If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know that our favourite type of articles is our interview series. I’ve been able to interview some great players, coaches and front office personnel in the Blue Jays system either in person or via email.
Just click on the “Interview” tab to get quick links to all of the print interviews from our archive. The highlight is the interview I piggybacked on with Tim Raines, hopefully the soon-to-be Hall of Famer. You can also hear our podcast interviews by clicking on the “Podcasts” tab.
One of those interviews was with Derrick Chung, the catcher for the Dunedin Blue Jays who had a breakout season in 2013. He graciously agreed to answer some follow up questions about his time in the Arizona Fall League via email. Chung had a great season in Arizona, hitting .390 and getting some nice compliments from the broadcast crew on his leadership and defensive skills behind the plate.
Blue Jays from Away: When you got the call to go to Arizona, what was your first reaction? What excited you the most about the prospect of playing the AFL?
Derrick Chung: I was excited to play near home where my family can come out and watch me play professionally, which they haven’t had a lot of chance to do. Also, I heard a lot about the AFL before and thought it will be pretty fun to go play more baseball in the desert.
BJfA: How much time did you have there to try to gel with your new teammates? Did you have a chance to try to get to know the pitchers you were catching? Was there much practice before the games got underway?
DC: I actually knew several of my teammates from college and summer baseball leagues so it didn’t take me too many days to get to know all of them. I caught a few sides during pre-AFL team practices.
BJfA: What did Mike Schildt (the Salt River manager) tell you about playing time? Was he trying to be equitable and divide it up evenly?
DC: He told me straight up from the beginning what it’s going to be like. He was fair and made sure we were on the same page.
BJfA: Did Ozzie Timmons give you any pointers in your hitting? Were you working on anything specific while you were there?
DC: He told me a few things that helped me throughout the league such as my approach at the plate and situational hitting.
BJfA: I noticed that you were catching Aaron Sanchez and Drew Hutchison most of the time and, if I’m not mistaken, you got a chance to catch both of them during the season. What were the differences (if any) between what you saw from them in the regular season and in the AFL?
DC: To me, they both looked healthier and stronger during the fall league than the regular season. Both are fun to catch for, and I felt confident with them on the mound.
BJfA: Was there any difference between the quality of pitching in the AFL and the FSL? You seemed to be pretty dialed in, hitting .390; what was your approach like?
DC: Pitchers in the AFL were more aggressive and more confident with their stuff and command. My approach did not change much.
BJfA: What was the best part of the AFL experience for you?
DC: The best part was playing with a great group of guys from both the Bluejays and other organizations. I also got to learn a lot from my teammates. I talked to Daryl Scott, the pitching coach, about pitch calling and other things that helped me tremendously.
BJfA: Are there any teammates who surprised you with his talent/ability?
DC: Pretty much everyone had exceptional talent and ability, and it was pretty special to watch and play with them.
BJfA: Are there any teammates who surprised you with his personality (i.e., he was different than you expected)?
DC: Not really. Everyone was fun to be around and play with. It was great to play with the guys from the Blue jays in such an environment.
BJfA: What’s the biggest thing that you learned from your AFL experience that you’ll take into next Spring Training?
DC: I had a great time in the AFL and keep getting better in every aspect of the game.
Thanks a heap to Derrick Chung for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find him on Twitter: @therealthing6