The Arizona Fall League season ends today and I thought it would be an appropriate ending to a long season to interview Brian Friday, one of six Pittsburgh Pirates prospects who was invited to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions with the best prospects from all 30 Major League teams. Brian was drafted in the 3rd Round of the 2007 First Year Player Draft by the Pirates out of Rice University. At Rice, he was named First Team All-American shortstop in 2006, and played in two College World Series. As a professional, he has been a Carolina League All-Star in 2008 while playing for the Lynchburg Hillcats and was named an All-Star again in 2009 in the AA Eastern League with the Altoona Curve. A highly intellectual player, Brian has outstanding character and leadership skills. He discusses his Fall League experience, his development on the road to the big leagues, and his perspective on life and baseball.
Geoff Miller: The Arizona Fall League is a collection of the best prospects in the game. How much does playing there boost your confidence?
Brian Friday: It definitely provides a little boost to my confidence for the simple fact that it’s an honor to play in this league. A lot of the most talented players in the minor leagues are here, and to be able to play with and against them helps motivate me to continue to get better.
GM: How do you keep from comparing your abilities or readiness for the big leagues with the abilities and readiness of other players in this league?
BF: It’s sometimes difficult to not compare yourself to other players in a league like this because that is what a lot of people are doing. But I realize that doesn’t help me become a better player and that is why I am here. As a player, I try to always keep in mind that comparisons and judging someone else’s ability isn’t my job. My job is to prepare as best I can and then perform in the games. If I can stay focused on that then all the externals should take care of themselves.
GM: What is the most important growth you are experiencing playing in Arizona this Fall?
BF: The most important growth for me has been offensively this Fall. I have been working to make adjustments that have taken a while to show up in games, so it has tested my patience. It has been a good experience to go through because I have been hesitant to make some adjustments during the regular season. And since this league is more of a developmental league I have stuck with things offensively that I wouldn’t have in the past for fear of not performing.
GM: You played at one of the most successful baseball programs in the country. How did playing at Rice prepare you for being a professional baseball player?
BF: I received a lot a great instruction at Rice, but the best thing for me to learn was mental toughness. Playing every day professionally can wear you down, and I believe my experience at Rice has helped me stay focused and get up for each game throughout the season. Whether I had a good or bad game the night before, I have to try to learn from it and then let it go. That is easier said than done, but Rice helped me improve a lot in that area.
GM: How do you balance pushing yourself to be a better player so you can continue to make progress with giving yourself credit for the progress you’ve already achieved in your minor league career?
BF: This is a balance that I struggle with because I am wired to keep pushing myself forward towards perfection. I view this mindset as a strength of mine, but at the same time I tend to overlook any past accomplishments. This is a problem for me because I easily forget the positive times where I have performed well and focus more on the negative. I have had some success in the minor leagues thus far, but I usually dismiss those successes because I feel I have a lot of room for improvement. Consequently, it has been difficult for me during tough times when I need to remember past accomplishments and try to pull some confidence from those. This balance is something that I constantly have to remind myself of during a season. It is important to always strive to get better, but you have to give yourself some credit every now and then.
GM: What is the most important mental game lesson you’ve learned in your career?
BF: Learning that baseball doesn’t have to be life-consuming has been the most important lesson for me. I have struggled in the past with wrapping up my life with this game. Life was great when I played well, and life was miserable when I played poorly. All this did was put me on an emotional rollercoaster with a lot of highs and seemingly more lows. Baseball is tough enough as it is, and if you let it rule your life it will eat you up.
Now I still am pleased after a good game, and irritated after a bad one, but I have found it easier to move on with a positive perspective. I attribute this to truly realizing that my Christian faith, family and friends are more important than this game. Until I am done playing I will always strive to get better and perform, but that pales in comparison to my faith. It is much bigger than this game and keeps me grounded.
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