In the 19th round of the 2018 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees selected Tennessee Tech OF Alex Junior. I had the chance to talk to Junior after he became the newest Yankee prospect.
Q: What was your reaction when you heard about getting drafted by the Yankees? I was on the phone with Marcus Evey earlier and you guys were in practice?
A: Yeah, we were in practice and initially it caught me by surprise just because I was talking to a coach and maybe another team was the focus and we just got done stretching, I just got done throwing and I was ready to start practice and my coach comes over and says ‘hey you got a phone call.’ and I said ‘okay cool’ and I was thinking it was that one team and then suddenly it was the Yankees and they said ‘hey what are you thinking right now’ and I was like ‘hey, if it’s reasonable too because I had another year of eligibility’ so he asked me what he think my number would be, I told them, he said ‘okay we’ll see about it’ and a couple minutes later, they stopped practice and they said ‘Alex Junior to the Yankees’ and it was great, I tried to call my mom and dad initially but they didn’t pick up the phone so I had to wait a little bit before that.
Q: They got to the phone though, right?
A: Yeah, they eventually got there, my mom was excited, my dad was really proud of me, I called my Aunt, she couldn’t say anything other than ‘oh my god’ and I’m still waiting to call my grandma because she was busy at the moment so I’m waiting to call her.
Q: What’s it like having another guy on Tennessee Tech in Marcus, being drafted to the same team?
A: When I heard that he went to the Yankees, I felt like my reaction for him coming along with me was better than my reaction of me going so when I heard he was going to the Yankees, I immediately sprinted down to the clubhouse, I was trying to find him and I jumped the fence and hugged him but even to go along with that, the pick after Marcus was my roommate from summer ball freshman year when I was out in Washington so there’s another guy like that, and I was like ‘man that’s crazy’ so it’s just great to see all these guys go and just good to see that I know some people in the organization too.
Q: How would you describe your work ethic and the assets you have that can help the Yankees and their minor league teams be successful?
A: I’d like to say that I’m a pretty driven guy, especially when you get me going because for the most part, I can get going anytime, I really try to drive to be the best but I just really want to try and push myself because I feel like I can play at the next level and help any organizations but I love to work, I love to grind so I’m willing to just go and grind it out and do whatever it takes to get wins.
Q: What do you think is the best asset of your game?
A: Honestly, not even to go with a skill but I feel like I bring a certain excitement to the game, I like running so anytime I’m on the base path, people say ‘I love it when you get on the base path’ so I feel like I can do damage when I’m on base, I’m a pretty smart baserunner, still have to work on stealing because I haven’t really stolen as much as I’d like, I’ve been put into a couple situations where I have guys behind me, I’m not trying to run into an out there, maybe just learning how to create a little bit more, but I feel like I bring a solid approach at the plate, continue to bring consistency with swings, just trying to piece things together and not trying to have many minor mistakes and I feel like I bring good communication on the defense, decent arm, still developing, trying to work on that but I cover a lot of range in the outfield but yeah just continuing to work on the ceiling and work on the hitting, just continuing to sharpen that up.
Q: Take me through your progression as a baseball player from High School, to college, to now in a professional setting
A: From High School to college you can easily see I was a little bit raw, I played basketball and baseball throughout High School, one year of football so you could see I was jumping around from sports, I played summer baseball and I would jump around a little bit but I mean, when I got to college, there was no more organized basketball or anything, it was just focusing on baseball so that’s when I realized how much I needed to work, I had all the potential, I just needed to put in the work to try and sharpen that up and tune up the baseball skills that I’ve had and I’ve seen a very big progression considering I was a redshirt freshman year, we had large depth in the outfield and by chance, my next year we had a spot open in center field and our centerfielder ended up not playing anymore for the rest of the season so I had to come in and step up in the center field spot and ever since then, I’ve been out there commanding the outfield a little bit and when I look back at it, I love to see it, because you love to see progress anywhere but that’s a big progress in my opinion, that’s what you want to see, you want to see good results and I feel like I’ve seen some pretty successful and good results.
Q: Do you have a pre-game routine, superstitions, etc?
A: I can’t say I had any routines, it depends on the day actually, early on in the season, I would watch my pre-game Bob Ross and people got on me and make fun of me for watching Bob Ross, it was just something that I really enjoyed but I listen to all types of music, sometimes it gets me hype if I feel like I want to get hype but sometimes I might want calmer music but I just try to focus on what I’m doing, try to make sure I’m getting loose before pre-game and just go out and do what I normally do.
Q: Does watching Bob Ross make you calm?
A: It does, it really does make me calm, my roommate in high school that I lived with in college, he’s the one that got me hooked on Bob Ross and I just feel like it’s really calming watching it, it’s really impressive too.
Q: Do you like to paint?
A: I do like to paint, I don’t know, there’s something about Bob Ross that I really enjoy.
Q: It’s probably his hair or something
A: Yeah, I like the fro, the fro’s sweet.
Q: Growing up, who was your favorite baseball player?
A: It had to be Ken Griffey Jr. and a funny story about that and not just because he had a great swing of course and one of the best swings you’ll find in baseball and he’s just a great player in general but I would like to say that my favorite thing about Ken Griffey Jr was since my last name is Junior, I thought I was related to him and I had that misconception because I didn’t understand how the Jr. stuff and all of that works but I just ended up liking him and that’s how I started following him.
Q: What big leaguer would you say you’ve tried to model your game after?
A: Ooof, that’s a tough one, I had someone talk about Jarrod Dyson from the Mariners so I feel like I really relate to him because he can get after it in the field, he’s working on his swing as well, he’s trying to improve that because he’s got all of the potential too but I feel like that’s one thing I really thought about so that’s something I guess I would say I’m very accurate too.
Q: Who was your biggest influence growing up? Any history of baseball in the family?
A: I actually have no baseball players in my family, I’m the only baseball player in my family, my family on my dad’s side, E.J. Junior, he actually played in the NFL for twelve years and his son is my cousin, they’re all big, cornfed, big football guys so they play football but I can’t really say who influenced me as a baseball player, I guess I would say my family in general, my parents and my two sisters were always there for me when I needed to play baseball, my mom was telling me a story that I used to try to throw things in the kitchen when I was younger and they’d have to tell me to stop and after we won against Ole Miss in the regionals, she came up to me and said ‘well, who knew that you throwing stuff in the kitchen would’ve been a good thing?’ so they’ve always been there for me, they’ve always supported me in everything and they always push me to keep going so they’re big to me.
Q: So throwing things in the kitchen gravitated you to playing baseball?
A: I guess so, I just always wanted to throw and ever since then, I’ve always acted like I was throwing as a kid, just can’t really stand still, but it just grabbed my attention and I fell in love with it.