Prospect Q&A: Calhoun finds a new home

Rangers No. 2 prospect ready for 2018 after midseason trade

Willie Calhoun batted .300 with 31 homers and ranked 12th in the Minor Leagues with 93 RBIs in 2017. (Jamie Harms/MiLB.com)

By Alex Kraft / MiLB.com | January 3, 2018 10:00 AM

The 2017 season was a wild ride for Willie Calhoun.

He was cruising toward his best offensive season with Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Dodgers system when he found out he was heading to Texas in the Yu Darvish deal at the Trade Deadline. Despite the change of scenery, Calhoun finished strongly with his new team in Round Rock, accomplished his goal of making it to the Major Leagues and is the Rangers' No. 2 prospect.

The 23-year-old has kept busy since the season ended. We caught up with MLB.com's No. 60 overall prospect as he looks toward his first Spring Training with Texas.

MiLB.com: So what have you been up to since the season ended?

Calhoun: I started the offseason down in Newport. ... I went to Dallas for about two weeks and then came back home here in the Bay Area. I'm planning on going back down to Newport in a few weeks to finish up my offseason.

MiLB.com: What did you do in Dallas? Just getting the lay of the land or more baseball-related stuff?

Calhoun: It was a big camp for a lot of the younger guys who are just now breaking into the big leagues or have one or two years there. It's just something to catch up and become familiar with all the new faces and everything.

MiLB.com: Speaking of new faces, obviously you were in that position when you found out you were being traded from Los Angeles. How has the transition gone?

Calhoun: It's been good, man. They're both great organizations. Going from LA to Texas I feel like is a good fit for me. I'm just going to try and use this opportunity and run with it.

MiLB.com: Was there a sense of disappointment at the time? Not only had you spent your whole career with the Dodgers, you grew up in California.

Calhoun: Honestly, when it first happened I was like, 'Awww, man, that [stinks].' All my friends were with the Dodgers. I was kind of upset at first. My best friends are Cody [Bellinger] and Alex [Verdugo] and when I saw that it was like, 'Damn, I could be in LA with them.' At the time, I was really upset, but then it started settling in probably halfway through Round Rock. I got more comfortable and I'm starting to get used to all these guys now. And that, I'm happy about.

MiLB.com: Oddly enough, you had one of the best games of your career against your old club shortly after the trade when you hit a walk-off grand slam to finish off an eight-RBI day. What was that moment like?

Calhoun: That was crazy. I was telling my girlfriend that's actually one of the best games I've ever played in my life. It was unbelievable. I couldn't believe it because I thought their goal was to not let me get 30 home runs. I don't know, it was weird. It felt good though to be able to do that.

Video: Calhoun wins it for the Express

MiLB.com: How did your old friends with Oklahoma City take it?

Calhoun: They kind of joked around with me and said, 'Why did you have to do this? That's messed up.' But they were happy for me and they were supportive.

MiLB.com: The Rangers called you up on Sept. 12 and you got 13 games in Texas. How much of an impact did that experience have on you?

Calhoun: I enjoyed it. I felt like I learned a lot. I didn't go to Spring Training with this team, so I felt like that month in the big leagues really helped boost me up going into Spring Training [next year]. It got me excited and looking forward to next year with them. I felt like that was much needed because I didn't go to Spring Training with this team and I didn't want to feel weird going into this year's Spring Training, not knowing anything or knowing anyone. I've been clicking with some of the guys and I'm excited.

MiLB.com: Which of the big league guys have you connected with?

Calhoun: I'd say everyone, but I've really been with Delino DeShields, Joey Gallo and Drew Robinson a lot.

MiLB.com: What has their advice to you been?

Calhoun: Really just to have fun and keep playing the same game that you did in Round Rock and OKC because baseball is just a game. I grew up playing this game for fun.

Offseason MiLB include

MiLB.com: As you've said, you were really close with Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger. Were you surprised by what he accomplished this year, going all the way to the World Series?

Calhoun: It's weird because seeing him on TV and seeing the things that he does it's just, 'Wow.' I've always known that Cody was really, really good. I've said he's one of the best players I've ever played with in my whole entire life, hands down. But to see what he's done this year, I don't even know how to describe it. The performance he had is just unbelievable. I never in a thousand years would have thought he would have that type of year.

MiLB.com: I know you're a pretty regular gamer during the offseason and have even kicked around the idea of starting an eSports team on Twitter. How did you get so involved in video games?

Calhoun: When it's the offseason I try to take my mind off baseball completely, because I know when I'm in-season I'm not going to touch any video games. When I'm in my offseason I strictly try to tune out baseball as long as I can because I know as soon as it's the first day I show up in Arizona it's going to be strictly baseball for that whole season. Video games are a way for me to steer away from baseball when I'm back at home. Right when I'm done working out, I'll usually play for a while.

MiLB.com: How long has that been your major offseason hobby?

Calhoun: I've been like that ever since I was 13 or 14 years old. It's mainly just one game, Call of Duty. I'm really superstitious about it and it's something that when the season is over I do it for about two or three months to where I don't have to worry about baseball. You'll probably stop seeing me play around the end of January.

MiLB.com: Do you ever play with fans or other Minor Leaguers?

Calhoun: I usually play with professional video game players. I came into contact with quite a few dudes that are known in the video game world. A few of them play on professional Call of Duty teams.

But I play with [top Reds prospect] Nick Senzel. When I put that tweet out [about starting an eSports team], he instantly texted me asking, 'Hey, are you serious, bro?' He's huge into it, too. Carlos Asuaje [of the Padres], too. I play Xbox with Cody. I usually strictly play PS4, but whenever Cody gets on Xbox he'll text me and I'll hop on there for a little.

MiLB.com: When you look back on 2017, how are you going to remember the season?

Calhoun: This is probably one of my better years that I've had throughout my career. I want to have plenty more of these -- hopefully at the highest level.

Alex Kraft is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and chat with him on Twitter @Alex_Kraft21. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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