2012 draft: Interview with Florida high school standout Avery Romero

Avery Romero's bat is making big noise, and MLB teams are taking notice. (Peter Willott/The St. Augustine Record)

Avery Romero is a 6’-1”, 195-pound shortstop from Pedro Menendez HS in Florida. He is ranked among the top-50 players in the nation by Keith Law at ESPN and has a commitment to play his college ball at the University of Florida. Aside from his talents, he is known for being extremely coachable with his strong work ethic and competitiveness. He was a member of the U18 Team Puerto Rico at the 2011 Pan Am Championships, and he also finished third at the annual Perfect Game Power Showcase held at Chase Field as a junior. I recently had a chance to bounce some questions off Avery and would like to thank him for his time and wish him the best of luck in the upcoming draft!

Some scouts say you will most likely outgrow your current position, shortstop. What do you say to those reports, and what position do you see yourself eventually playing?

I definitely love playing shortstop. It’s my favorite position to play. I want to play shortstop as long as I can, but I could see myself playing second base in the future. Ultimately, my goal is to play in the majors, and if I have to make a position change to do it, I am open to it.

You are known for having a very strong arm, one of the strongest at your position. How did you develop it?

Probably from years of being at the park, playing catch and always being around the game ever since I was little. I have three older brothers, so I’ve always been at the field. I work hard on my exercises, and I spend a lot of time making sure my shoulders and arms are in the best of shape.

Your bat is regarded as one of the best in the nation, especially the power. What part of your game have you worked on the most this season?

I love hitting the most, but this season I’ve worked on getting stronger, quick-twitch muscles. I’ve been working out to try to make my game quicker. Players at the next level are faster, so I have to keep up! That doesn’t mean I don’t work on my hitting. I still, and will always, do that. But defense is a big part of the game, and there is always room for improvement.

A lot of high school players are dead-pull hitters. You have the ability to go opposite field with prodigious power. How have you worked on that aspect of hitting, and is there anything better than an oppo home run?

I believe being able to hit to all fields is important to being a good hitter. I’ve always worked on that in the batting cage. There’s no better feeling than taking an outside pitch and driving it over the fence. In fact, my first at-bat this year, I hit an opposite-field home run. I work a lot on trying to hit the low outside pitch because that is where most pitchers try and pitch me.

I have noticed two variations to your swing. A closed-hands follow through, and an open one. Does the situation dictate each one, or is it something that happens naturally without thinking?

That’s something that happens naturally. Sometimes when I get a hold of a pitch, I let my top hand go. I don’t think about it. It just happens. I guess that is something I have been doing since I was little. Most of the time I’m trying to keep my swing the same.

The state of Florida is always a hotbed for baseball talent, especially this year. With guys like Albert Almora, Lance McCullers, Walker Weickel, among others, does the talent level give you extra motivation to keep improving your game to stay among the elite?

First of all, I’m lucky to be able to play in Florida with all this talent. I enjoy competing against the best, but I don’t compare myself to them. I’m very self-motivated and I challenge myself. I always try to be the best player I can be.

You have participated in some big events during your high school career, including the 2010 and 2011 Perfect Game Power Showcase held at Chase Field. Tell us about that experience and what you took away from it.

It was awesome to be able to play in that ballpark. There were a lot of great players. It’s always fun to try to let the ball fly. There were over a hundred hitters at the event, and I placed third my junior year. I got to meet a lot of great hitters and also great people. One of my greatest thrills was meeting Babe Ruth’s granddaughter. She was awesome. I could see in her eyes the love she has for the game. I felt we had something in common. Fans like that are what makes baseball so special.

You represented Puerto Rico at the COPABE AAA/U18 Pan Am Championships in Colombia this past Fall. What was that experience like, both playing against the best players in the world and the culture of baseball, and life, in another country?

That was an awesome experience, getting to see how baseball is played in a different place. The fans out there definitely love the game. I also had a blast meeting my teammates and practicing my Spanish! I can understand why baseball is so special in those other countries. Baseball brings everyone in the community together.

You have a commitment to the University of Florida. What was it about the university that impressed you most, and why did you decide to commit there?

I moved to Florida in 7th grade and it’s always been my number-one choice. The program speaks for itself, and the coaches do a good job of developing the players.

Is there anyone you model your game after? A comparison for people out there?

In terms of just hitting, I like watching Manny Ramirez and his two-strike approach. Even with two strikes, it seems like he’s ahead in the count. Now, I like watching Evan Longoria. It seems like he hits the ball solid every time. I also like his confidence when he’s up at bat, like he showed when he hit that home run to send the Rays to the playoffs last season.

Who has been the biggest influence in your baseball career?

My parents and my brothers. As I mentioned, we’ve always been around the game and played together. For us, the game has always been fun, not something that we had to do. We always loved going out to the park. My oldest brother Jordan is a great player, and I always learned a lot from him. We had the keys to the lights at the Little League field, and we would sometimes stay at the park until midnight laying down in the infield talking about baseball and life in general. It’s definitely a family affair for us. Both my dad and mom throw batting practice. My brother Jordan and I work the infield together. We would take turns in the middle of the infield turning double play combinations. My dad would hit the grounders and my mom would play first.

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Knowing that, in a couple of weeks, a major league team is going to select you in the draft, is it hard to stay focused these days? How do you deal with all of the draft buzz?

Right now, my season is over, so I’m focusing on working out and trying to improve. You can’t control what happens in the draft. I’m not looking at where I’m ranked or where, or even if, I will get drafted. I’m just looking forward to the next stage of my life and hope that I continue to be blessed like I have been so far.

Baseball players are known for their superstitions. Do you have any pre-game rituals or odd routines?

Not really, I just like to hit a lot before the game. We’ll hit in the field, but then I also like getting in the cage for a while and making sure my timing is right. I always try to hit at least a bucket of balls before the game. I don’t know if that is something I do because I am superstitious. If it is, it seems to work for me.

What do you like to do outside of baseball?

I like fishing, especially saltwater fishing. I live two minutes from the coast, so my brothers and I go fishing a lot. Fishing helps me relax and just enjoy the outdoors. Catching fish is almost like facing a pitcher. You never know what you are going to get.

Last question, and it’s hypothetical. If there was one person, past or present, you could have an hour with to pick his brain about the sport, who would it be?

That’s a good question. It would be great to talk to a manager like Joe Torre. He’s been around the game so long, he probably has a lot of good stories to tell, and I can probably learn a lot from him.

Thank you, Avery, for taking the time to answer my questions and good luck with the draft!

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