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Published On: January 17th, 2005

Name: Jonny Ash
Age: 22
Date of Birth: 9/11/82
Height: 5’9 Weight: 180
Bats: L Throws: R
Position: INF
Team: Tri-City ValleyCats (Single A Affiliate Houston Astros)

When you first came to Mankato in 2002, what were you expecting both on and off the field?

Well, I was fresh off the College World Series and was still riding the high that came with it. I was expecting to play competitive ball, but as far as Minnesota, I think I had the typical stereotype that I would get there and there would be snow on the ground. But it turned out the weather was actually pretty nice. I mainly expected to play everyday and help the team win anyway that I could.

Injuries seemed to plague you throughout your college career. Why do you think that was, but more importantly, how did you continually bounce back from those injuries?

Ah, it was necessary have some type of attitude to come back from them. It was more of an "I’ll wait for my time to come and when I get the chance I will make the most of it.” I mean it was after my sophomore year, when I spent basically the year on the bench and didn’t get a start. I had to learn how to be in the game even on the bench. I had to learn the game through observation. I had been in that situation before where I couldn’t be in a game or didn’t start so I could deal with it. In Mankato, fortunately, I was injured closer to the end of the summer and I had time to recover before going back to school. Stanford is on the quarter system so we always started a little later than other schools did. But those injuries almost made me work harder because I wanted to get back on the field but knew I couldn’t take anything for granted on the field.

Do you still sprint on and off the field every inning? Why?

Yes I do. It came from my style of play. I’ve always been one of the smaller guys on my teams growing up, and have always been a down and dirty sort of player. Then, when I was in the 8th grade, a coach who wasn’t my Dad told me he liked my style and wanted to know if I could sprint on and off the field every inning. I told him I could. And I’ve been doing it ever since. I want to live up to my word and that Charlie Hustle attitude.

After a few games in pro ball this year, my coach came up to me and said he liked the hustle, but that I had to tone it down. It’s a long season and he didn’t want me getting burned out like that. So I slowed down for a few games, but then I went back to my sprints.

I heard that your first year, you had a run in with a dog on the field and that you are afraid of them, is that true?

Yeah. I’m allergic to dogs, its not that I don’t like them, I’ve just never really been around them. Then that day when I ran out on the field, this huge Cujo looking dog was running after me and I was like why isn’t he chasing the ball. I thought he was going to bite me or something but it turned out ok.

You’re from the bay area, A’s or Giants?

A’s for sure. WHY? When I was little we lived in Castro Valley (CA) it’s right next to Oakland and Tony Phillips lived in the same townhouse complex that we did. I was kind of force fed into being an A’s fan. And my Dad, who is an accountant, ended up doing Tony’s taxes and stuff so I was an A’s fan pretty much from birth.

Keeping with the Bay Area, what’s your take on the Bonds situation?

It’s unbelievable. But I’m actually not really all that shocked. It’s pretty evident something was going on. It’s kind of weird though being in minor league baseball and knowing that some of the guys I’m around were on some sort of supplementation. I’m not saying steroids for sure but some sort of supplements, be it caffeine pills or something like that. Sports in general are getting so competitive that all athletes are looking for the edge on their competitors. But not to knock anyone, I know how hard you need to work and lift in order to get bigger. I lifted a ton and know what I had to do just to gain like eight pounds, but I never took any sort of supplements.

Your first three years in college baseball, ended with a loss at the College World Series. How heart-breaking was that?

My junior year was really heartbreaking but my freshman year, it was supposedly a rebuilding year but we made it to Omaha anyway. I got there and was like "this is Omaha we made.” Looking back it’s kind of sad to know how close we actually came. Then my sophomore year, like I said really didn’t play at all, so it was more of a cheerleader experience. My junior year (2003) I really felt that by far we had the best team in the country. We had great leadership and just had it planted in our heads that we should win the National Championship. But then to flop like we did in the championship game that hurt. We had dominated teams all year and then the one game were we needed to step up or have someone step up no one could. That was heart-breaking.

Sometimes, Stanford is referred to as "The Farm” in college baseball. How do they continually produce such great talent?

It’s all with the coaches. There is only a certain type of athlete who can play at Stanford. I mean we all had to be accepted academically before we could think about sports. That alone, acts sort of like a screening process for the types of players that won’t succeed in classroom. You have to be motivated at everything you do. They have a way of getting great students and great baseball players. Plus, when there is that many good ball players you have to work even harder to stand out. The coaches know they have you for a few years and make you really work for that spot, they’re not going just give it to you. They want you to have the opportunity to develop and possibly get a chance to be drafted.
Coach (Mark) Marquess is amazing though. He’s like 57 or 58 and still throws hours of batting practice everyday. He hustles all the time and then tells us "Hey I’m an old man and I can do this so you better not complain about a sore arm or your tired, because I’m doing the same thing.” He is one of the most competitive and intense people I know.

