Extended Q&A with New York Mets minor leaguers Cole Frenzel, Kevin Plawecki and Brandon Nimmo

Photo by Richard Burkhart / Savannah Morning News
Savannah (Ga.) Sand Gnats infielder Cole Frenzel, left, tags Augusta (Ga.) catcher Eric Sim for an out during a game on July 10 at Historic Grayson Stadium.

New York Mets’ 2011 seventh-round pick and Dickinson High graduate Cole Frenzel helped the 2013 Savannah (Ga.) Sand Gnats win the South Atlantic League championship.

For the complete story on Frenzel and the 2013 season: http://www.thedickinsonpress.com/content/winning-savannah-frenzel-sand-gnats-claim-south-atlantic-league-championship

Extended Q&A with New York Mets’ minor league infielder Frenzel. During the 119 games Frenzel played this season, he finished with a .235 average with 24 doubles, seven home runs, 60 RBIs and 51 runs scored. As an infielder, Frenzel split time between first and third base.

McGregor: “What was it like having Frank Viola — a 15-year major leaguer, three time All-Star, the 1988 AL Cy Young Award winner and won named the 1987 World Series MVP and World Series title with the Minnesota Twins — as a coach for the third straight season?”

Frenzel: “He’s just a big kid. He has such a good mindset and I think that’s why he’s so successful, because he’s so easy going and positive. He’s out there to have fun and in the game of baseball you have to have fun. I know it’s a job and you work hard every day, but sometimes you forget you are still playing a kid’s game. You get paid to do what you did when you were eight years old. He’s been there, he knows and he does a great job of just explaining things to us. I think pretty soon he’s going to be moving up the ranks. That’s what he wants to do, because I know he wants to move up to the big leagues and be a big-league pitching coach, but he has to go through the minors of coaching too. But, he’s been playing baseball for the last 20 or 30 years, so he’s been in a clubhouse and he knows how it goes. If you ever have a question, you ask Frank. He’s got some great stories and pretty much every professional game I’ve played in except for about 20, he’s been there. He’s a good man and I’ve learned a lot from Frank. It’s been a blessing to have him in your life to teach you things. It’s not every day you come across someone like that. I think that’s why our pitching did so well, because he worked with them so much.”

McGregor: “What was it like building chemistry with the Sand Gnats roster, which more or less didn’t change throughout the season?”

Frenzel: “For us as a team, we were together for 150 days. You are around the guys every day. Every day you see the same guys and we had no problems in the clubhouse. We all got along great. We were all always hanging out as a bunch and that’s a big part of team chemistry and winning championships. Most of the championship teams, the team gets along really well. There’s no one person that’s a cancer. Everyone comes together, polices each other and we had a great group of guys. The organization did a great job of keeping us on task. We had a great coaching staff. (Manager Luis) Rojas — his brother is Moises Alou, they have different last names — was great, our hitting coach (Joel Fuentes) was there and Frank was right in the middle of things, which I think helped us out a lot. It kept us focused. When (Viola) speaks, the things he would say you listened because he’s been there and when he talks about it you visualize it. He does a good job with us and it has been a blessing to play for him.”

McGregor: “After playing the first full season with over 100 games, were there days that were tiresome?”

Frenzel: “Oh yeah. I went to spring training on February 1st, so from then until September 15th, we played baseball every day. That’s like 8 1/2 months. I think it was about when August 3rd rolled around and I think I had already played about 100 games at that point and my body was tired. Everybody’s was. In August, you have to grind through it. I remember waking up that entire week and thinking ‘Gosh, I am tired. Holy cow.’ But that’s just part of the grind and everybody has to do it. Those big leaguers play more games than us. It’s part of learning the game and maturing as a player. That week was really the only part I remember thinking that I was tired. Other than that, it was good. I felt pretty good with my conditioning — that’s when your offseason work starts to kick in. That first three months of season you feel great, because you are still in good shape, but your body starts to wear down from 18-hour bus rides through the night. You sleep on the bus doubled up next to somebody, but it was a lot of fun. It’s been a great experience so far. I’ve met a lot of good players.”

McGregor: “Did the tiresome go away as the postseason was right around the corner?”

Frenzel: “About that last week of the season everyone started to get a little anxious, because we already knew we were in. Once those playoffs started, we were ready to go. We were fired up and we’ve been waiting for second season (to get over) to get this going. We had some ups and downs in the second half where we lost focus for a little bit, but came back up as a team. We had a good pitching staff lined up, we were ready to play defense, we scored runs, scratched runs across and we played good baseball. Gosh it was fun, it was a lot of fun. There are not a lot of people that get to play in the minor league playoffs, let alone win it. It’s a great experience and something I’ll never forget.”

McGregor: “Though it is easy to look at the big picture of getting to the big leagues, how important is it to focus on the smaller tasks at hand?”

Frenzel: “The little things even when it goes back as far as playing tee ball. The things you forget about. I’ve learned so much about this game it’s crazy. Some things you learn you take for granted, whether it be college, high school or someone playing with you or vice versa…It’s the little things that make the difference in having success. It’s also continuing to develop, mature and learn things. I learn something new in the game every day. All you can do is work hard, play hard and have fun. Hopefully, you can continually move up, because that’s you ultimate goal is to get to the big leagues. That’s why you sign a professional contract.”

McGregor: “What is like getting the reception from the city of Dickinson?”

