“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” an interview with the Yankees’ 2018 12th round selection, Matt Pita
The MLB draft does not get nearly the coverage or media attention that the drafts in other major sports garner, but with the MLB draft consisting of 40 rounds, the lower picks in the draft typically go unnoticed or unaccounted for by most teams’ fans. However, generational, Hall of Fame talent has surfaced from beyond the tenth round in the MLB draft as names like Nolan Ryan, Albert Pujols, Ryne Sandberg, and John Smotlz were all late-draft choices. While this outcome is rare, it is not unheard of. The Yankees twelfth round selection of this year’s draft, Matt Pita interested me especially.
Pita finished his junior season at the Virginia Military Institute slashing .389/.459/.721 and stole 23 bases in only 53 games. He had 41 XBH’s and struck out only 30 times. His 5’10,” 175-pound frame does not strike opposing pitchers as intimidating, but the numbers speak for themselves as he put together a sensational junior season at VMI. Pita plays all over the diamond and will go into the Yankees organization without an official position, not because of lackluster defensive skills, but because he can be a plus-defender at almost any position he is assigned.
His numbers, versatility, and the fact that he grew up in my home state of Virginia were all impressive to me, and I was fortunate enough to be able to contact Pita and ask him a handful of questions in regards to his life, baseball career, and future in the sport:
Q: Describe yourself, what do you want Yankees universe to know about you?
A: I've always had to work hard for everything that I’ve gotten on the baseball field. Being a small guy, people assume that I'm not as good as the big guy next to me. Having grown up around that mentality, I play with a chip on my shoulder, like I always have something to prove. It has made me a focused and hardworking player and has taught me to never become complacent. Off the field, I love food and love to cook so maybe one day you'll catch me in a restaurant helping make some food on an off day.
Q: Being a Virginia native, I am aware of the level of discipline students endure at VMI, how did this help shape you as a ballplayer?
A: VMI definitely prepared me in every way possible, from the physical aspect of the game to the mental aspect. The discipline and lifestyle at VMI has helped to make me a better baseball player from preforming in stressful situations to having a great work ethic.
Q: Describe your skillset: What do you offer a baseball team on and off the field and what do you still want to work on as your progress in the minors?
A: I see my skill set as a great one. I am a consistent hitter that can hit for power and contact, I can play almost anywhere on the field on any given day, and I have great speed. Speed has always been a big part of my game and it’s just a way to attack the other team that some people don't have. Something I still want to work on as I progress on in the minors would be speed and approach at the plate. Both of those things will make you a great player. I feel like as of now I already have a great approach at the plate and great speed but they can always be better and that’s what will help me get to the top.
Q: Did the Yankees selecting you make the day more special?
A: Of course, growing up a Yankees fan, it's always been a dream of mine to suit up in the pinstripes and that call made it one step closer.
Q: I noticed you're not listed at a specific position, can you see yourself as a Ben Zobrist-type super-utility player one day?
A: Yes, growing up I played SS and when I played in high school they transitioned me into the outfield to utilize my speed. At VMI, they used me at both second base and in the outfield. I played both infield and outfield during summer ball as well. Throughout college I have been working on skills at both, so I can be a utility guy at the next level. I'm happy to help the Yankees anywhere that I can on the field.
Q: What are you most looking forward to as you start the journey as a minor league baseball player?
A: One thing is to finally be able to use focus on baseball, not having to worry about class or homework or anything just strictly baseball and being able to go hit whenever I want. I also always enjoyed meeting guys from other colleges during summer ball. It’s going to be cool getting to play with guys from all over the country and getting to play against the best of the best.
Q: Was there any saying or speech by a coach or teammate that has stuck with you since high school or travel baseball?
A: There are two things that have always stuck with me, two things that my mom always tell me. "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." and "It's hard to beat a player who never gives up.”
Q: I am sure you are aware of John Sterling's famous home run calls he makes for every individual player, what would Sterling's call for you sound like?
A: I think it will definitely have something to do with food with my last name being Pita, so it will be cool to see what he will come up with.
Article by: Ryan ThomsFollow @RyanThoms_ Follow @BronxBomberBall