Position: OF Height/Weight: 6-1, 180 Age: 24 (born March 16, 1981) Hometown: Lynwood, Ill.
2005: Began this season as the top prospect in the Detroit farm system, according to Baseball America. Currently batting .294 with 13 home runs and 59 RBI. Leads the team in RBI, runs scored (67) and stolen bases (17). Finished with a .273 batting average in May and currently hitting .325 in July. Ranks second in the International League in both extra-base hits (50) and triples (nine) and is third with 28 doubles. Has scored 67 runs, tops on the team and just out of the IL's top five.
Career: In his third full pro season after being drafted by the Tigers in the third round of the 2002 draft. Was named MVP of the New York-Penn League in 2002 after hitting .417 with three homers and 34 RBIs in 52 games for Oneonta. Was a mid-season Florida State League all-star in 2003, finishing with a .286 batting average, 11 homers, and 51 RBIs for Lakeland. Last season he was both a mid and post-season Eastern League all-star at Erie, hitting .301 with 21 homers and 94 RBIs for the SeaWolves. Also was Detroit's minor league player of the year last year. Hit .240 in nine September games for the Tigers last season. Was a college all-American at Illinois-Chicago in 2002, and his .483 batting average was the second-best mark in the country.
AT THE PLATE
Baseball player you admired growing up: Ken Griffey Jr. I collected all of his baseball cards. He's the player I saw a lot on TV, and I wanted to be like him even though I was a shortstop growing up.
Favorite college football team: That's going to be a tough one. I'm weird with the sports - I have a favorite college basketball team and a favorite pro football team, but I don't have [a favorite in college football or pro basketball]. I do follow college football, but I just love watching it in general.
If you could meet one player, dead or alive, who would it be? I'd like to talk to Michael Jordan. I grew up watching him a lot, being from Chicago. I'd talk about how great it felt to be one of the best players of his generation and of all time, and a guy who got to experience the highs of every event.
Favorite CD/song: My favorite song would be "Nuthin' But A G Thang" by Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dog. Even as old as it is, everyone gets out and dances when they hear it.
What's your walk-up music? At the beginning of the season I had, "Candy Shop" by 50 Cent and a song called, "Nolia Clap," by Juvenile. I like to change them when they get outdated, and it's about time for "Candy Shop" to go.
Favorite pizza topping: I'll say pepperoni.
Favorite city in the International League, other than Toledo: Probably Louisville. We stayed at a hotel that was two weeks old, and there's a lot of stuff that's walking distance from the hotel. Tons of stuff to eat, tons of stuff to do. I like the stadium a lot, and I got to visit the Louisville Slugger bat company.
If you were commissioner of baseball for a day, what would you do? Figure out a way to speed the games up. Everyone I talk to asks, 'Do you ever get bored playing baseball?' or 'I don't want to see a game because it takes too long.' I know they've tried a few things to try and speed it up, but somehow I'd try to cut it down from three to two or 2 1/2 hours.
Is there something in particular you'd do to speed the games up? They talk about the hitters not stepping out of the box, but pitchers get some idle time around the mound, playing the resin bag and stuff. If we get faulted for stepping out of the box, they should be faulted for stepping off the mound.
Favorite way to spend time away from the field: I contact all my friends and family back at home. A lot of people say I'm on the phone a lot, and that's because I make an effort to keep in touch with everybody at home. I like home so much, I want to be a part of it as best I can. That's the only way I can do it right now.
One of your first trips in the big leagues was to your hometown of Chicago. What was that like? That was probably the best, most stressful time of my life, if that makes sense. I got my first big-league hit, which was a dream come true. But any and everybody came out, which was great. But some people needed to realize I needed to prepare and perform well; I got a lot of phone calls to go out for breakfast or for lunch or dinner, but I needed to be at the field. I had to get 60 tickets for each game, so I had to check with each player to see who was using theirs and who wasn't. That was stressful, but it was better to have that stress than having no one who wants to see you.
Favorite sports memory: My favorite sports memory was getting the call-up [in September 2003. Very few people even get a chance to go up there and play. When [Erie] was eliminated from the Double-A playoffs, my manager, Rick Sweet, called me into his office and told me I was going up to the big leagues. I thought he was joking. I had thrown away my cleats, because I knew I would break in a new pair in the Arizona Fall League. I had to go grab them back out [of the trash] to go up to Detroit the next day.
Something nobody knows about you: I'm looking to continue my education. I had a double major of business management and marketing, and I want to pursue graduate studies in educational administration. My mother and father both teach, and my half-sister teaches at the college level. This degree would allow me to teach at the college level, and the administrative degree would help me stay involved with a university in athletic director-type work or the marketing side of a sports program. Having a chance to do both when my baseball degree winds down [would be exciting].
- John Wagner