Frenzel: “I get letters from people and I love it when I get fan mail, especially when it is from people in Dickinson or North Dakota, because this is where I grew up. Those are people I get to see and talk to. It’s been unbelievable with how much support I’ve had from the city of Dickinson alone and even the state. It’s crazy. People will send my parents good lucks. There are more people following me than I realize. It’s really awesome to know that people care and they are rooting for you. That’s an inspiration and that keeps you motivated. It really keeps you motivated when people send you texts saying ‘Hey good job man.’ ‘Happy to see you are doing well.’ ‘I’ve been following you guys and I hope that you win it.’ That’s awesome. I enjoy it a lot, I really do. To know that the town supports you like that, that people care, it’s huge motivation. It makes you feel good that people care. It makes you want to feel working and eventually make it.”

McGregor: “What is the support of your parents like?”

Frenzel: “I couldn’t even describe how thankful I am for my parents to come watch me throughout college, pro ball, high school — I don’t think they’ve ever missed a state tournament growing up. Even my grandparents have been to all of those as far as baseball and football playoffs, WDA hockey playoffs. Whatever it was, they were always there, which has been awesome. For them to be able to enjoy it and experience with me is awesome. For your family members to come and experience what you are doing every day and enjoy it is a great feeling. The game of baseball has let me see almost all of the United States. I’ve seen the whole West Coast playing in the PAC-10. I’ve seen the whole New York area playing in the (New York)-Penn League. In the (South Atlantic League), we go from Georgia all the way up to New Jersey. I’ve played in Florida and in Texas during regionals in college. I’ve been able to play baseball everywhere and be able to see all these towns and cities. It’s truly been a blessing to do that. I’ve just been doing that playing baseball. I’m not taking vacations where I have to pay money out of my pocket. They are taking us to go and play. For my parents to come and experience things like that with me, I’m really thankful for that. My dad has been a huge influence on my life. My mom is always the positive one, whether it is going good or bad it’s the same message. Without my parents, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. They’ve raised me, with the all city and the support, I don’t think I’d be where I am today without their support.”

McGregor: “What is it like being able to play baseball for a living?”

Frenzel: “It has been a blessing to be able to do what I wanted to do since I was a kid. Not a lot of people get to do it. Everyone wants to play baseball when they are little. One day you realize you can and I’ve been really lucky. Even some players I’ve played with like Ben Herauf (Frenzel and Herauf played together through high school and American Legion baseball seasons). He’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with growing up and still to this day and he really didn’t get a chance to play pro ball. That’s when you realize how lucky you are. You appreciate it.”

Extended Q&A with New York Mets’ minor league catcher and 2012 first-round draft pick Kevin Plawecki. Midway through the season, Plawecki was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets, which is the Mets’ Class A Advance minor league affiliate. During his time on the Sand Gnats, Plawecki batted .314 with four doubles, six home runs, 43 RBIs and scored 35 runs. Plawecki is the Mets’ No. 10-ranked minor league prospect.

McGregor: “What was it like being able to play with Cole?”

Plawecki: “It’s amazing. What’s great about Cole is the type of person he is. He’s just a great guy to be around — not only on the baseball field, but as a friend and teammate in the locker room. It’s nice to be surrounded by guys like him. That definitely makes going to the job a lot easier and more enjoyable.”

McGregor: “What was it like working with Cole day-to-day between workouts, practice, games and days off?”

Plawecki: “He’s a very a hard worker just like everybody else. He is very strict with his routine day-in and day-out. I kind of joked with him every day about how routine he was, but some guys are like that and that’s the kind of guy that he is. Off the field, he’s just a good guy. He got me into some fishing during spring training when we lived together and then when we lived together in Savannah as well. I’m not much a fisherman myself, but he got me into a little bit of that. He’s trying to get me out to North Dakota to do a little hunting, but I don’t think I have the patience for that. He’s just a fun guy to be around and we are really good buddies.”

McGregor: “What is your plan during the offseason and what is hope for the upcoming season?

Plawecki: “I just want to stay healthy, work out, stay in shape and go into spring training in the best shape that you can be. Because once the season gets going it wears on your body pretty good.”

Extended Q&A with New York Mets’ minor league centerfielder and 2011 first-round draft pick Brandon Nimmo. During his 110 games with the San Gnats, Nimmo batted .273 with 16 doubles, six triples, two home runs, 40 RBIs and scored 62 runs. Nimmo is the Mets’ No. 5-ranked minor league prospect.

McGregor: “What was it like winning the SAL championship?”

Nimmo: “Those last two or three weeks of the season you could kind of see us getting hot again and starting to figure out what we were doing. I’ve never been on a team that had got hot at the end of the season. When I saw that happening, I thought this is a new experience for me and we could be able to win this thing. A lot of things came together for us to win that. We had amazing pitching, amazing defense — a lot of guys making plays — and we had a lot of clutch two-out hitting with runners in scoring position. That’s really the big key to our success in the postseason.”

McGregor: “After winning the first half of the season, was everyone ready for the playoffs?”

Nimmo: “The second half was more about putting different people in different positions and really figuring out what everybody was capable of and what everyone could do. Since we had already made the playoffs, it was about can you handle this adversity and can you handle what is coming up.”

McGregor: “When you went to the Futures Games did you fly up to New York or did you take one those long grueling 13-hour bus rides?”

Nimmo with a laugh: “We flew up there. You are treated like a big leaguer in every sense. No bus rides.”

McGregor: “What the hope for next season?”

Nimmo: “I’m not trying to look too far into the future, but hopefully start off in (Class A Advanced) and we’ll see where that leads. I’m going to try and stay healthy — 50 percent of the battle is staying healthy. If you can just stay healthy, that’s going to be a successful year too.”

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