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Kelly Dugan Interview

Kelly Dugan, the Phillies 2009 top pick and a guy you'll see on top 20 prospect lists this off-season, agreed to conduct an interview with The Good Phight. We spoke on the good phone and below is the conversation. My questions are in bold and Kelly's responses are below each question. Full disclosure: I had to edit some of my questions, I tend to overexplain things and get into unnecessary details and this leads to... damn I'm doing it again. Anyway, enjoy. And a huge thanks to Kelly.

Photo used with permission from Dennis Dugan
Photo used with permission from Dennis Dugan
Dennis Dugan

So I want to start off asking you about the rather famous photo of you from draft day 2009 of yourself and a room full of rather famous Mets and Yankees fans and you managed to get them all to put on Phillies hats. That's pretty memorable. What led up to that moment?

Kelly: Well, my Dad was Directing Grown-Ups (Ed. note: Kelly is the son of Dennis Dugan who old fogies like me remember from his days on the TV series Moonlighting, but most would be familiar with for directing many of Adam Sandler's movies) and I was visiting him in Boston while they were on set shooting it. All the guys were there and we heard the news. They were all on set and we decided to do a photo and, I think Kevin wore his Phillies hat backwards. He didn't want to wear it forwards because he's a big Mets fan. And Sandler Wouldn't wear the Philly hat at all. He's a big Yankees fan, but they're all cool friends of ours and they're all really supportive and it was an awesome day.

That is pretty awesome. Were you following reports closely of what was going on with the draft or were you really just focused with what was going on with the movie?

Yeah, yeah, I was plenty aware of the draft that day, but I was just spending some time with my Dad. I think it was that school had just got out so it was definitely a great day.

Had you heard from the Phillies before the draft?

Yeah, I'd worked out for them a couple times and I just had a workout at Citizens Bank and that was the last workout I did. I went to some other stadiums. I went to, like, the Yankees. I went to the Astros. Cincinnati and a couple other ones. I felt like the Philly one went really well. I met up with Pat Gillick there, who was an alumni from my High School. It was pretty cool, we got along and I think that workout went really well. I had a really good feeling about the Phillies coming out of that day.

Growing up around those guys and seeing them deal with media and everything, do you think it's helped you prepare for life as a pro athlete, especially dealing with media and being recognizable?

I think growing up and being aware of how incredibly competitive the entertainment industry is and how hard you have to work. Those guys have to work incredibly hard at comedy and getting those movies right. Like, I see it day in and day out with my Dad and Adam and all those guys how hard it is. It humbles you and really makes you think 'Well, I gotta work hard here.' No matter what situation you come from you've really gotta put it all into it.

So, which is easier comedy or baseball?

Oh, man it's not easy to say. You see it all the time athletes wanna be actors, actors wanna be athletes. I mean you really see that all the time, but I'm certainly happy with what I'm doing here. It's hard for me to say. Comedy seems like some of the most brutal, brutal hard work you can do, like stand-up. You can do comedy longer, for sure (laughs).

Your first few years in the Organization you stayed back in Extended Spring Training to work on some things, which is not at all uncommon for High School picks, then you had some injury issues over the next few years. 2013 was really your first, true full season playing. Can you talk a bit about how those first few years felt and how it felt to finally get a full productive season under your belt?

Yeah, sure. You coming out of High School, for a lot of guys there's a little bit of a learning curve. For me, I was switch hitting when I came out of High School and they really wanted me to switch hit, so I went ahead and did that. I didn't feel very comfortable doing it, but I stuck with it. The next year after Spring Training I asked them "Hey, can I just not do this anymore? I just feel more comfortable hitting Left Handed.", so I did. I think that, along with a couple of, uh, weird injuries that came from nowhere, like the knee infection, kind of held me back for a minute, you know, a bit longer. Then my first year in Williamsport I hit just left handed. Then I think I just got more and more comfortable. I feel like right now, I'm where I want to be. I have to continue to keep working hard, you know? I'm humbled by being put on the 40-man. I'm honored by that, that's an amazing opportunity for me. I'm going to keep working really, really hard at it. I think you are where you're supposed to be.

Do you think anything was a key to your success in 2013?

I've worked really hard with this guy, Reggie Smith. He's been my hitting coach the last few years. He was with the Dodgers and the Red Sox, he was an All Star, I think, a few times and maybe even close to a Hall of Famer. I've been working with him. He's right out here, where I live and working with him with hitting combined with getting in great shape with this guy, they got with the Phillies who's going to be the Major League guy this year Paul Fournier., the athletic trainer. I think it's just a lot of things have clicked physically and baseball wise, mentally. My trainer back here, Steve Zimm, who works with a lot of professional athletes and a lot of ballplayers here, that's been big for me.

