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Jack Cust Interview
Questions Submitted by Readers

Here are the questions that were submitted to Jack Cust by our readers. His answers follow each question. Enjoy!

Question #1:
What are your earlist baseball memories and what role does it play in your game today?
From: Paul in Rock Falls, IL

Well Paul I've got a lot of memories of playing ball when I was young. I can remember when I was about 3 or 4 my dad used to take me to a tennis court and he would throw to me. I remember how much fun I had. The only problem was I didn't know if I was lefty or righty. At first I tried hitting right handed because that's what everyone else did.(at least that's what I thought) But I always had a smoother more natural swing left handed. But I didn't want to be different so I did both until I was about 11. That's when I could really tell the ball was jumping better off my bat left handed. I remember my first home run and all that stuff, but the main thing I remember about when I was young was going to Yankee Stadium. I loved that place. My Dad would bring my brothers and me. We would go early because my Dad always wanted to watch batting practice. I loved watching the guys take hacks. Especially the ones who hit bombs. But I would always watch the way Don Mattingly worked. Same routine every time. Throw with Willie Randolph, take his grounders, get his work off the tee, and then hop in the cage. I loved watching him hit off the tee. He was so intense. I guess that's one thing that I got from an early memory. Don't ever be satisfied. Go out and work hard every day. You can improve something in your game every time you step on the field. I also like to hit off the tee and play a little home run derby every once in a while during batting practice. I guess those are just things that have always excited me about the game.

Question #2:
Jack, with your high on base percentage, I was wondering if you went up to the plate looking for an area for a pitch or do you sit and wait on a certain pitch early in the count. I believe on base percentage is an easy early way to predict stardom.
From: S

When I go up to the plate I'm generally looking for a fastball I can drive. As I get ahead in the count I stick with that philosophy. I look in a certain area. As I've gotten older I've learned and have been able to
handle more pitches (meaning location). So I can drive a lot more pitches now then say 3 years ago. So obviously that lets me open my zone up. But pitchers fall into patterns a lot. So I always like to know how a certain pitcher may have worked me from at bat to at bat. A lot of times you can eliminate certain pitches or certain locations because a pitcher gets caught up in trying to throw you a lot of the same pitch in a certain location. The more pitches you can eliminate the easier hitting becomes. You only have to worry about a certain area or zone. Now if I get behind in the count I just open my zone up a little more. Obviously with two strikes you have to battle. Again, when you move up and face better pitching you're not going to be able to sit on a fastball when you are ahead in the count. You just have to stay back and stay through the ball. You can't try and do too much.

Question #3:
Many folks observe that young players today seem to be rushed to the majors faster than in the "old days." Obviously, young players want to get to the show as quickly as possible. But do you think/worry about this? Do you believe you will be truly ready by next year? What's your take on all this?
From: Paul in Bristol, NY

Well Paul obviously everyone’s dream and goal is to make it to the big leagues. And of course no one wants to be in the minors instead of the bigs. Personally, my goal since I was young was to be up in the bigs at some point when I was 21-years-old. Now I don't know if I will be up this year. But you can bet I've been working my butt off this off-season so I at least have a chance. All I can do is play my best and my hardest all the time. The decision of when I get called up is not up to me. But all I can tell you is that I'll be ready for that challenge, whether it be this year or next.

Question #4:
I read somewhere that you looked at specific zones on each pitch. That approach sounds a lot like Ted Williams' hitting style. Are you a proponent of the Williams' style of hitting? If not, who were your influences?
From: Shelby in Houston, TX

My family is definitely a baseball family. And being from a family that loves the game obviously the best hitter in the game has been mentioned quite a few times. That hitter is Ted Williams. My Dad always got all the hitting books and read them all, but I can only think of one book I've read front to back and that's Mr. Williams’--I think it was "The Science of Hitting." My grandfather loved Ted Williams and would always talk about how confident he was and how he knew he was the best and that no-one could beat him. Now I would not say that I take the same approach as Mr. Williams, but I'm sure we share some of the same beliefs on hitting. My biggest influence has always been my dad. He came up with a simple plan when I was young that will allow a hitter to hit for average and power. He listened to and read theories from all different players and coaches and formed his own little plan and checklist.

Question #5:
Many young players have difficulty with their strike zone judgment. Your minor league history thus far demonstrates a fairly high number of strikeouts, but also an enormous number of walks. To what do you attribute this unusual combination of aggression and patience?
From: Rick Whitt

Well I'd have to say the umpires. No, I'm just kidding. That's the easy way out. I think sometimes I may get too deep into counts. Other times I may miss my pitch and then not get another hitters pitch and I'm forced to swing at a good pitchers pitch. A lot of times I just try and do too much--trying to hit a bomb instead of taking what the pitcher gives me. So I get too selective looking for that pitch I can crush instead of taking a single the other way. And also some of the umps have some pitcher-friendly zones. My father always taught me to hit strikes and the importance of plate discipline. He always stressed zone hitting. It's a hard thing to pick up as you get older. The earlier you learn the better. If I swung at a ball in batting practice that wasn't a strike the next guy was jumping in. My dad didn't accept that.

