What will Griffin do for an encore in 2006?
Syracuse, N.Y.--John-Ford Griffin just one of many Toronto Blue Jay prospects on the Syracuse SkyChiefs 2006 club led the International League in home runs 30 and RBIs 103 in 2005 and was named the SkyChiefs MVP. During a recent rainout our Syracuse correspondent for InsideTheDome.com, Ed Gonser sat down with the left fielder and Syracuse cleanup hitter on his most recent past and what he’s hoping for in the future. This piece is a FREE PREVIEW.
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Ed Gonser: With all of last year’s accomplishments what was the most satisfying and what was the most disappointing?
John-Ford Griffin: I was real happy with the consistency I had with my approach to the game. I didn’t try and get away from it that much because hitting is built around consistency. I took a lot of pride in coming down to the cage and working hard and taking what I was able to work on into a game.
I was really disappointed when I took myself out of situations and trying to do too much at certain times. It was the inexperience that I had at a higher level (Triple-A v. Double-A). I tried to do too much in the four-hole spot. I was always trying to hit a homerun in certain situations or do more than you most likely can. This year I’m going to take pride in staying away from that. I hoping I won’t beat myself up over those situations and I’ll try and stay in a consistent mindset during the whole year and work hard at it.
Ed Gonser: How do you improve on the year you had last year?
John-Ford Griffin: You can always improve on what you do. The consistency of this game is so important to do well. For me it’s being around a group of guys like we have here (in Syracuse) that strive to be the best hitters they can possibly be. It makes my job a lot easier to be a better hitter because of the guys we have on this team and right now it seems we have a group that want to win, play hard, swing the bats the right way and get the job done. In the end their play will help me out a lot.
Ed Gonser: How did last year’s September call-up affect you?
John-Ford Griffin: Last year was a good year for me. The call-up was something that was very special to me. It’s the reason you play the game, to have the ability to get called up and play in the big leagues. It was a great opportunity for me. This year I’m going to try and do the same thing, play the game the right way and not worry about who is getting called up here or who’s going to get called up in this situation just play the game and be the best you can possibly be. Play the game the right way and work hard to be the hitter I know I can be. I can always get better. Anyone can always get better. This game is a game of failures. You have to build yourself around the mindset that you are not always going to be the best but be as consistent as you possibly can is the most important thing for me.
Ed Gonser: So what your saying is that you are not looking for handouts but expect to earn what might come in your baseball career?
John-Ford Griffin: Absolutely. You can’t rely on what other people say you are or want you to be. It’s something I think a lot of people get caught up in. As you get older in this game you start realizing that you're not always going to fulfill the expectations that people have on you. You can only do as much as you are able to do. The most important thing for me is to be the best possible hitter I can be and do what I can do. I will not be satisfied by reaching a certain point and saying well I’m satisfied with that. You can always reach out and go get more. It something I’m starting to learn to a lot more.
Ed Gonser: After the year you had under current Blue Jays coach Marty Pevey how is it reuniting with Mike Basso, a guy you had so much success with at the Double-A level?
John-Ford Griffin: Mike Basso is a great coach. He has done nothing but great things with teams that he has managed. He always puts up winning seasons. You always look forward to playing for a guy like him. He’ll build this team (2006 SkyChiefs) into a great team. He’ll set the lineup everyday with a team he thinks can go out there and win the most. You have to respect a manager like that. He just doesn’t sit there and just try to get through a season. He wants to win and you like to play for a guy who wants to win.
Ed Gonser: How would rate the assistant coaches in the Blue Jays organization, especially the hitting coaches?
