Photo Credit: The Denver Post (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Shortstop Ryan Vilade was selected 48th overall, in the second round of the 2017 MLB draft by the Colorado Rockies. This past summer, Vilade played with the Grand Junction Rockies and in 33 games he had a slugging percentage of .496 and batted .308 with 5 home runs and 21 RBIs. I recently had the opportunity to interview my former teammate.
What was draft night like for you? What thoughts were going through your head?
Vilade: Draft night was a lot of fun. I had my family, girlfriend, and close friends with me watching the draft and we were just having a great time. For me, I was kind of nervous, but very excited to see what the draft held for me. It helped to have people who supported me cheering me on the night of the draft.
You’ve obviously grown up a lot since our little league days, who’s been the most influential in your life on this long journey of making it to the big leagues?
Vilade: My dad has been the most influential to me the most. Him being a coach, he taught me the game and everything I have learned about the game. He has pushed me to be my best, not just on the field, but off the field as well. And also my mom because she has always been there for me from the good times to the bad times and she has always told me to chase my dreams, and now I get to live my dreams every day.
When did you realize you would have a chance at playing professional baseball?
Vilade: I always knew that I was going to play professional baseball just because of my mindset that I was going to play in the big leagues. The question I was asking myself, was if I was going to sign out of high school or college. And I started realizing I could be drafted out of high school at the beginning of my junior year.
What factors attracted you to forgo your commitment to Oklahoma State?
Vilade: You know the opportunity I was given by the Rockies was what I had been working for my whole life. So the decision I made was the best for me and my future. And I’m glad I chose to be a Colorado Rockie.
What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses as a baseball player?
Strengths: my hit tool, defense and leadership
Weaknesses: just continue on getting faster.
Which player currently in the Major Leagues do you focus on modeling your game after?
Vilade: I really like watching Trevor Story and Kris Bryant. I feel like I do a lot of things similar to them, and they are both power hitting infielders. Also, one thing I really look up to is how hard they work and how they play the game of Baseball.
How was winning the Eastbay Homerun Derby at Wrigley Field?
Vilade: Winning the HR Derby was something I will never forget. I was a wild card pick so I was least favored to win the derby. Bill Ripken actually picked me to win the HR Derby which was really cool to me. When I started, I just went up there and just really just tried to have a good time and enjoy the experience. I was going up against some of the top guys so I knew it was going to be tough and a lot of fun. I hit 6 balls out of the stadium which was pretty awesome. And then winning the thing was awesome especially having all of my family there with me was the most important thing to me. But it was something I’ll never forget.
Which position do you think you’re best at? Third Base or Shortstop?
Vilade: I think I am better at shortstop. I have been playing it since me and you played together in coach pitch when we were 6. I am comfortable there, I am confident there, and I think I bring a lot to the table not just physically with the defense, but also with the leadership side of it and just running the infield.
Who is your favorite player of all-time?
Vilade: I loved watching Derek Jeter because every game he played, he always did something to help the team.
Who was your favorite team growing up? And why?
Vilade: I liked the rangers because my dad worked for them and also because I got to work out with some of them when my dad was there.
Who was a player you worked with? What did he tell you?
Vilade: Elvis Andrus is one I worked with a lot. He told me to enjoy the game because it doesn’t last forever and to play every game likes it’s your last.
What would be your ideal walk-up song for your first at-bat in the Major Leagues?
Vilade: Haha I think I would pick a throwback song. Probably something by the Beastie Boys.
Do you believe in any superstitions that exist in baseball? If so, do you have any?
Vilade: I don’t believe in superstitions, but I believe in routines to get locked in and mentally focused for the game.
The scouts rave about your power and solid glove, but what other aspect of your game would you like to improve?
Vilade: The one thing I want and have improved on is my speed and the ability to steal bags. I do a lot of agility stuff to help with that and feel like I have gotten stronger in that category.
How do you feel about Sabermatrics? Are they important? Do you use them?
Vilade: Honestly I do not use them. I think it is a cool tool for the game of baseball that will help players at all ages. I am sure I’ll be using them soon just because a lot of players are using them now.
If you couldn’t play baseball, what profession would you pursue?
Vilade: Probably a physical therapist or financial advisor because they both enjoy helping people and making them better in different ways.
What’s the key to having a successful professional baseball career?
Vilade: You have to stay hungry and want to get better everyday. Also you have to relax and just enjoy the game and have fun which I think is the most important thing.
Thanks again to Ryan Vilade for the interview. If I know anything about Ryan from our Little League days, it’s that no matter what, he’s going to make this dream come true of making it to the big leagues. Nothing is going to get in the way, and there’s no slowing down now. The drive, the leadership, the talent. It’s all there. The future is bright, and I look forward to seeing your debut.