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Player Spotlight: Chris Lubanski
Friday, February 25, 2005
Chris Lubanski was part of a talented group of prep outfielders available for the 2003 draft that included number one overall pick Delmon Young, fellow first-rounders Ryan Harvey and Lastings Milledge and second-rounder Ryan Sweeney. Lubanski ended up being the second one from this group to be drafted, as he ended up going fifth overall to the Kansas City Royals, who were excited about his five-tool ability, particularly his rare combination of speed and power. He was recently named the Royals' fourth best prospect according to Baseball America after an All-Star season in the Midwest League. Lubanski is poised to open the 2005 season at the high-A level in the California League with the High Desert Mavericks, and might end up at AA Wichita at some point during the summer. Patrick Ebert is affiliated with both Perfect Game USA and Brewerfan.net, and can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With Delmon Young flashing his bat in Southern California, and both Lastings Milledge and Ryan Harvey showcasing their skills in the sunshine state year-round, Chris Lubanski did it all coming from a small town in Southeast Pennsylvania called Schwenksville. If you're good enough, teams will find you, and certainly showcase events like the ones Perfect Game host go a long way helping young players not only reach their dreams on the collegiate and professional level, but to offer a platform for young players to showcase their skills for other national programs, such as Team USA. Lubanski benefited from this as well, as his involvement and the exposure he received from Perfect Game showcases allowed him to play for Team USA. His involvement with the USA Baseball program has continued to this day, as Lubanski recently was named to the USA Baseball Board of Directors, joining fellow former USA players and current professionals Huston Street and Mark Prior.
Chris' proud father, Wally Lubanski, enjoyed and appreciated the opportunities Perfect Game USA gave his eldest son, and last year he made sure the next Lubanski in line, 14-year old Mike, attended a Perfect Game event knowing it could only help to get his name out there. While Mike Lubanski doesn't graduate from high school until 2009, he displayed his powerful bat at the Perfect Game Pennsylvania ID Camp in March 2004, and didn't look much like a seventh-grader in the front of dozens observers.
"Perfect Game puts out a great product," Wally said. "They have tons of credibility with everyone involved with amateur and professional baseball: The coaches, recruiters, families, and the players themselves."
"They have been great to Chris," Wally continued. "I get the impression that they really enjoy what they do and get a lot of satisfaction helping young players. We really value their (Perfect Game's) opinions because they have never steered us wrong. You can't get more down to earth than they are."
And there is one more Lubanski son on the way. 12-year old Joe might be too young to attend a Perfect Game event, but you can be sure to see his name on a showcase roster in the not-so-distant future.
The eldest son, Chris, remains the Lubanski to keep a watchful eye on the most at this point in time, and he was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to talk with me.
Patrick Ebert (PE): When do you report for spring training?
Chris Lubanski (CL): I report March sixth. Pitchers and catchers report a week earlier.
PE: What are some of the specific things the Royals wanted you to work on this offseason, and do you feel you have accomplished those goals?
CL: My first-step quickness on the basepaths and in the outfield. I've worked on that a lot. A lot of basic stuff, like working on the little things in my swing.
PE: Do you feel as though you've accomplished some of those goals?
CL: Definitely. My first-step quickness has improved. I figured out how to steal bases a little better. I know I need a lot more work on it, but I have a lot more confidence this year going into the season.
PE: What are some of the specific things you do to improve your first-step quickness?
CL: I do a lot of weight training, focusing on the legs more. With my legs getting stronger, my first-step quickness naturally got better. For basestealing I was working on my crossover steps.
PE: Speaking of stealing bases and your speed, you seemed to be originally drafted as a leadoff type of hitter, yet last year you were dropped down to third in the order given your power and run production potential. Do you have a preference of which spot in the order you hit in, and where do you see yourself hitting down the road?
