Blue Jays’ Anthony Alford dishes on life and baseball with Jays Journal

Mar 14, 2017; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Anthony Alford (30) slides into third base as he triples and Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) attempted the tag him out during the second inning at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 14, 2017; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Anthony Alford (30) slides into third base as he triples and Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) attempted the tag him out during the second inning at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Anthony Alford is quickly becoming a household name among Blue Jays fans, thanks to his hot start with the New Hampshire Fishercats.

A clean bill of health, self-confidence and a renewed mindset are the keys to an incredible start to the season for the Toronto Blue Jays #3 top prospect, Anthony Alford.

The 22-year-old Mississippi native struggled through a tough season marred by injuries last year, but he seems to have turned a corner and put himself firmly in the minds of the the Blue Jays’ management.

Alford is slashing .400/.471/.550 in his first 16 games, with a pair of homeruns and seven RBIs. The speedster has also swiped seven bases, and has struck out just nine times, as opposed to eight walks.

Needless to say, it’s a big improvement on last season for Alford, who Baseball America ranked the #59 prospect in baseball.

He gave an exclusive interview to Jays Journal, where we discuss everything ranging from his favourite TV show and music to what has been the biggest difference this year.

Bevan: I just want to start off the interview by asking you a few lighter questions, to give people a peek behind the curtain. What is your favourite movie?

Anthony:  I don’t have a favourite movie but I have a favourite TV show — Sanford and Son.

Bevan: Who is your favourite band or musician?

Anthony:  My wife, first of all. Besides her, my favourite musician would probably be J. Cole.

Bevan: What about a favourite food?

Anthony: BBQ Wings

Bevan: If you hadn’t chosen to be an athlete, what would you be doing with your life?

Anthony: I would probably be a coach.

Bevan: Is there a baseball player you model your style of play after or that you look up to?

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Anthony: No, I wouldn’t say I model my play after anyone but I was a big fan of (Derek) Jeter, how hard he played the game and just how he respected the game.

Bevan: What is your daily routine each day as you prepare for a game?

Anthony: I usually get to the field around lunchtime. I go in, do my thing in the weight room, get loose, then go out to the cage to swing and do my early work. From there, I will go on the field, take fly balls and hit BP and prepare for the game. Pretty simple.

Bevan: You’re off to a hot start this season. How does that feel?

Anthony: It feels good for the most part. I’m just trying to learn something new every day, but it’s been going really well and I’ve been able to perform and it’s been a big confidence booster for me.

Bevan: What have been the biggest keys, the biggest difference from last season to this season?

Anthony: Mainly being confident in myself and believing in myself. It’s just letting my ability take over and try not to think too much.

Bevan: Coming into this season, did you make any changes in terms of your approach at the plate?

Anthony: I’m obviously hitting in a different spot in the lineup now, I’m hitting leadoff. I can be more aggressive now than I was in the past. I haven’t really changed my approach or anything, I just feel like I’ve matured as a hitter.

Bevan: You have had a fairly high strikeout rate in the past, but that’s something that has seemed to change in the early going here. Is that something you’ve been working on?

Anthony: I’m always trying to improve in areas where I’m weak. I haven’t really been thinking about it but I feel like it just comes with reps. That’s something people always point out, my strikeout rate the last two years. But people seem to forget that I pretty much only played baseball for three years before that so of course that’s just part of it. In that area, you just get better with reps. The more reps you have, the more pitches you see, the better you’ll get. I feel like that’s all I needed was reps. I’m still continuing to improve on that.

Bevan: You’re a speedy guy. Is that a big part of your game?

Anthony: I would say so, yes. I’m not going to run just to run. If the situation is right and I need to get in scoring position, then I’m going to try to take a base. But if I have somebody who is like really hot behind me, if I need to stay there to open up the hole on the right side of the field, then I’m going to stay there. It’s just whatever the team needs.

Bevan: Last season, you dealt with your share of injuries. What was the season like for you?

Anthony: It was obviously frustrating not being able to get on the field and get consistent reps. Every time I started to get into rhythm, something happened. It was very frustrating and on top of that, I was probably putting way too much pressure on myself. The second half got a whole lot better when I was able to relax and just play the game.

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Bevan: What do you think are the biggest things you can contribute on the baseball field?

Anthony: I think most importantly is being a good teammate. That’s my biggest thing, being a good teammate and being a good person, just trying to have a positive impact on somebody. with the on-field stuff, that kind of takes care of itself and just let my athletic ability to come out. One thing I can control is being a good teammate and how hard I play.

Bevan: Has there been a point in your minor league career that you point to as a turning point for you?

Anthony: I would say from last year to this year, I can definitely see how far I’ve come as a baseball player. I can see the growth and just maturing as a baseball player. I can see a big difference from last year to this year. It’s just my mentality. I got opportunities to talk to a lot of guys during spring training and in the offseason and see how they went about their business and see how they handle certain situations. I was able to gain wisdom from those guys, guys who have played for a long time. I didn’t take that for granted. I could really tell that it just changed my whole mindset.

Bevan: Do you have any goals set for yourself this season?

Anthony: Number one is to stay healthy and also to stay confident and trust in my ability and whatever happens, happens.

Bevan: What would you say has been the biggest highlight of your career so far?

Anthony: Probably just meeting my best friend, Jonathan Davis. I think that’s been the best thing since I’ve been playing minor league ball. That’s the best thing that’s happened to me.

Bevan: In what ways do you still want to improve your game?

Anthony: In every area of my game, I want to continue to improve. I obviously haven’t reached my peak yet but I just want to improve every area whether it’s defence, offence or on the basepaths. I just feel like i still have a lot of room for improvement in all those areas.

Bevan: It’s an old story now, but you chose baseball over football. Why did you make that decision?

Anthony: In 2014, I got married so I had to make the best decision for my wife and I and my family. I started gaining a love for baseball more so I just felt like it was going to be baseball for a long time for me. I don’t know if football would have worked out, so I just took that chance and went with baseball because that’s what I felt would be the best option for me long term, for me and my family. I started enjoyed playing more once I got out of the GCL. Once I hit Lansing, I started seeing what professional baseball was really like and I thought it was fun. No regrets.

Bevan: When you get the call that you’ve been called up to the Blue Jays, who will be your first call?

Anthony: Definitely my wife, but she’s here with me. Besides her, it would probably be my mom.

Bevan: Have you ever been to Toronto and what did you think of the city?

Anthony: I have. I thought it was awesome. It’s a beautiful city, really clean. It was really cold when I went there, so I wasn’t fond of that but I thought it was really nice getting to see a different country. It was a nice experience for me.

Next: Blue Jays Interview with Bradley Jones

If you didn’t know the name Anthony Alford before, it’s time to start paying attention to the top prospect who is tearing up AA pitching. It won’t be long before he is coming to an outfield near you. Follow Alford on Twitter: @ajalfor1