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Hopkins was a Timber Rattler in 2011 and 2012. He steps into The
Interrogation Room this week to talk about the enjoyment of the walkoff wins and
an all-star selection, the disappointment of a pair of injuries, and the elation
of a Championship Season.
Q: The Rattlers had a lot of walkoff wins in 2012. You had the first
walkoff homer of the season. It
was an extra-inning homer against Dayton. Do you remember anything
special about that particular play?
Fastball..middle in. It felt good to walk it off and it was my first home run of
the season. I definitely need to work on the helmet toss though. It was an A-
ball helmet toss, that's for sure. We played in Miller Park the very next
series, and I remember hitting coach Dusty Rhodes telling Craig Counsell telling
him that I hit a walk off and it was my first home run, and telling him that
"Hop's good for the season, he got his home run." As Dusty would say..
"Come on man!"
You were selected by the other managers in the division as the starting second
baseman for the Western squad at the 2012 All-Star Game in Kane County.
What did that selection mean to you?
I am honored to have been named the starting 2nd basemen. I focused on working
hard and trusting in the work that I had put in to getting ready for the season,
and I'm thankful that it paid off. There were some good players in the league,
so I'm blessed that I was given the opportunity to start in the All-Star game.
You were a Midwest League player of the week earlier in the season to get on the
radar of the voters, but the game that probably sealed your selection was the
game at Peoria on May 26. That was the one where you had two homers, a
double, and six RBI. What was it about that day that let you go off like
GH: As a hitter, there are some games you remember, and some games you don't.
That was a game where I was completely in the present moment. That's the ideal
state of mind for an athlete. As for the home runs, I got some pitches to hit,
and I just put good swings on them and got good results. And, I'm sure that
Dusty's Pre-game flips had a huge roll in my game results!
There were seven of your Rattlers teammates on that All-Star team. What
was the whole All-Star experience like for you and the rest of the Rattlers?
It was a special experience. It felt great to have 7 of us there representing
the team. Our whole T-Rats team deserved to be there. We had a good time,
meeting other players from different teams, getting input about their various
minor league organizations. I think it's safe to say we all were fortunate and
blessed to have been there.
Your second half of the season got off to a really bad start when you were hit
in the head by a pitch in a game against Peoria on June 30. The resulting
concussion sidelined you for awhile. What were you going through as you
recovered from that?
Any kind of injury is tough to deal with.. Especially when baseball is all about
having a routine. So this was tough. But, for whatever reason, it happened. It
could have been worse, so I'm just glad that it wasn't.
You got back to playing again on July 18. Was it different for you those
first few times at the plate?
GH: Hitting is all about being comfortable in the box and having timing. And
of course, it took me a little while to get both of those back. But like I said,
it's part of the game, and I was confident to know that comfort and timing comes
back in due time. I was excited to get going again too. It felt like another
opening day (in the middle of the summer.)
The team had quite a bit of turnover from the first half to the second half of
the season, but the level of play stayed constant for the whole season.
What contributed to that?
GH: Matty Erickson is a firm believer in putting in your Pre-game work,
and the results will show. We had a consistent work ethic throughout the season
as a whole. We rode out our win streaks and we limited our poor play. The more
you can do that the better the results will be throughout a long season.
Late in the season, you got hurt again. What was the injury and how
did it happen?
Partially tore my quad. The concussion didn't help my cause, because my body got
tight as I was sidelined from that. But, I'm definitely healthy and ready to go.
Q: If I remember correctly, you were
given the choice to go home or stay with the team for the last week of the
season and the playoffs. You decided to stick with the team. Did you
sense something special - like the championship - was going to happen and
you didn't want to miss it?
I had been there all season with the team, so I definitely wanted to be there
even if that meant collecting batting gloves at 1st base and telling Nick
Ramirez that a change up is coming while he's at the plate... (I'm kidding, that
was all him). But, yeah we were consistent all year and we were ready to start
the playoffs and pursue that championship, so I wanted to be there even though
it was rough not being able to play.
You got to travel and coach first base during games during the playoffs. I
know it was killing you to not be able to play, but what did you think of the
view from over at first base as different players came through with big hits in
just about every game?
GH: The game is a lot different when you're not between the lines. I had a
different perspective over at 1st base...literally and figuratively. It was
great seeing guys step up and producing clutch hits. I definitely got plenty of
jogging in after Macias hit 1,000 doubles.. or as he would say... "Classic
double!" As for our pitching and defense, we were pretty solid
throughout the year.
One of my favorite moments from last season is from before the season even
started. You were the last player to talk in your group at the Leadoff
Experience. You answered my question. Then, you went off on a little
speech and you got a little fired up talking about how the fans would see every
player on the stage improve during the season. I was pretty fired up when
you got done talking and I think the fans in attendance were, too. Where
did that come from?
I was just excited about the season. We had a good group of guys and I think we
were all on the same page from Day 1. Pro ball is an interesting beast because
naturally everyone is competing and trying to move up. But, we played well and
understood that individuals play better when a team plays better.
Back to the playoffs. Brent Suter gets the strikeout to end Game Four and
the Rattlers have won the pennant. What was the first thing you thought as
the players charged the mound in Fort Wayne?
Time to charge the mound and go nuts.. Moments like that don't come around
often, so it was great to jump around and congratulate all of our teammates.
Teams in pro ball are constantly evolving, some guys move up, some guys move
down... But we managed to have the same goal throughout the entire season.
That's what I thought about after we won the Championship.
What have you been doing since the season ended?
I finished school and got my degree at St. John's university, which I'm really
happy about. I've been spending time with family and friends and getting ready
to go for this upcoming season. Every season brings new opportunities, so I am
looking forward to this fresh, new season.
Thanks for joining us, Greg.
Interrogation Room Files:
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.