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Mark Prior Interview

Paul Gierhart

I feel really fortunate to bring you an interview with one of the top pitchers in college baseball today - Mark Prior of the University of Southern California Trojans. The whole process of this interview started with a super nice gesture on Prior's part - a signed 2000 USC yearbook. I next made contact with Prior as a result of a Top Prospect Alert reader giving me Prior's web site address (Hey Mark, super site!). I E-mailed Prior to thank him for the signature and asked for an interview. Prior explained between school and practice he didn't have a lot of free time, and if I sent my questions, it may take a while for him to get back to me. I sent the questions and he advised it would take a couple of days. In the meantime, Prior's SID (Assistant Sports Information Director - Jason Pommier) advised interviews would have to go through him. Pommier explained USC's policy is that all interview requests must go through the Sports Information Office and there were limitations on Internet website interviews. I
proceeded to contact Pommier via fax. I explained Top Prospect Alert's focus was drawing attention to the top baseball talent in the country and I wrote articles for the site for fun. Pommier forwarded the questions to Prior and what followings are the answers to my interview questions. Many thanks to both Mark Prior and Jason Pommier for taking time out from their busy schedules to make this interview possible.

PG: What role does your earliest childhood baseball memories play in your present day game?

MP: I still look back to little league and pony days when things were much simpler.  I guess I try to keep things as simple as I can these days. The college game is much more complex than people think. So many plays, making sure people are picking signs from the dugout, on the field or by my actions.  The best times I had playing baseball were in all-stars in little league.  I think that was the first time I really enjoyed the competitive game of baseball.

PG: What is your earliest memory of attending a pro game?
MP: I attended the San Diego Padres games when I was younger.  I went to the 1989 World Series and the game was canceled because of the earthquake that disrupted the entire Bay Area. That was an exciting moment for my memories of pro ball.

PG: What organized baseball did you play as a child?

MP: I played the usual little league, pony and then I played on a traveling team for two summers.

PG: As a high school player at University of San Diego High what are some of your memories?
MP: I think the best memory I had was just playing the rival schools. Our biggest rival for baseball was Mission Bay and a friend of mine was their best pitcher.  We would always pitch against each other and they were always (1) run games.  Always!  I had a good record against them and they beat me in the CIF championship game though.  I was disappointed but I think it was a good thing for me.  Taught me a lot about myself and how I can handle disappointments.

PG: What position(s) did you play in high school (beside pitcher)?
MP: 1st Base

PG: Where did you showcase your baseball talent as a high school player?
MP: The only thing I did was I was invited to Team One Showcase.  I didn't pitch in Area Codes because of a sprained ankle. I was fortunate to get an invitation to this Showcase.

PG: How did it feel to be draft by the New York Yankees in the 1998 draft?
MP: I was honored.  I was never expecting it or anything like that.  I thought I might get drafted but I never thought it would be that high or by the New York Yankees of all teams.

PG: What are your thoughts on high school versus college baseball?

MP: I think high school is simpler, show up and play.  College is much more involved.  Weights in the morning in the fall, fall practice, batting practice before every game. Everyone can play.  There is no slacking off like in high school when the bottom of the lineup came up.  It is fun, basically.  I love every minute on the field.  My teammates are the best and we get along great, which I think is awesome.  We have great chemistry and respect for each other and that is what makes it much more enjoyable.

PG: In the off-season what is your training like?

MP: We have weights Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the morning.  We have a month of practice with the team and then after that it is much more individualized with our work.  You go to the field, get your work done, and then head home.

PG: What role does your family play in your baseball playing?

MP: My family has always been supportive in my baseball career.  They never look whether I do well or not or what if I turn pro or not.  They just want me to be happy whether it is playing baseball or working.  I think that has been the best thing about it.  I was never pushed and am never pushed to play baseball. I do it because I love to.

PG: Is there anything you want to share about yourself (outside of baseball) that you want people to know about you?

MP: Like to play golf and basketball (don't tell my coach that) when I have some free time.

Here are the stats on Mark Prior…

Mark Prior, RHP/1B, University of Southern California Trojans,
Sophomore, 6'-5", 220 lbs, Born September 7, 1980, Business Major
99* 4.59 4-8 13 13 1 0 82.1 107 56 42 23 71
00 3.56 10-7 23 19 1 2 136.1 126 70 54 46 150
*at Vanderbilt

In 2000 Prior led Pac-10 with 150 strikeouts in 136.1 innings and pitched to help the Trojans reach the College World Series.  Prior started USC's second game in Omaha against LSU and took a no-decision. During the College World Series Prior picked up a pair of saves and batted .242 with 4 home runs.  Prior named 2000 preseason second team All-American by Baseball America after earning second team freshman All-American honors by B.A. in '99.  In 1999 Prior tossed a complete game victory over West Virginia and had a season-high ten strikeouts against Mississippi.

1999 Team USA (National Team)
2.52 4-1 11 3 1 0 35.2 28 10 10 10 31

Prior appeared in 11 games for the Team USA and picked up a team-high four wins (tied with Heilman & Karp). Earned the National Team's first victory of the summer in a 3-1 win over Mexico in Tucson. Won a pair of games at the NBC World Series in Wichita, KS.

Prior was a 1998 All-American and All-State selection during his senior season at University of San Diego high school with a 10-5 record, 0.93 ERA and .410 batting average with 15 HR.  Was named San Diego County Player of the Year by the San Diego Union-Tribune. Prior hold school single-season records for strikeouts (110),
lowest ERA (0.93), home runs (15) and RBI (58).


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