, speed quickness, and then work on my hitting and fielding as well. I really want to put my name on the board this year by showing them I can play at any level.
Petey: Pick one teammate, position player or pitcher, that really impressed you with his play this year at Savannah, and tell us what it was that made you take notice.
Joe: Taylor Whitenton, he was one of our many solid pitchers we had on the team, his work ethic and preparation for each game he pitched showed why he was one of the best in the league. When he was pitching we knew he was going to give our team a great chance to win.
Petey: To finish up Joe, just a little personal info, not pertaining to baseball. What is your favorite movie? Favorite musician or band? Favorite food?
Joe: One of my favorite movies would have to be The Count of Monte Cristo. Don’t have a favorite musician/band but I like all varieties. My favorite food by far is a Chipotle Burrito
Petey: Hmmmm……I think I’m in the mood for Mexican food tonite….anyway thanks Joe! It was really fun doing this interview with you. Good luck with the 2012 season! Remember, Binghamton is lovely in August! We’ll see you at ST.
Joe has that competitive drive you love to see in your players. He may not do anything fantastic, but he does a lot of things well. A good start at St. Lucie and he could very well get his wish, a mid-season call-up to AA Bingo. That would put Bonfe on-track for a possible big-league debut sometime in 2013. Bonfe is doing a good job of rounding out his game, playing smart, and making himself valuable to his team. All traits that will serve him well as he follows the Dream.
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