StreetJL filed the following from his recent visit with J.B. Shuck in Portland:
It is not often that I get an opportunity to see Astros minor league baseball here in Portland, Oregon. In fact, the chance arises only four games every other season. It could be worse though, after all, at least I have minor league baseball in Portland, right? Well, as it turns out, it is going to be worse. Portland has traded minor league baseball for professional soccer, and as a result this will be the Portland Beavers last season here. It is really a shame too. PGE Park is a great venue to go watch a minor league game, and the Beavers personnel have always been top notch. Anyway, there is a point to all of this.
A couple of weeks ago Mike Tauser of Farmstros and I were discussing the upcoming Round Rock/Portland series here in town, and the recent promotion of Jordan Lyles and J.B. Shuck to Triple-A Round Rock. Since I had planned to attend the series, Mike and I thought it would be fun for Farmstros readers if he was able to arrange for me to interview Lyles and Shuck while they were here. I thought it was a long shot but told Mike I was game, and to make it happen if he could. As it turns out, he could, and did.
I’ll have a little more to say about the folks that helped out with the process later, but did want to thank Round Rock’s Larry Little and Erik Woody, as well as Portland’s Chris Metz, who helped put this opportunity together. A special thanks as well to Farmstros for making it happen.
So without additional delay, let’s get to the reason you’re reading this piece: J.B. Shuck. As you are aware, Shuck is a product of the first draft by Ed Wade and Bobby Heck during their tenure with the Astros. He was chosen in the 6th round of the 2008 draft from Ohio State. He began his professional career shortly after the draft in the New York-Penn League (Short-Season Low-A) as a Tri-City ValleyCat. On the season he was 79 of 263 with 51 runs, 23 doubles, 5 triples, 4 home runs and 24 runs batted in. His triple slash was .300/.385/.430. This earned him a promotion the following year, where he played High-A ball with the Lancaster JetHawks. In his first full season of professional ball, J.B. was 175 for 556 and scored 98 runs while hitting 30 doubles, 11 triples, a home run and 36 runs batted in with a triple-slash of .315/.389/.414. J.B. continued his rise through the system in this his second year of professional ball, beginning the season with the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks. Shuck went 116 for 389 for the Hooks, with 52 runs, 14 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs and 28 runs batted in. His triple-slash was .298/.372/.360. Late in the season he was called up to the Triple-A Round Rock Express, which is where he was when I met with him for this interview.
So without further rambling, I bring you some Q&A with J.B. Shuck, outfielder for the Round Rock Express.
Q: It’s been a quick two year ride for you.
A: It has. I got a chance to start in High-A last year for my first full season, and got to come to Double-A this year which was real exciting to start the year off. I was having a good year and was fortunate enough to get a call-up to Triple-A in my second full season.
Q: I think Astros fans were hoping for a lot out you when you were picked in the sixth round in ’08. [Q]uite frankly, you’ve exceeded expectations [to have moved through the system] this quickly, in this your second [full] year of pro ball. What do you attribute a lot of that too?
A: It starts with good coaching. We’ve got a lot of guys here in the organization that have really helped me out. And then, just the guys around me. They’ve helped me to work hard, to understand the game, and to kind of get an understanding of what I have to do to keep working hard and to keep moving up.
Q: Speaking of keep moving up, what are the things right now that you think you really need to work on to get to the next level? I mean, you are at the penultimate level [of professional baseball] right now, and the next is the major leagues. What are the things you really want from yourself, want to see from yourself, to get to the next level?
A: One big thing for me is [working on] baserunning. I haven’t really done it a whole lot this year. Started to lately, been more comfortable around the bases, and I just want to continue getting more comfortable on that. The other thing is just to work on my defense a little bit more. You know, it can never hurt to keep working on defense and hopefully get better and better each time.
Q: I think you’ve said before in a number of interviews that power is not your game. It’s getting out there, working hard, hustling, getting dirty. From what I’ve seen – I’ve managed to see the last three games – I’ve seen a lot of that. Anything more about your game, or is that a pretty good summary?
A: It is. That sums it up pretty good. You know, I don’t look to drive in a whole lot of runs, especially being in the top of the order. My goal is to score the runs. I want to get on base as many times as I can and it doesn’t matter how I get on. My biggest thing , when I look at the stats, is that I want to see a lot of runs in my stats. So, if I can do that I know I am doing my job, and know the guys behind me are doing their job.
Q: What has been the biggest difference adjusting from Double-A [to Triple-A]?
A: The big adjustment is getting used to this type of pitching. There are a lot of guys that are a little bit older and have been around, and know what they’re doing on the mound. You see in certain counts, in Double-A and in lower, we get fastballs. Now they’re throwing off-speeds in a count, and they can locate really well here. [The] biggest adjustment is just really trying to focus on getting a good pitch to hit and not chasing the pitcher’s pitch as much.
Q: Not many people get the chance to experience what you have so far at still a young age. Can you tell the folks out there how you’re handling success and failure when it comes to living your dream of playing professional baseball? You know, this sport as much as it is about […] success, it’s a lot about failure. How do you deal with that?
A: It’s very tough. That’s probably the hardest part of the game is knowing that a Hall of Fame hitter is a .300 hitter. He fails 7 times out of 10. It’s very hard to understand for awhile. I struggled with it through high school and college. Once I got to pro ball, the managers and the players around me that have been around for a little bit really kind of help you out and guide you. [They help] you to understand that you’re going to fail, but it is not how far you can go down, it is how you are going to recoop from that, and get back into it ,and understand you’re up there for a reason. You are going to succeed at some point, you just got to keep battling and keep working hard at it.
I wanted to add a final note about my interview. J.B. Shuck is a very engaging guy, and was great to interview. Having watched his progression through the system, though from afar, I was naturally pulling for him to continue to succeed and rise through the system. Having now had a brief glimpse into the person, as opposed to the ballplayer, I can honestly say I’m rooting for him even harder now. Thanks, J.B. for taking the time to speak with me and Farmstros readers. I enjoyed the opportunity, and trust Farmstros’ readers will enjoy reading your comments.