Second baseman Josh Tobias has been an offensive catalyst for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws thus far in the young season. The 23-year-old switch hitter entered action on Sunday among the South Atlantic League leaders in hits, batting average, OPS and RBI.
A 10th round draft selection out of Florida last year, Tobias had a solid pro debut with short-season A level Williamsport, batting .321 with four home runs and 37 RBI in 61 games, helping to lead the Crosscutters into the playoffs.
Recently, I chatted with the man known around the clubhouse as “Toby” about playing with Lakewood, players he looked up to as a child, how he spends his free time and plenty more. Read ahead for that interview.
-You’ve got some teammates that have played in Lakewood before. Did anyone prepare you for what to expect before coming here in regards to the fans, the facilities or the town?
Yeah, a lot of guys that are playing in Clearwater now talked to me about what it’s like playing in front of Lakewood fans and also the travel, going back and forth among places down south. But, I was well prepared for it before I came here.
-Some guys will come here to Lakewood with impressions of New Jersey they’ve seen in the media and things like that. What did you know about Jersey before coming to Lakewood?
I knew it would be cold because I’m from North Carolina and it’s chilly there till March, but I knew it would be colder here. I knew about the accents. We had a couple cab drivers when we got here, because a lot of us didn’t have cars, so a lot of the “yous” and stuff, it’s a little different to me. Other than that, I was really surprised. I haven’t seen the shore at all. I live in New Egypt. It’s a really nice place. I like it up here.
-I wanted to ask you about Williamsport last year. Can you share some thoughts on your debut pro season with the Crosscutters?
Aw, man. That was a great team. We had a chemistry with the guys and we had a great manager (Pat Borders). I mean, it was a just end from a good college season I had, so it was kind of rolled into it. I just had a blast there and I want to continue that into this year.
-You’ve got a lot of guys from that team coming up with you here to the BlueClaws roster this year. You guys had an outstanding run there, going into the postseason. Do you feel like you guys are bonded?
Oh, yeah. This is pretty similar to that Williamsport team, so we’re all pretty close. We all know each other pretty well. There’s not any awkwardness when we talk, we don’t need to get to know each other because we’ve played together for three or four months already.
-What feedback would you share about these coaches here with Lakewood, manager Shawn Williams and hitting coach Nelson Prada.
Shawn’s a great coach. He’s a hard-nosed baseball guy. He loves to get after it. He just likes you to battle and he brings out the best in us.
Prada’s a great hitting coach as well. He’s pretty simple with how he wants you to approach the game.
-You mentioned earlier that you grew up in North Carolina. What team did you follow and which players did you grow up liking?
I was a Braves fan growing up. I loved Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones when he played for them. Those were my favorite players. I was always a Jimmy Rollins fan, when he played short with the Phillies, so I grew up liking a lot of those guys and, I mean, I still do.
-Is there anyone whose game you might try to emulate?
Definitely Jimmy Rollins, I mean, I think we’re pretty similar, switch-hitting middle infielders, both are quick, so I’ve always tried to emulate my game after him, ever since I’ve been young.
-Obviously, to be like Jimmy, you’ve got some levels to go up. With the movement up here this year, what stands out with the jump to full season ball when compared to the New York-Penn League last year?
Definitely the travel for one. At least in this league, for us, the travel’s different. I mean, we haven’t really hit the full grind of the full season yet, but everything else is pretty similar. The competition is a little better because of the jump up, but a lot of the pitchers we face are the pitchers we faced last year and they’ve gotten better.
-What do you find yourself doing to kill time on these long bus rides? Are you wearing out batteries on tablets, playing games and that sort of thing?
I have a book I’m reading and I try to sleep, ’cause when we start playing I don’t get as much sleep, so I try to get as much sleep as I can. And I listen to music.
-What are you reading?
I’m reading Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown. He’s a really good author. I read Inferno last year, so I am just reading this one now.
-Are you a big video game guy at all?
Yeah, I don’t have them with me. They’re back at home, so I don’t play them as much.
-What games do you like?
I literally play every thing.
-Sports games or shooter games?
Both. I play both. I’m pretty eclectic with how I play my games.
-Is there anybody in the organization that you tend to school at gaming?
I know me and “Cope” (Zach Coppola) have a series in MLB The Show right now. He’s up 3-2 right now in the series. We’re gonna play till the season’s over, but he’s up 3-2.
-But you intend to mash him?
I intend to win. I mean, he’s gonna get destroyed.