CL: I feel comfortable in either spot. Last year my numbers showed that I hit a lot better batting third than I did leading off. Wherever the Royals feel I best fit in the organization that's where I'll play. When I got drafted I was pretty much a speed guy, but over the past year or two my power numbers have gone up because I've gotten a little bigger and stronger. I haven't forgotten about my speed game. Like I said I worked on my speed a lot this winter to get my base stealing numbers up a little bit, and I've worked on my strength as well to keep my power numbers up.
PE: What is a typical day like for you in the offseason?
CL: This year it was pretty busy. I worked out down in Tempe, Arizona at a place called Athlete's Performance. It's a big-time facility. Curt Schilling, Pat Burrell and a lot of other big-leaguers work out there. I started going there this year and went there for about 10 weeks. I would work out in the morning for about an hour and a half. That was strictly speed work and core strengthening. I'd take a break to go hit and throw for about an hour, hour and a half. I'd come right back after that and do a two-hour weightlifting program. They were pretty long days this year, but I feel like I got the most out of my ability this offseason and I'm really excited to see how it translates onto the field.
PE: What specific things do you want to work on during the season, and in what ways do you hope to accomplish these goals?
CL: I'd like to cut down on my caught stealings, not so much stealing more bases, just becoming more efficient on the basepaths. Help improve my power numbers, I'd like to hit a few more home runs. I want to go in every day and play hard and not worrying about going four for four. I think that's when I got myself in trouble last year during the first half of the season, I went into every game thinking I had to go four for four. This year I have a lot more confidence in myself in how I trained this offseason, and I feel that I can go into every game and focus on what I need to do.
PE: Do you try to approach each at-bat one-by-one now knowing it's a long season?
CL: That's the one thing that I learned probably the most from last season. If you go 0 for four in one game it really doesn't matter when you play 120 games in a season. Even if you go four for four, either way you can't let that one game judge how you go into the next day.
PE: What is a typical day like during the season?
CL: Last year I would get to the ballpark around two o'clock in the afternoon and have some early work, whether it's hitting, defense, etc. Around three o'clock the whole team would get there and we would start our regular workout where we take batting practice and do some infield and outfield fielding drills. At about five o'clock we would take a little break and eat some dinner. We're back on the field at about six, six-thirty, and you can stretch if you want to stretch, throw, hit (etc.). Seven o'clock is game time. Two or three days a week you have a lift after the game.
PE: Do you have enough time outside of your baseball commitments to do things you like to do personally?
CL: During the season it's pretty busy, but you have plenty of down time. After the game you go back to your apartment or hotel room and watch some TV or do whatever you need to do. You have all morning and early afternoon during the season to get things done.
PE: What was the biggest adjustment you had to make playing professional baseball as a player?
CL: Going in and taking it one game at a time. In high school I played well the majority of the time, so I never really had that sense of failure. I would maybe go 0 for four in a game, but it wouldn't happen two games in a row. I think that was the biggest adjustment I had to make in pro ball, because you're going to have your 0 for eights, 0 for tens, and you just have to live with it and move on. Even if you play well you can still go 0 for ten. That's the biggest adjustment I had to make, the mental adjustment.
PE: What was the biggest adjustment you had to make playing professional baseball as a person?
CL: The schedule. In high school I made my own schedule up. When you get to pro ball you have to go in and do this, you have to do the coaches' lift, the coaches' infield/outfield (etc.). You have to find time to do the things you like to do working with the team schedule. That's another thing I learned last year. In the first half I probably did a little too much by myself, and got myself a little too tired. So this year I know how to pace myself a little more and not do so much on my own baseball-wise and just to stick to the team's routine.
PE: So coming into this year with a full season under your belt you know what to expect and you know how to pace yourself better over the course of a full season?
CL: Definitely. That's one of the reasons I have more confidence going into this year, because I know what to expect. I know what the day of a minor leaguer is like, and what it takes to play well every day.
PE: How and why did you choose Florida State as your college commitment?
