Garin Cecchini's approach at the plate would make him an honorary Goonie.
A first-round talent who fell to the fourth round of the 2010 Draft due to injury concerns (he tore his right ACL three months before the Draft), the Louisiana native got $1.3 million from the Red Sox to pass on a scholarship to LSU.
The injury slowed down the initial progress for the former shortstop -- Cecchini did not make his pro debut until June 2011 with Lowell. Since then, his progress has been steady, culminating in a stellar 2013 campaign. The 22-year-old third baseman led the Minor Leagues with a .443 on-base percentage, thanks in large part to 93 walks. He also batted .322, smacked 33 doubles and scored 80 runs. After a midseason promotion to the Eastern League, Cecchini held his own, posting an .825 OPS with Double-A Portland. He also was selected to play in the Futures Game in July at Citi Field.
Boston's No. 7 prospect took the time to talk about his season, his approach at the plate and his future.
MiLB.com: How big was 2013 for you?
Cecchini: I think it was a good year. I really tried to continue to be the player the Red Sox wanted me to be. It was really good, but it's in the past now. We've got to move on -- 2013 is in the past now and you have to move on and learn from the great things that happened, learn from the things that went wrong and try to improve on those things. That's what 2014 and the Minor League season is going to be about.
MiLB.com: What do you feel went wrong?
Cecchini: I don't know if [wrong] was the right word, just the things that [I need to improve], like getting better defensively, smooth it out a little bit more. The Arizona Fall League really helped me that way. Really trying to learn what pitches I can hit, what pitches I can drive, really learn the true things that I need work on in baserunning and really getting into the mental aspect of it's a long season. One day or one week doesn't define your season.
MiLB.com:Do you feel like you may have taken people by surprise in 2013?
Cecchini: I guess you could look at it that way, but I don't know if it really surprised me. I think I had the capability of doing that. It all goes back to what you do in the offseason, the work that you put in, the things that the Red Sox did that really helped me in Spring Training. Just working on getting stronger in the offseason and work on the mental aspect of the game, what can you do to help your team win? When you have that mindset, it really takes away what you're doing in the game.
I took that mindset into 2013, every game. It really helped me take away, "What am I doing wrong, what do I need to do to get better?" -- you know, the individual. I put more emphasis on, "What can I do to help the team today?" That's what helped me in 2013 more than anything.
MiLB.com: You had more walks than strikeouts. How were you able to do that?
Cecchini: I think it's a lot of different things. I think it's the way I was brought up, how I was taught to hit. Making the pitcher work -- I try to take every at-bat like it's the last at-bat of my life. When I do that, it makes me think, "If this is the last at-bat of your life, how are you going to go after it. Are going to grind out at-bats, have that never-say-die attitude?" I really tried to do that in 2013 and it really paid off.
Secondly, the Red Sox really tried to help refine that. Their development staff did an unbelievable job of seeing what pitches I could hit at the plate, if they throw it here, I'm going to swing; if they don't, I'm going to take it. Both of those things I attribute my strikeout-to-walk ratio to.
MiLB.com:What do you think is your best tool?
Cecchini: That's not for me, I don't even try to worry about it. I know that I have a lot of weaknesses and a lot of strengths. I know it's cliche -- I try to get 1 percent better every day, whatever it is. All I try to do is go out there -- and this is God's honest truth -- is have fun, play the game and really try to help my team win. I know a lot of people say that, but that's really what I try to do.
MiLB.com: You grew up in Louisiana and now you're playing for one of the biggest organizations in baseball in a large media market. Has there been any adjustment for you?
Cecchini: I come from a baseball family. Obviously, my family's not within the Red Sox. It was an adjustment at first -- the limelight of Boston and how baseball-loving they are in Beantown. It's awesome. It's what you play baseball for. The great fans at Fenway Park in Boston and such a prestigious organization, there's so much history there. It's so cool to put on a uniform and represent the Boston Red Sox in a great way.
MiLB.com:Do you and your brother [Mets No. 8 prospect Gavin Cecchini] talk baseball a lot?
Cecchini: Every single day. We're with each other every day in the offseason and we talk to each other on the phone probably once a day. We talk about baseball, the pitches we saw that day, what happened during the game, what was your mentality, how's your season going. We keep up with each other and see what we did in the box scores, but the box score can only say so much. He could have been 0-for-4 with four lineouts, but the box score says he [stunk] that day. It's pretty cool. We feed off each other. It's really good to have a family member in pro baseball.
MiLB.com:You guys potentially will be playing for two teams just a few hours apart. How exciting is that?
Cecchini: It's very exciting if that happens. It's really exciting and very humbling. Not only me but everyone in baseball works their whole life to play professional baseball. To have a brother in the Minor Leagues with me and, if all goes well, we can play World Series against each other. I think that would be a dream come true, to compete against each other on the field. We've been playing with each other our whole life. To play against him at the big league level, I think that would be a dream come true.
MiLB.com: How important was the AFL experience to your development?
Cecchini: Very important. When they told me I was going there, I was very excited. It was a long season and I was wondering how my body was going to hold up, but it held up very well and I was grateful for that. I learned a lot of stuff out there -- smooth out mechanics, make it a little bit more effortless and really trying to build upon the season I had offensively. Getting on base and seeing pitches, and the pitches that I see that are good, drive them. It was very helpful.
MiLB.com: How honored were you to win the Dernell Stenson Award while you were there?
Cecchini: It was a great award, very humbling to be honored with an off-the-field award. Obviously, every player wants to be recognized for being a great player, for being a great hitter or a great defensive player. It's something special to be honored with something off the field -- being a good teammate, being a hard worker, being a class act -- that kind of thing. It's something different and it hits my heart differently. I'm very honored and humbled, I think it's very cool.
MiLB.com: What was it like to find out you were added to the Red Sox's 40-man roster?
Cecchini: Awesome, man. It's humbling. For me and my brother, we worked our whole lives to be a good baseball player and a good citizen. Now it's a stepping stone. I've been added to the 40-man roster. It's a dream come true, but I've got to keep working. It's not the end of the tunnel. For me, this is a stepping stone to hopefully have a long big league career and win some championships.
MiLB.com:How exciting was it to watch the Red Sox win the World Series and know that you might be a part of that in a few years?
Cecchini: It was really exciting. I wasn't a part of it, but I felt a part of it even though I didn't play in the bigs. Being in the organization, you're proud to wear Red Sox on the front of your jersey. To think about your future, the great farm system, the unbelievable players, it's really exciting to think about it.
MiLB.com: I've seen where you were a big fan of Tony Gwynn. What is it about him that you like?
Cecchini: My mom and dad always wanted me to watch pro hitters when they were on television, from Babe Ruth to Joe Mauer. I always wanted to be like [Ken] Griffey Jr., but I always thought my swing and the type of hitter I am was like Gwynn. When you think of "pure hitter," the first names that come to mind are Gwynn or Mauer. I've always wanted to emulate my swing after them, a high average guy who helps their team win. When they would take at-bats, I would take it with them. I would try to get into the at-bat with them. I think that's what really helped me growing up with my swing and learning what pitches to swing at and knowing what type of hitter I was.
MiLB.com: Do you have any baseball-related New Year's resolutions?
Cecchini: Just keeping getting better as a player, as a teammate and as a person. I'm going to big league camp for the first time, so I want to be all ears, soak everything in and really try to learn from the experiences they have had. Pick their brains and learn from what they've done, the mistakes they've made and find out what made them an unbelievable player. It's going to be a really fun year, it's going to be fun to be in big league camp and become a better baseball player.