With all of the high profile outfielders and major league close players in the Yankees system, it might shock you that the player in the system with the greatest power potential is a first baseman who just began his full season career in Low-A. Greg Bird, the 6-foot-3 first baseman, began his career with the Yankees as a catcher. He was moved to first base this offseason though, and as it turns out he has played this position before.
Bird began his career in 2012 by batting .337/.450/.494/.944 in 28 games in short season ball. He only hit two homeruns but his power was obvious, and was always on display in batting practice. Blessed with a large frame and a sweet left handed swing, the sky is the limit for this kid, especially in terms of power. There are few players in this organization with future 40 homerun potential, and Greg Bird is one of them. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here, but we’re talking about a guy here with an excellent hit tool, even for a first baseman.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Greg Bird last week and interview him over the phone. I came away impressed as he is a well spoken, genuinely nice kid who is as laid back as they come.
BBD: First things first, just to break the ice, what song will you be coming out to this season?
Greg Bird: Springsteen by Eric Church. I went to the Kenny concert in Tampa when Eric Church was there. I’ve always liked his music but seeing him in person really made it for me.
BBD: Is there a nickname your teammates like to call you?
GB: Bird, Birdy, Birdman, Bird dawg, anything related to Bird, you know.
BBD: What specific things did you work on this off season?
GB: From a baseball standpoint basically I just worked out, strength, conditioning, swinging. Honestly this off season I didn’t do too much baseball stuff until I got to Tampa.
BBD: What about your game has improved the most since becoming a Yankee?
GB: Definitely the consistency of it. Defensively and offensively, when you get to do something on a day in day out basis, it allows you to develop that consistency. I’ve made huge jumps as far as defense went and offense went. It really helps to do it every single day.
BBD: What’s the first thing you bought with your signing bonus?
GB: I haven’t really bought too much, just my truck, I have an F150. I also bought an Ipad, some headphones.
BBD: How is the transition to first base going, and what do you find most challenging about playing first base?
GB: Honestly a lot of people think that I’ve never play first, but I played it growing up and all through high school. It wasn’t a huge transition, but doing it every day I saw major jumps in my defensive ability and consistency in terms of fielding and throwing at my position. Being able to do it every day made me a lot better at it.
BBD: Who was your favorite athlete growing up, any sport?
GB: I would have to honestly say Brett Favre. I grew up a Packers fan and always enjoyed watching him play with my dad. From a baseball standpoint it was Mark McGwire. Early on those were probably my two favorite ones.
BBD: What’s you’re biggest strength as a player?
GB: Just professionalism. I try to go out, have a good attitude, stay consistent, work hard everyday and do the things I need to do to get ready everyday and let everything else take care of itself. Going out every day and working hard and staying consistent with that approach.
BBD: What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?
GB: I would probably say fishing. Fishing and outdoorsy stuff. In Denver there’s a lot of that around and I’ve come to appreciate that over the years. Just outdoorsy stuff, hiking, fishing, that whole deal.
BBD: What was your best moment as an athlete so far?
GB: I would say getting to go to big league camp in Spring Training. it was an honor and a blast being around those guys and I learned a lot. Being around hall of famers like Jeter and Mariano was an honor and it really was a great experience for me.
BBD: Best player you’ve played with so far in your career?
GB: Probably Bryce Harper. I played against him and with him growing. He’s all right I guess (laughs)
BBD: How do you and the other guys pass the time when you’re on the road?
GB: There’s a lot of different theories and ways on that. Everyone kinda has their own thing. I’ve been on a reading kick lately, or just hang out, talk, watch movies. A lot of the guys have been playing card games lately.
BBD: What do your hitting coaches spend the most time preaching about to you? Patience, mechanics, or just a grip it and rip it mentality? Or are they more hands off at this stage?
GB: I would say just continue my approach. Stay patient but when you get your pitch hit it and hit it well. Just to stay within myself, not try to do too much. Just do what I can do, and just to stay within myself in that approach.
BBD: Last but not least, what was it like growing up in Aurora, Colorado? What did you do for fun there?
GB: I was born in Memphis until I was ten, moved to Aurora, and lived there ever since. We’re in the city of Denver but the mountains are a short drive, and there are a lot of parks and areas you can go fish around Denver. Around my house we’ll go fish and go hiking.
So far this season Greg has batted .249/.404/.319/.723. He has one home run and 11 RBI. I expect that as he adjusts to full season baseball he is only going to get better. The power numbers should really come along as well. He has exhibited superior patience thus far in his career and already has 19 walks on the young season. If he can take that characteristic up the latter with him he will go far.
At just 20 years old, Bird has all the time in the world to make it to the bigs. It appears he carries with him the right attitude and the right approach to become a successful baseball player. He was chosen by BBD as one of the breakout candidates for 2013, and it might not be long before we all see what this kid really can do.