CL: I don't really know why, but I was always a Florida State fan. Just watching them on TV, they were in the College World Series pretty much every year, so after watching them year after year I became a big fan. They have great tradition there. When they called up and showed interest in me I knew I would go with Florida State.
PE: How serious were you on attending Florida State, and did you pretty much know all along you would go pro out of high school?
CL: My goal all along was to be drafted out of high school, but you never know. It wasn't just a backup plan. When I signed with Florida State, I was going to Florida State. The draft happened and it worked out for me, but when I signed the letter of intent it was never a plan B, at the time it was plan A.
PE: How did you become chosen for USA Baseball's Board of Directors?
CL: One day Paul Seiler (Team USA Baseball Executive Director) contacted my dad and said they wanted to get a couple of their young athletes that played for them onto their Board of Directors. I talked with them on the phone a little bit after that, but it wasn't a high-tech process. They knew the type of player and person that I am, and they knew what they wanted. They chose me, Huston Street and Mark Prior.
PE: What are some of your responsibilities being on that board?
CL: I will serve as an advisor as a player representative, and will possibly provide an occasional vote when and if needed. Basically I will act as a "goodwill ambassador," promoting and representing USA Baseball however the organization deems necessary. For me it's an honor that USA Baseball decided to pick me out of all of the players they could have picked that have played for them.
PE: What are some of the ways playing for Team USA helped you as a player and a person?
CL: Playing for Team USA and getting drafted were the two greatest moments of my baseball career so far. I played with so many great players, I picked up so much information by playing with so many players, what they would do, how they played and through the coaches I had; working hard, being a good sportsman, going out there every day and giving 100%, representing your country, your family and your friends.
PE: How did Perfect Game USA help you as a player and as a person?
CL: Perfect Game helped me out tremendously. They put me on the map when I was 15, 16 years old. It gives players like me from the Northeast, and across the country, the opportunity to show your stuff in front of college coaches and professional scouts. If it wasn't for Perfect Game, Team USA probably never would have heard of me and I probably would have ended up going to some local university. I tell young people when they ask me what they should do that they have to go to (Perfect Game) showcases. You still have to go there and perform, but Perfect Game gives you that opportunity. I can't thank Perfect Game enough for what they did for me.
PE: What were some of the difficulties you faced approaching the 2003 draft with all of the attention you were receiving?
CL: The biggest thing was having 50 scouts there watching just me my senior year. When I went to showcases and when I played for Team USA there were 50, 60 scouts in the stands, but I knew they weren't just looking at me. They were looking at all the players on the team. That was a good learning experience for me. Going to the showcases and playing for Team USA my sophomore and junior years helped prepare me for that much scrutiny and attention.
PE: Who has influenced you the most during your baseball career?
CL: I have to say my parents. Neither of them played college or professional sports, but they taught me that if I wanted to achieve my baseball goal that I would have to work hard. Really I would have to work harder than anybody else. They've told me that ever since I was a little kid when I told them I wanted to be a baseball player. They didn't tell me 'you can't do it.' They told me to be patient and that no one can put me down. They were always there supporting me regardless if I was playing poorly or playing well.
PE: In what ways with your experience can you help your younger brothers as they hone their baseball skills?
CL: Both of my little brothers play ball, and I know my little brother Mike is going to be playing showcases within the next year or two. I'm going to tell them the same thing that my parents taught me: If you play bad or you're playing well, you have to go in each day and give it your all, you always have to work harder than everyone else.
PE: Would that be the same advice you would give any young player trying to make it to where you have gotten to today?
CL: That's the number one thing I tell everyone. Not just baseball, but with anything. You have to work hard to get it, there's no easy way to achieve what you want in this life. Don't let anybody put you down, because there are going to be people out there that are going to write about you, or say things about you, and you can't worry about it. You have to deal with it and keep working hard.
PE: Thank you very much. I wish you the best of luck this season on your path to the big leagues. I hope to see you up there some day soon.
CL: I appreciate it, thank you.
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