LB: Where are you currently?
JB: I?m at spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona. It?s absolutely gorgeous, 85 degrees and sunny. I heard that back home in Kansas, they got eight to ten inches of snow a little while ago?I don?t miss that! I?m getting spoiled out here.
LB: How?s spring training going right now?
JB: It?s been going really well. I?m really busy?there?s lots to do!
LB: What?s a typical day like during spring training?
JB: Well, I get up around seven in the morning, eat some breakfast and then head out to the park. We stretch at 9 AM and then do a full practice. Then, we usually have an afternoon game against another minor league team. Today?s game was a little rough. (Laughs.) It wasn?t the best, but you deal with it and move on.
LB: What were you up to this past off-season?
JB: I actually had surgery on my left shoulder at the end of September last year. I hurt it diving for a ball in the outfield. So, I did some rehab for my torn labrum. It?s doing really well now ? it?s at 100%!
LB: What do you hope to achieve this summer?
JB: I just hope to have a good season and then see where it takes me. I?ll be with the Kane County Cougars. It?s a long season A-ball team for the Oakland A?s.
LB: I interviewed Ryan Ruiz of the Kane Country Cougars a few weeks ago. He used to play for the Mallards as well, in 2001.
JB: (Pause.) Ryan Ruiz? He used to play for the Mallards?! Wow. That?s funny.
LB: How have you enjoyed your minor-league experience?
JB: It?s been absolutely awesome! It?s been all that I hoped. I?ve been really blessed because I?ve met a lot of great guys?guys that I know will be friends for life.
LB: What do you enjoy the least?
JB: Overall?everything?s pretty good. I can?t say anything, really. The bus rides do get a little long, but you have to try to be positive. It?s all part of the experience.
LB: Have you had any experiences of playing with or against some notable players?
JB: Actually, this is a funny story. I had to get a physical the other day and the team (Oakland A?s) sends all of the players to the same complex to get checked out, no matter what level ball we are. So, you know that the A?s acquired Frank Thomas? Well, I walk into the room, and there?s Frank Thomas standing there. I talked to him a little bit and it was great ?he was an idol of mine! He?s an enormous man. (Laughs.)
LB: How do you think your experience in the NWL and Madison helped you get to where you are today?
JB: Playing in Madison was unbelievable. The fans made it that way. They know baseball and they loved to cheer us on. So many fans would show up for the games, it was crazy. I remember Vern (GM), Conor (Assistant GM) and all those guys as well. They?re what keeps that place going. The Mallards wouldn?t be what they are without Vern. He?s an unbelievable guy, working like 80 hours a week and always so supportive of the players. Playing in Madison was a wonderful experience.
LB: What is your most memorable experience on-field in Madison?
JB: Winning the championship was unbelievable and definitely the highlight of the year. People came out in droves to watch us play. They know and love their baseball in Madison, it was great!
LB: What is your most memorable experience off-field in Madison?
JB: You know, I don?t really have one. I was really blessed with just being able to experience everything that I did.
LB: What did you do for fun in Madison?
JB: Well, one day we went to the Kalahari?is that what it?s called? Anyway, we went to a water park ? that was lots of fun. Other than that, we didn?t really have a ton of free time to do many things. We just hung out a lot.
LB: Who was your favorite childhood team or player growing up?
JB: I?m going to have to say Frank Thomas. I?ve followed him for a long time, and that was why it was so awesome to actually meet him and talk to him.
LB: Do you still keep in touch with any of your former Mallards teammates?
JB: Well, not really. I mean, I played against guys like John Martin and Matt Petty back in college, so we?d catch up a little then. But, everyone?s so busy. It?s hard to keep in touch!
LB: Madison Mallards fans are going to be reading this. Is there anything you?d like to say to them?
JB: Thanks for coming out to the ballpark! The fans are what keep the Mallards baseball club ticking. They give such great support of the team. I had a wonderful experience in Madison.