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 Minor League News & Autograph Blog Home

Top Prospect Alert - Justin Pope Interview

By Paul Gierhart

He’s not the Bishop he’s the Pope

-An interview with Cardinals Pitching Prospect Justin Pope -

July 12, 2002

Clinton, IA















2002 Peoria MWL












Career Notes: Cardinals first round selection in the June 2001 draft.

@ Central Florida in 2001 went 15-1 with a 1.68 ERA…broke Roger Clemens all-time NCAA Division I scoreless innings pitched with 38 -1/3. Went to the same high school which produced first-round pitchers

Bobby Bradley and Sean Burnett of the Pirates Wellington (FL) HS.














Lake Worth, FL



I’m finally getting round to compiling an interview with Justin Pope. I met up with Pope in Clinton, IA after successful surgery to remove a bone spur. Though he had not pitched that much in the Midwest League, thus far, Pope was in great spirits and ready to answer all my questions.

I was most interested in what he felt attributed to Wellington (FL) HS ability to produce first-round pitching draft picks Bobby Bradley, Sean Burnett and himself. Pope’s answer was simple and to the point, "…first of all coaching; It’s some of the best in the nation!"

They could go to a lot of Division I colleges and make a lot of improvements in their programs." Wellington HS Coaches Scott Benedict and Ed Bloom received high praise from Pope.

And what about the area around Wellington HS? "That area for baseball is so good…plus everyone I grew up with played baseball together from Little League up to high school, so once we got to high school we played well together…good chemistry!"

During Popes 2001 season at the University of Central Florida he was named TAC player of the year. I asked Pope how it felt to defeat three nationally ranked teams in the 2001 NCAA regional - those teams being Alabama, Stetson and South Carolina. "The TAC conference is not one of the best known conferences, so there is always the question of just how good you are. But when you play someone in the ACC or SEC and they are well known and you shut them down, it just shows you can play with anybody." And what was the best win? "…Definitely South Carolina, because it was at Columbia, SC in front of their crowd and our pitching staff was getting thin and they needed a complete from me."

Pope has been compared to Mike Hampton aggressiveness with a Turk Wendall body. Is that a far comparison? "I don’t know either guy, and I’ve only seen Wendall pitch a few times, but I’m pretty competitive."

What is your mind set for preparing for a game? Is it mostly mental? "I think a lot of it is mental and I take a lot of pride in getting mentally prepared for the game, knowing the hitters, getting the ball over for strikes and making sure of my movement in the ball. I’m kinda quiet the day I pitch, because I’m thinking in my head what I have to do to win and what it takes to keep my team in the game."

Pope entered UCF as a shortstop/pitcher with an excellent glove and a switch hitter. Was switching to pitching full time an easy transition? "Not at all…I love playing everyday, I love playing shortstop. You pitch once a week and that’s really hard on me. There’s a lot of time I’d call my parents and it would be a tear-filled phone call, because I wanted to go back to shortstop so bad…but it’s paid off now."

Has your weight lifting and larger legs contributed to your success so far? "Totally…in high school I probably weighed 159 lbs and now I weigh 192 lbs. Going to the weight room has helped me so much, helped me get so strong and helps me to throw hard." And your routine? "Lots of squats and running four times a week (two days sprints and two days distance)."

Describe your first pro season with the New Jersey Cardinals. "It was getting use to playing everyday, 70 games and throwing every fifth day. I wish my numbers could have been a little better…my ERA was good; I wish the win/lose was a little bit better but overall I was real pleased."

Your thought on being the 2001 first pick for the St. Louis Cardinals. "The Cardinals organization is one of the best in baseball. I’ve been in St. Louis a couple of times and they really love baseball. Hopefully I can make it with St. Louis."


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