Basketball may be first in the hearts of most North Carolina natives, but baseball is the old stand-by, and I suspect will remain that way for a long time to come. Because North Carolina is a cradle of baseball, it has a rich tradition of producing some great players, and one only has to find the minor league teams that are dotted up and down the coast to know how prevalent the game is there. I was lucky enough to spend a few days down there last year, and came away impressed at how baseball is engrained in the North Carolina culture.
One of the first players I noticed this season with the Vermont Lake Monsters was outfielder Xavier Macklin. His bio indicated he had been drafted out of North Carolina A&T University, and that he was a native of Rocky Mount, a place I had previously visited. Macklin also was very impressive in batting practice, so I was determined to find out more about him.
Macklin was drafted after his junior season, in the 12th round of the 2011 MLB draft by the Oakland A’s. He was a record setting slugger with the North Carolina A&T Aggies, hitting .357 with 49 home runs and 183 RBI during his career. His home run and RBI totals are all time school bests, as is his .705 career slugging percentage. To top it off, he also made All-MEAC each of his three years in college. In looking at his collegiate resume, it is clear he made a sound decision by deciding to sign after being drafted.
I have a good feeling that the A’s got a good one when they selected Macklin. So far in 2011, he has started a little slowly, hitting .256 with 9 RBI in 32 games, but has a great swing, and you can tell how hard working he is if you get to the park early enough each day. You can see more details on his statistics thus far by going to http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?pos=OF&sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=607284.
I look forward to seeing Macklin continue to play and develop because anything is possible for a young player like him. Given the way he mashed in college, he is one hot streak away from putting everything together, which will allow him to begin his climb up the Oakland minor league chain. Stay tuned, but in the meantime read the interview I was able to conduct with him, and get to know Xavier Macklin a little bit better.
Xavier Macklin Interview:
How did you first become interested in baseball?: That’s a funny story. I used to hate baseball. But my Dad signed me up for it because he always wanted us to play sports all year round and stay out of trouble. And then the one year I told him that I didn’t want to play anymore, and he told me if I didn’t play baseball I couldn’t play any of the other sports. My favorite sport then was football. So I ended up playing it, and that year it just happened that things started clicking, and I have been playing ever since.
Since you didn’t really like baseball, does that mean you didn’t have a favorite player or team growing up?: I’ve always been a diehard Yankees fan. I always loved watching baseball, but naturally you’re not going to like doing things that you’re not good at. My favorite player was Bernie Williams.
Did you model your game after Bernie?: I don’t know. I wouldn’t say that I model it after him. I don’t even know who I would model after, I just go out there and play.
What was the draft process like?: I was told I would go between the 8th and the 12th, but the thing with the draft is you can’t really trust the projections and everything. But I was a little surprised I went that early.
What has your experience been like in the minors so far. Is the bus travel difficult?: Not really. The traveling and everything… The big thing for me was being that far away from family, where I couldn’t get home when I needed to. I’m a big family person. As far as travel and everything, and getting acclimated, and meeting new guys, and learning new pitching, that wasn’t really that tough. It was more about being away from home.