Your sophomore year, you didn’t start a single game and then came to Mankato for the summer. When you returned to school you got the job as the starting third baseman. Was Mankato a stepping stone for you?

It was a perfect situation. I think that year I got like 25 at bats at school so I was fresh and waiting for the opportunity to play everyday. After a while of playing against the talent that was there, I built my confidence back up. I knew I could play with these guys and at this level. It made me want to take everything I was doing there and bring it back to school with me. So yes, it was perfect situation for me.

Now, you have never really been known as a power hitter but you picked a great time for your first collegiate home run: the CWS, elimination game, against a closer (Chad Cordero, now the Washington Nationals(formerly the Montreal Expos) closer) who had never given up a postseason homerun in three years, and you dreamed you were going to do that. How did that feel?

Well, every night before a big game I visualize right before I drift off to sleep. It’s something I’ve always done. I picture my self in that clutch situation getting the big hit off their best guy or making a great play. In my dream I saw myself hitting a two-run game winning homerun, but in reality it was a game tying two-run homerun. I’ll take it though.

Ben Zorbist, who was a NWL All-Star in 2003 for the Wisconsin Woodchucks is on your team in Tri-City. Do you guys ever reminisce about the NWL?

Yes a little bit. We talk about what it was like in Mankato and Wausau and how close it is to actually being minor leagues. It was exactly the same to what were doing now, except with the host family thing. But we travel for a few hours on a bus and play in these smaller towns. Places like ah, Waterloo, which is an odd place, or Duluth where there isn’t a lot else for attractions. It’s the same here in this league.

Speaking of that, how do the crowds and atmosphere in the New York Penn League compare to that with the Northwoods League?

Well the fans there were better. Where I play we didn’t draw that well. I think our park holds like 5,000 but we only drew like 2,000 a night. Some of the other places draw a lot better but our stadium never really looked full.

You know, I played in the Alaskan league after my freshman year, and the Northwoods League draws way better than that and I’ve heard from a lot of my teammates that have played out in the Cape (Cape Cod League), that there is only like a couple hundred people that show up to a game. But I think competitively the Northwoods and where I’m at right now are a lot alike.

You play for the Tri-City ValleyCats, so what are the Tri-Cities?

Ah Troy, Schenectady and Albany. I think. No I’m pretty sure, its gotta be those.

If you weren’t a baseball player, what would you be doing right now?

I don’t know. My whole life has been shaped around baseball since I was like 6. My dad played ball at Cal, and growing up I was like I’m going to play college ball at Cal. Gosh, I guess if I was just a student I would have to be in Law School right now.

Any big plans for the off season?

Well I was going to go to the Rose Bowl if Cal got in, but my parents told me tonight they didn’t so that screws up my new years plans. But I have some buddies that want to go to Vegas for New Years, I’ve never been there but it sounds like fun. I don’t know if you know this or not, but Roger Cook and I used to shower up after games and drive up to Shakopee and go to the casino there. So, I thoroughly enjoy playing cards.

How do you plan on staying fit both mentally and physically over the winter?

Well I have a pretty regimented workout plan that I stick to. The Astros gave us a weight-training book but I have a sprints coach here locally and a weight lifting guide from school I still use. I lift hard on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and run hard on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I just started two-a-days with my sprint coach this week and I’m definitely feeling it, my body is pretty taxed right now. You know, I’m always trying to get bigger and I know I can get faster but playing in the minor leagues it’s tough. Sometimes we get back from a road trip and it’s late and the only thing you can eat is fast food. You lose a lot of muscle and gain fat easy when your diet goes to crap. My goal this year is to maintain what I do to myself in the off-season.

Will you start the 2005 season with the ValleyCats or will you be up with the Lexington Legends?

Well I think I will be up with Lexington. Going to instructs (instructional leagues) this fall means that the organization thinks I can do special things. Not everyone gets to go to them and I think it means they may have plans for my future. Most of the time the teams send their best prospects to these things just to see how they do against other talent of that caliber. So I think I will start at Lexington, but maybe even Salem, who knows but where ever it is will be a good gauge for me as to what the organization may have planned.

This off-season, the league(NWL) expanded to 12 teams and a 68 game season. As a player what is your take on that?

It’s great. I think it’s a good thing. Wow, its good if you’re a real ball player cuz it doesn’t get any closer to the minor leagues than that. I know a lot of Stanford guys expect to make the postseason and that cuts down their summer league time, but with a schedule like that they can still show up late and have ample time to play and contribute. More games and more teams mean more chances for guys to play.