Top Prospect Alert Interview:
Luke French -- Detroit Tigers
By Ben Lipson
After an All America prep career at Heritage High School in Littleton, Colorado, Luke French began his pro career after being selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 8th round of the 2004 draft. Since then French has become one of the team's prize left handed pitching prospects, posting an 11-8 record with a 3.72 ERA while leading West Michigan to a Midwest League championship as a 20 year old.
Top Prospect Alert is pleased to bring you an interview with Detroit Tigers pitching prospect Luke French.
TPA: When did you first realize you were a pretty good baseball player? What was your little league / youth league experience like? Was there a time when you had to decide that you were a baseball player first and scale back participation in other sports as a kid?
LF: I first started to realize I was a quite good ball player in elementary school. I had always played a year up until I got to 8th grade. Youth baseball was awesome. It was really competitive and I got a lot of good experiences and lessons out of it. The best thing about it was there were no worries. All you needed to do was what your coach told you to do, and that was it. In high school I played football, basketball, and baseball. After my freshman year I had to quit football for fall baseball, then I had to quit basketball after my sophomore year because there was not enough time for both. It kind of sucked not being able to play the other sports but after my sophomore year I knew that baseball was going be my ticket.
TPA: How influential was your family during your prep days?
LF: Wow I donít even know where to start with that. My family has been unbelievable. They have supported me every which way. Whether it be paying thousands of dollars for me to travel to play, to getting me to all the games and practices, to signing a professional contract out of high school. They always have supported my decisions in life and in baseball and have always been there for me through the good and bad times.
TPA: What was your Aflac All America game experience like?
LF: The Aflac All American was very special to me. To be recognized as one of the top players in the country was a great honor. But not only that I got to see where I stood as a baseball player. Playing against the greatest players in the country at the highest level on national t.v. was a true test for me. Being able to compete and do well showed me that I would be able to play above and beyond high school and college baseball. Also I got to meet a lot of people that I play against and see all the time in pro ball.
TPA: Why did you decide to turn pro out of high school rather than go to college at UNLV? How tough was the decision?
LF: The decision to turn pro for me was no decision at all. I knew that if I got a chance to go I was going to. I felt along with my family that I was ready both physically and mentally to turn pro and hopefully reach any little kids dream of playing in the big leagues. It had been my goal for a long time and another great honor to be able to get a chance to do something that only a small percentage of baseball players get to do.
TPA: What was draft day like for you? How did you find out you had been picked? Who were the first people you called?
LF: Draft day was very stressful actually because you really donít have any clue of whatís going on.. You hear a hundred different things from every organization so it was really hard to get and idea of when your name is actually going to get called. With my mind made up already that I wanted to play pro ball, I was just praying that my name would get called in the top 5 or 6 rounds. After the 6th round I was getting pretty stressed so I decided to go upstairs and watch a movie. About 10 to 15 minuted later I heard my family downstairs going nuts, and it was the great feeling to share that with the most important people in my life. I really didnít call people because the only people that I would have called were already with me.
TPA: What was the biggest difference between rookie league hitters and Midwest League hitters and what adjustments have you had to make to deal with those changes?
LF: The difference between the two levels is that your area to miss is smaller. In rookie ball you can get away with a lot. But I found out real quick that when you move up you have to adjust to the hitters. You have to be able to move the ball in and out, throw off speed for strikes, and when you miss your gonna get hit hard.
TPA: What was it like pitching in cold weather during the first couple months of the season at West Michigan? How did that affect you as a pitcher? What adjustments did you have to make?
LF: Pitching in cold weather is not a very big deal to me. Being from Colorado Iíve had to pitch in similar weather since I was young. The only thing cold weather can really affect for me is my grip on the ball, but its not really a big deal as long as I keep my hands warm.
TPA: What was it like pitching a no-hitter into the ninth inning against Dayton back in July? What was your approach entering the ninth inning? Was it any different than in the previous eight innings?
LF: That game was awesome, It really felt like I was in a dream. But the most important thing was that we got the win. Our whole team played awesome, they made some unbelievable plays in the field and were hitting the crap out of the ball. Nothing ever changed for me the whole game, I approach each game the same way as I did this one, go out there, throw strikes and keep my team in the game. But it was a special game to me and even more special that I got to share it with my teammates who played there butt off for me.
TPA: What's been your best memory so far as a pro?
LF: My best memory so far as a pro was winning the Midwest League title. Iíve never won a championship before so it was nice to finally get a ring. As far as off the field memory would have to be the after party after our game. It was just a blast to celebrate winning it all after a very long season.
TPA: How have you been able to handle the pressure of being thought of as one of if not the best left handed pitching prospect in the organization?
LF: You know I really donít pay attention to that stuff at all. Of course its always nice to get some recognition but I really means nothing to me. There is always someone bigger and better out there. Whether I'm a top prospect or not I'm going to continue to do the same things I've always done, which is get better, listen, learn and work hard.
TPA: What does a typical day in the off-season consist of for you? What aspect of your game are you working on the most?
LF: The off-season is pretty boring actually. Everyday is pretty much the same, a lot of sleeping, eating, working out, and hanging out with friends and family. Then the last couple months get a little more serious when you have to start throwing bullpens and get your arm in shape for spring training. The area I'm working on the most will be my breaking ball. I just need to get a better feel for it and be able to throw it consistently for strikes and just get in the best shape possible.
TPA: Did you collect baseball cards as a kid? What was it like to see yourself on a card for the first time?
LF: Iíve been collecting baseball cards for a long, long time now. Itís a great feeling to be able to add one of myself to my collection. I remember when I was a kid just dreaming that I one day I would have a baseball card of my own. It's another experience that I will never forget, and hopefully there will be more coming in the future.