First base prospect Kyle Martin grew up in South Carolina as a Phillies fan, admiring slugger Jim Thome, so it was a dream come true for his entire family when the organization made him their 4th round draft choice this year.
A lefty batting power threat, Martin quickly made his professional debut with Class A Lakewood. The transition to the minors seemed easy, as the 23-year-old tallied a .279 average with five home runs and 37 RBI in 65 games for the BlueClaws.
I recently spoke with the University of South Carolina product about his remarkable 2015 as a whole and he ranked how playing in the Phillies organization ranks against playing for Team USA in this year’s Premiere 12 tournament. Read ahead for that interview and click here for my previous feature on the six-foot-two 240-pounder.
-Are you still enjoying downtime right now or have you reached the stage of your off-season where you are back to baseball activities and knocking the rust off?
Well, I just got back from USA Baseball, so as far as hitting and throwing and taking ground balls and stuff like that, I’m taking a little time off from that. But as far the routine goes, I’m still working out. I’m still running, still doing all the things that I’m expected to do. Just trying to maintain a consistency there with the Phillies and what they’re expecting of me.
-So, regarding your time with Team USA, I imagine that must have been big for you. What can you tell me about that?
I had a great experience. I really enjoyed it. Getting to hang out with Willie Randolph was incredible. I mean, I got to talk to some of the guys that were higher up. I got to play with some Double-A and Triple-A guys and some guys that have been in the show. I just kind of picked their brains a little bit and talked to them. That alone was a great experience and a mind-opening thing right there. Getting to play overseas was a great time. I really enjoyed it. I got to see what it’s like over there and what the environment is like. I mean, I couldn’t ask for a better experience.
-What was the tournament like that you were playing in?
It started out as pool play in Taipei, Taiwan and four teams advanced and moved on to Tokyo to play in the Tokyo Dome.
-How did it go and what was the experience of playing in the Tokyo Dome like for you?
We ended up winning silver versus Korea in the Tokyo Dome. Getting to play there was incredible. The whole atmosphere was a great time. I had never played in a dome before, so that was all new. I mean, the feeling there was pretty great and everything that I expected it to be.
-Did you get some playing time or were you mostly on the bench, as a younger guy on the roster?
I got some game time. I got to play a little bit over there. I got a few AB’s, but there were guys with more experience over there and, of course, we were trying to win and we were trying to do the best we could.
-You mentioned Willie Randolph, who is a guy that’s played and coached at the highest level of the sport. What did you take from being around a guy like that?
He was our manager, our head coach. It was awesome getting to talk to him. He’s a very laid back guy, a very chill guy. He understands the game very well. He understands the ups and downs. He understood bringing the team together that quick was very difficult, but he did the best he could and I think we came together really quick and bonded very well and we had a good time with it.
-It was absolutely a huge year for you over all with college ball wrapping up for you, getting drafted, making your pro debut and then playing for Team USA. Is there a moment from your 2015 that stands out as the biggest of the year for you?
Well, the top of it all was getting drafted to the team I grew up loving. I think that was the biggest thing. Getting to play for them, getting to put on a uniform in that organization was overall the best. I mean, I had a lot of great moments in college and I had a lot of great moments playing with the BlueClaws this year. I think going straight to low-A was a big boost and I think that helped me out confidence wise because I didn’t know what to expect going into it. But overall, getting drafted by the Phillies was definitely top notch.
-I know you’re at home in South Carolina near USC, where you went to school. When you’re working out now in the off-season, do you have access to the facilities at your college to help you get or stay in playing shape?
I do. I’m down in Columbia right now. I just finished working out. They’ve been generous to open up the facilities to me to let me do whatever I need to do.
-If you need someone to pair up with for certain things, you’ll have some teammates there to get your work in?
I’ve got a couple teammates down here doing the same thing and we all go work out together and hit together whenever we need to. One of them got drafted the same year (as I did), Max Schrock. He got drafted to the Nationals and he’s doing the same thing I am right now too, just kind of working out and working back into it.