A lot of people who follow prospects talk about the most difficult jump for prospects being the jump from Single-A to Double-A. How did you find the transition from Clearwater to Reading and what was the most difficult part for you?

I felt like, honestly, for the most part, I came in and I thought I was scorching balls in Double-A from right when I got up there. I was hitting the balls right at people there for a little bit. I felt overall like I was hitting the ball hard, you know, making good contact. Obviously there are different parts of the season that go up and down, but I didn't really feel like it was that much different or that much harder.

After the season you were added to the roster for the Arizona Fall League, but came down with a case of turf toe that got you taken off the roster. Had that been an ongoing issue from the regular season or something that came up going into the fall league?

There were like two games left at the end of the year and I just jammed my toe on a play in the outfield. I played through it at the end. There just wasn't enough time for it to heal 100% and get there. I needed about one or two more weeks when I got to the fall league. It's a huge opportunity so they needed to give it to another guy who could play right away. They don't have time for anything like that (the time to heal) at that point in the year. They told me "Sorry, but we're not going to let you have the time to rehab it right now." I probably could have finished part of it if they allowed me to stay, but it is what it is. I'm healthy and I'm just focused on my off-season right now and getting ready for big league camp.

What are you most looking forward to about going to big league camp? Anyone particular you're looking forward to picking the brain of?

There are a lot of great players on the Phillies; Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz. I'm definitely looking forward to playing with these guys. You know, it's always great being around great hitters. I'm really honored by the opportunity, but I'm gonna always continue to work my hardest. You know it was cool getting to play with Ryan Howard in Lakewood a little bit. I got to meet him over there. I played with Ruiz a little bit this year in Extended (Spring Training). I'm really looking forward to it.

At the end of the season does the team sit down with you and go over anything they want you to work on in the off-season?

I think they seem to have a lot of faith in me and they want you to improve on all aspects of your game. Certain things you're going to get better just playing games and other things are "Hey, we want you to be in top notch shape." Continue to work hard in the weight room. Continue to work hard on your running. Work hard on your hitting with Reggie Smith. Other than that, not a ton. Which I think is a good thing, but nobody pushes themselves harder than I do. I think they know that.

What about during the season? Do they give you specifics to work on or is it more hands-off?

Of course, you know on a game-by-game basis. The Hitting Coach Andy Tracy this year was great, he was new with the Minor Leagues. My outfield coach, I mean every single time they come out to visit, they usually come out once a month or every couple weeks and they stay for a few games. There's always things you can get better at and I think it's more specific to I'm hitting against this Pitcher and what could I have done better that At Bat against this guy. Keeping track of Pitchers and knowing their tendencies. At the higher level I think that what it comes down to.

Is there anything specific you're working on right now to improve?

Coming in I want to be in great shape, I want to be running really fast. I want my arms to be in shape. It's just the usual things to be ready every year. I set really high goals for myself every year and those are things I hope to achieve during the season. Working really hard right now to get myself in shape for the long haul, especially those months like August, September. I'm getting ready to play more of a Major League season, that's the big goal this off-season.

Three of the hottest prospect in the Phillies Org this year were you, Aaron Altherr and Maikel Franco. Of course you guys played together a lot of the last 2 years in Lakewood, Clearwater and then for you and Franco in Reading. What can you tell me about Aaron and Franco's games?

These are guys that people in Philadelphia are really gonna love. They're really hard working guys. I think Franco is a guy who is amazing. You talking with him and working with him and especially Aaron too. Working as a team together and trying to pick apart a Pitcher. You couldn't find two better teammates. Everyone goes about their business really well. I think these are guys Philadelphia is really going to like, real hard working, blue-collar guys. In Clearwater it was really fun when all three of us were there. I felt like our Offense was popping off over there. I felt like that was some of the most fun I had all year. Franco has a great arm, obviously at Third Base. And Aaron, he's big and he's fast. He can make plays on the bases and in the field and he's got pop in the bat too. And, obviously Franco has pop in his bat too, but he's a smart hitter and so's Aaron. These are guys that are going to be good for years to come.

What can we expect from Kelly Dugan going forward?

Expect to see a guy who hasn't hit his peak yet, you know, not even close. I'm gonna keep working really hard and I'm working every day out here. I'm grinding out here to get better. I think it'll be fun to play with the big boys now, that'll be cool.

Well, I think we all look forward to getting to see you and Aaron and Franco out there for the Phillies in a couple years piling up some wins.

Hey, thank you, me too (laughs).

Thanks for the Interview, Kelly.