Question #6:
I've never seen you play. However, a buddy of mine who saw you play in the AFL says that you remind him, in hitting style and patience at the plate, of a young Jim Thome. Which major leaguer would you compare yourself with in terms of your hitting style?
From: Brad Keller in Windsor, CT

Well Brad I couldn't tell you who I hit like. I don't really know. I don't think Thome ever really hit a lot of homers in the minors, but I'm not sure. I can tell you who my favorite players are. I always loved Mattingly and after him it was Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds. I also really get pumped up watching Manny Ramirez. He has great at bats all the time and just absolutely crushes the ball. I love the way he uses the whole field and stays through the baseball.

Question #7:
Having played with both John Patterson and Brad Penny, in your observation who will be the dominating pitcher? Is Abraham Nunez the next Manny Ramirez?
From: Daniel

Answer #7: John Patterson and Brad Penny are both going to be outstanding big league pitchers. I think both have the ability to hold down a pitching staff and be a #1 type pitcher on a World Series contender. I cannot say who is going to be more dominant. Only time will tell. As far as my man Nunie. He's got all the tools. Runs, hits, arm, and the best defensive outfielder I've ever seen. I wish you guys could have seen the stuff he did this year. He's one of my best friends and he's a class act on and off the field. As far as being the next Ramirez, I don't know. He's a better outfielder, but I think Manny is the best hitter in baseball right now. I don't think Nunie will hit for that kind of average., but he does have some juice. To me he looks like a young Vladimir Guerrero. Same body, same hose. If he reaches his potential he's going to be a very, very special player. I'm sure you guys will get a chance to see him in the bigs shortly. I just hope he doesn't rob me of any knocks.

Question #8:
Given the recent John Rocker debacle, is there an underlying problem with racism that needs to be looked into? What kind of steps has pro baseball taken to ensure harmony and sensitivity among the many cultures that play our great game professionally here in the States?
From: Chad Trampel

Answer #8: Well I can tell you that in the D-Back orginization we have no problems. Basically everyone gets along. It's like any other working place. Myself, I hang out with everyone. I'm from New Jersey and stuff like that doesn't go on around here. I don't think one incident should cause people to question baseball and its players about racism.

Question #9:
Hi, Jack. Congratulations on an excellent 1999, both in the California League and in the Arizona Fall League.

Here's my question: I've read a lot of criticism of your defensive abilities. Do you feel that it's justified? If so, do you feel like you've made much improvement defensively in the past year?

Thanks, and good luck with your career. I have a good feeling that you'll be anchoring my fantasy team within the next couple of years.
From: Rick Diamant

Thanks for all the support and your nice comments Rick. Well I'll tell it to you from the beginning. I was drafted as an outfielder by the D-Backs because Travis Lee was at first. I probably played two games in the outfield my senior year in high school. And that was with 350-foot fences and a lot smaller guys hitting the ball. When I got to the Arizona League my first year I was horrendous. Fly balls were impossible for me to judge. The sky was so high and there were no clouds. I didn't want the ball hit anywhere near me. I remember my manager, Don Wakamatsu, saying to me, "Do you think you're the only one that can hit 'em that high?" Well as I got more games under my belt I felt a lot more comfortable. This past year I felt a lot better, especially in the second half. Now the Cal League is no walk in the park for an outfielder, but I felt really comfortable in the field. I'm not going to accept being an average outfielder. I want to be good. I don't want to be someone my teammates and coaches have to hold their breath about when a fly ball is hit to left field. As far as the Fall League. I took that as an opportunity to challenge myself. The fields were a little bigger and I could try and go get some stuff. I felt it was a time when I could make an impression on some other players and coaches who have never seen me play before. I felt really good about myself when guys were saying to me, "I don't know why people bag your glove so much, you're pretty good out there." That kind of stuff makes me want to go out and work harder. Also Abraham Nunez was always there busting my butt to long toss and getting good jumps throughout the whole season. Watching a guy like him can only help.

Question #10:
Did you always dream of becoming a professional baseball player or is it something you picked up over the years? What positions did you play in high school and were you always good at baseball your whole life?
From: Jamie in Garfield Heights, OH

I've always been a good baseball player. But I was always good because I always wanted to be the best and would sacrifice and work to be the best. When I was 5, I knew I wanted to be a big leaguer. If I was the best player in my little league I wanted to be the best in the district. If I was the best in the district I wanted to be the best in the state. If I was the best in the state I wanted to be the best in the country. And so on. And I still think like that today. As far as in high school. I mostly played first base. But I also played a little third and some outfield at times.

Well I just wanted to thank everyone for writing in. I hope I gave you some of the answers you were looking for. I hope to see you all at the park someday.

Jack Cust

Thanks Jack! You really did a great job!
-The TopProspectAlert Team


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