John-Ford Griffin: This organization is built around a hitting foundation. You look at all the levels of the organization when you go to camp, minor-league or big-league camp, you are going to be around guys that know how to hit and know the game. They know the foundation of hitting. It’s important for a lot of young guys coming up within the organization as well as guys that have been around for a while. A lot of guys are insecure about their swings. Not that they aren’t confident hitters but they always want to be picture perfect with their swings. They take a lot of pride going about their job. Getting in their teamwork and taking soft toss. When you have instructors like we have here, like Dwayne Murphy for the SkyChiefs, Gary Cathcart with the New Hampshire FisherCats and Mickey Brantley up in the big leagues, guys who really know the swing. It really makes it a lot easier for us as hitters to go about our jobs because they really know what to tell us, when to tell us and how to go about what it is that we need to do in our game. For me it is a very important thing in baseball to have coaches who really take a lot of pride in wanting to help the hitters out. That they really want to sit down and work with these guys and get them to the point that they want them to be.
Ed Gonser: Will you be disappointed if you reach the numbers you put up last season?
John-Ford Griffin: Last year was a great year and I always think that I can add on to that. I know I can because I’ve done it. I feel I’m a better hitter this year. I feel like I’m a more confident hitter and more aware of what I’m able to do. If I don’t get to where I was last year say with a month left, I’m not going to press to try and reach 30 homers and 100 RBIs if I’m still swing the bat really well. I’m just going to try and consistently better my game to get the job done. You always want to set goals for yourself but you don’t want to add the extra pressure of reaching those goals because it usually puts you into a slump. For me it’s about going out, doing the job and playing day-by-day. You sometimes are unaware of how long a baseball season is and after you play so many games you start pressing to do too much so soon. It’s a marathon. If you have a bad day you can’t come back the next and try and do twice as much to make up for it. Take it one at-bat at a time, take it one day at a time, then all of sudden you are building yourself back up to the person you want to be and for me that’s the most important thing and I’m starting to learn that a lot more about myself.
Ed Gonser: How is the outfield logjam keeping you off the Toronto roster?
John-Ford Griffin: I only have two people in front of me (Frank Catalanotto and Reed Johnson). I don’t mean to say I should be playing left field over those guys. They’ve earned it and deserve to play in the big leagues. Catalanotto is a great defensive player and gets overshadowed by his hitting. Working with guys like that in the outfield, seeing them play really helps me out because I look at their game to see how I can do the same thing. You try and model yourself after guys that have success doing it and for me watching these guys like Vernon Wells and Alexis Rios perform in the big leagues helps you out because you say 'hey, I can do that but how do they do it that makes them that good.' I have the confidence as an outfielder to take that next step thanks to the guys that I’ve been able to watch, play and learn with at the big league level.
As a side note John-Ford Griffin loved playing in Yankee stadium last year and facing Mariano Rivera even though he struck out.
“He has to be the best closer in the game,” Griffin said. “To be able to experience that whole entire experience was a dream come true. I got to play in the best parks in the league, Fenway, Camden Yards, but I always have dreamed about playing at Wrigley field.”
Griffin also is a huge movie buff claiming that he watches every movie that has come up. He also enjoys fishing being from Florida and having the ocean as his back yard. He loves going out on the water, fishing or just out for a boat ride.
Griffin loves mom’s home cooking, and who doesn’t, but if he can get a helping of grits, fried cat fish, fried grouper, hush puppies, greens and all the other southern “soul food” as he called it, that’s what put a smile on his face.
All you heavy metal rockers, Griffin comes from a family that is musically oriented. Although Griffin can’t carry a tune he does dig “Metallica” and their “Black” album is his favorite.
For all you fans of the television series “Lost” you’ll be happy to know that you have a fellow groupie in Griffin. As he stated, “I’m never been attached to television as much as when I watch that show,” Griffin said.
Currently Griffin like many television watchers has been hooked on “Deal Or No Deal”.
“To me it’s the funniest thing to watch those people pick those boxes and the look on their faces,” Griffin said. “Your pulling for them and at the same time to watch their expressions when they don’t get what they want is kind of funny. It’s good television fun.”
A lot of Blue Jays fans are pulling for Griffin in the same way and if he sticks to his early season convictions he should do well and give Toronto another strong bat in the lineup come September and the stretch run.