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Getting to Know: Tigers IF Devon Travis07/23/2012 2:26 PM ET
By Ryan Maloney
Take a moment and answer this question: what would you sacrifice in order to be drafted by the Detroit Tigers?
The Connecticut Tigers' second baseman, Devon Travis, had to make that decision earlier this summer when the Tigers drafted him in the 13th round of the MLB amateur draft. In order to start his professional career, Travis had to decide whether it was time to report to Dodd Stadium or finish out his college career by playing his senior year at Florida State University.
The Detroit Tigers won out and fans of the Connecticut Tigers have been the beneficiary of his superb defense in the middle of the infield ever since.
Travis played in the Little League World Series at the age of 12 with the East Boynton Beach All-Stars, an experience that included games broadcast on national television. Years later he had the privilege of representing Florida State in the College World Series. Travis batted a nation-best .563 in the College World Series and made the All-Tournament team. Now, as a key prospect in the Tigers' system, he is hoping to work his way up to Detroit and eventually appear in an MLB World Series.
Travis took a few minutes out of his pre-game routine to discuss the 2012 season, why he believes the Tigers drafted him and what he expects out of the remainder of this year.
Ryan Maloney: How would you describe the 2012 Connecticut Tigers season up to this point?
Devon Travis: I think the coolest part of this team is we have a bunch of guys dedicated to winning. We weren't winning too much when I first got here and people weren't very happy. People like to say it's all about yourself in professional baseball but coming from Florida State where winning is paramount, it's cool to be with a group of guys who care about each other and care about winning.
RM: What's it been like playing for the team's manager, Andrew Graham?
DT: He likes to have fun and of course, to win. He stresses that the most important part is that it's a game and you have ups and downs and he is good at reminding us players to work hard and no matter win or lose, make sure you're having fun.
RM: Is he doing anything differently recently? The results have clearly been better as the team went on a recent five game winning streak. Is he doing anything differently in the way he's leading the team?
DT: I think it starts in BP, everyone taking things a little more seriously. Cleaning everything up a little bit. We've been paying more attention to detail in everything we do. RM: What do the names Gary Sheffield and Dwight Gooden mean to you?
DT: Gary Sheffield was my favorite player growing up. My mother always had a crush on Gary Sheffield (laughs). So, Sheffield's always been on my radar. I always liked that weird bat movement he'd make before he hits the ball. It always sticks out in my mind and they both stand out as guys who played the game right.
RM: They also both played in the Little League World Series and the MLB World Series. You played in the Little League World Series. What was that experience like?
DT: It was pretty incredible. Going into the College World Series people kept mentioning to me that there were a select number of people that played in both series, so that's pretty cool. I feel blessed to have played in both and now a chance to live out my dream every day going at it and making the most of it.
RM: How does playing on national television at the age of 12 in the LLWS compare to stepping onto the field for the first time as a professional ballplayer?
DT: I don't think that as a little kid you can grasp the situation in front of you. You're 12 years old and you are making Baseball Tonight highlights. That's not something most 12 year olds can understand. I definitely didn't. I wish I could go back and take a little more time to appreciate the opportunity we had to do what we did. It was definitely more stressful and not in a bad way, my first professional baseball game. You understand that you're starting a new chapter of your life and it is definitely a little more nerve wracking.
RM: Which part of your game do you believe more so convinced the Tigers to draft you, your offense or your defense and why?
DT: I think it was a mixture of both. I want to believe defense has been a strength of mine, I pride myself on it. I'm a little guy. Whatever offense you can get out of me, you're happy about. No matter how big or small you are though, you can work on your craft, your first step and getting the ball out of your glove. You have the opportunity to work on it every single day along with hitting a ball off the tee. Every ground ball you field, field it like the last ground ball you'll ever field and every pop up, catch it like it's the last ball you'll catch and just see where it takes you.
RM: A few days ago, you ended the Tigers' longest game of the season in a two run walk-off home run fashion at the stroke of midnight, ending an 18 inning game. What was that experience like?
DT: That was crazy. I don't know if you can put appropriate words to your first professional home run as a walk-off to win it in the 18th inning. That was the longest game I've ever been a part of and it was crazy. I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to help my team win in the 18th inning with two outs. I had a good pitch and put a good swing on it and I guess the baseball decided it wanted to get out of here.
RM: How has your experience thus far in the Minor Leagues measured up to your expectations?
DT: I think it's incredible to have the opportunity to do this for a living. It's a child's game we are playing now as adults and its fun to come out here in front of fans and work on your craft, something you've loved to do since you were a kid. Hunter Scantling, one of our pitchers, he and I went to college together for three years. He and I get to live with the same host family and he's one of my best friends so that's been really helpful. We have a great group of guys.
RM: What part of your game are you currently working on?
DT: The fastball inside has been the biggest adjustment. You don't see too many fastballs inside like this in the ACC. That's one of the perks of the SEC over the ACC as they have guys that throw a little harder so it prepares you better. Also, we don't have the metal bats any more so you need to get the head of the bat around quicker. You can't just send the inside pitch up the middle any more without a good swing on it.
RM: Is there a lot of feedback from the coaching staff on this level and if so what type of feedback have you received about your performance for the Tigers?
DT: Coach Rabelo has been very helpful with the little things, really. At this level, you need someone with a good eye to tell you what you can fix so you can take it to the cage and keep working to get better and better.