Last night, I had the opportunity to speak with Tennessee Smokies infielder DJ LeMahieu following a 4-1 victory over Huntsville in which LeMahieu went 3-for-4 with an RBI. He is having a monstrous May, compiling a 14-game hit streak and bringing his average up to .351. LeMahieu has been on the Cubs' radar since his days in LSU, and his blimp on the radar is getting larger by the day. After hitting his way through Low-A and High-A, LeMahieu finds himself in Double-A surrounded by a slew of other young Cubbies looking to breakout. I would like to thank LeMahieu and the Tennessee Smokies for giving me this opportunity.
ELI: Great game tonight. What worked well for you at the plate?
DJ: Thank you. Well, [Huntsville pitcher Cody] Scarpetta pitched a great game - pitched really well. I was able to get to him a few times, but I've been seeing the ball well lately.
ELI: Yeah, you're coming off a solid April and have taken it to the next level in May. What have noticed about your game that is benefiting you early on?
DJ: I started off really well the first week or two but then I kind of ran into a slump and had to make some adjustments with my swing. We worked it out and I've been seeing the ball really well lately.
More after the jump.
ELI: Growing up, when would you say you realized you had the potential to make it to the next level?
DJ: I'd probably say high school. In high school, all I wanted to do was play college baseball at a great program and then move up to the professional level and the one day make it to the big leagues.
ELI: Did you have a favorite team growing up?
DJ: Honestly, I always liked the Cubs. They were close by and the games were always on so it was easy to follow them. Also was a Tigers fan, probably went to over 20 games a year... In general, I really like watching baseball so I could watch just about anyone.
ELI: What was it like getting drafted in 2007 by your hometown Tigers? Was there any pressure from your end to sign with them?
DJ: Not really, actually. I was really happy they selected me, especially being from Michigan, but teams knew coming in that I wanted to go play for a good program and we were asking for a lot because of that.
ELI: Going through the draft the second time, what did you learn about your first experience that helped you get through it the second time?
DJ: In high school, we all knew when the draft was close and I think we tried to impress, you know, do too much. At LSU, we were winning a lot and we were focused on winning everything. (side-note: LeMahieu appeared in two College World Series' while at LSU)
ELI: Along with that, there tons of guys on that team that have been drafted or are close to that level - guys like Jared Mitchell who is with the White Sox now. How did playing with some of the best talent in the country at a great program elevate your game?
DJ: There's tons of talent and there wasn't as much pressure on us anymore. Everyone has everyone's back, you just go out there and win and the rest takes care of itself.
ELI: Who are some of the guys you have moved through the organization with that your friends with off the field?
DJ: We have a really close knit group of guys here, but I have known - played with and against - Ryan Flaherty since Freshman year.
ELI: Did you play Vanderbilt ever?
DJ: Yeah one time... and we beat them, of course.
(In fact, both LeMahieu and Flaherty were shortstops for their respective clubs. Little did they know they would be lining up together in what is looking like a potent Smokies offense)
ELI: So if there was any position you could take on the field besides second or third, what would it be?
DJ: I don't know. I grew up playing shortstop, so maybe first base just to round it all out.
ELI: I assume you guys have started following the Bulls a little bit now?
DJ: Yeah, we have people get really into as it gets closer to the Finals.
ELI: If you had to predict how the Bulls-Heat series would finish, would you say?
DJ: Well, the people on ESPN have been saying Bulls in 7 and I'm going to have to agree with them. They match up really well but it's going to be a defensive showdown.