Almost four years after leaving Coastal Carolina, former Chanticleer baseball star Taylor Motter is moving closer and closer to reaching the Major Leagues as he opens the 2015 season with the Class AAA Durham Bulls.
And with his alma mater playing right down the road Tuesday night in Chapel Hill, N.C., Motter stopped by North Carolina’s Boshamer Stadium to watch the Chants and Tar Heels.
Afterward, he took a few minutes to discuss his own career and what the future holds.
Q: You’re starting in Durham this year, you’re one level away from the big leagues, how pivotal is this season for you?
Motter: “It’s big, but I’m not going to look at it like that. I’m just going to go out like I did last year and hope to have a full, healthy season and try to help my team win.”
Q: How has the developmental process been for you these last few years? Has it been at the pace you expected or have there been any surprises in the way it’s unfolded?
Motter: “I think if you’re just an athlete, I don’t think anything goes at the pace you want it to go at. But you know, you kind of control what you can control, you sit back and let the cards fall where they fall and I’m happy with the way they’ve fallen and we’ll just see if it keeps going.”
Q: You’re coming off a huge season last year, your power really emerged. How nice was that and what brought that on?
(Motter hit .274 with a career-high 16 home runs and 61 RBIs while stealing 15 bases for Class AA Montgomery.)
Motter: “A couple years ago I went down to IMG in Bradenton, [Fla.]. They helped form my swing a little bit, so finally I think I got it under control where I know I don’t have to attack balls, jump at balls; I can stay back and let it travel a bit and hit it to all parts of the field. But the power part, it’s big. Now that they know I can drive the ball a little bit, I can steal bases, I can play anywhere, hopefully it just helps me.”
Q: It really changes your profile when you have that part of it ...
Motter: “Yeah, you add a little bit of speed, you can bunt, you can drive the ball to the gaps, you can hit the ball out of the ballpark, it’s always a good thing.”
Q: Was the transition to pro ball at first a bigger jump than you were expecting or more of a challenge at the onset?
Motter: “Honestly, I think Coastal prepared me pretty well to go play pro ball. But the transition, it’s different – you’ve got the wood bats, balls are different, pitchers pitch differently, coaches think differently. It’s definitely a different game, but I think they prepared me pretty well.”
Q: Was there a moment, a tough spot for you in these last few years where you maybe questioned something or had to overcome something to get to this point you’re at now?
Motter: “I had a few hamstring injuries. It all started actually here with Coastal, and then it just got kind of worse towards my high-A year. And then I just kind of sat back and looked at what I was doing as a player, if I was not hydrating enough, if I was doing this or that and kind of figured out how I had to take care of my body. And I think that’s the biggest thing, taking care of yourself throughout the year because it’s a long season.”
Q: Especially when you’re dominating at the college level, it’s got to be frustrating when you don’t see it all come out immediately at the next level ...
(Motter was a key cog on the Chants’ 2010 NCAA Super Regionals team, batting .336 with 12 homers, 22 doubles and 49 RBIs. As a junior in 2011, his final season at Coastal Carolina, he hit .288 with four homers, 30 RBIs and 21 stolen bases).
Motter: “When you’re playing well with a good team like we were when we were playing, it’s tough to go in and kind of not realize what you have to look forward to. But you still play as a team and you want to win ballgames and you want to advance to the next level. I always want to work for something, which is a positive.”
Q: They’ve got you playing in the outfield now, all around the infield. How did that start and where are you most comfortable now after manning shortstop in college?
Motter: “I joke with them, I’m really comfortable everywhere. There’s not one spot that I’m uncomfortable at. It’s just been a lot of work – ground balls at third, short, second, first, outfield, they put me behind the plate a couple times. It’s just been an experience and it’s fun to show up to the ballpark and do that every day.”
Q: Was it hard moving off shortstop?
Motter: “It wasn’t hard, but it was tough because [I’m] a shortstop at heart, you want to stay out there. I had good seasons here for Coastal playing short and you just want to stay there, but you may have a better track to the big leagues somewhere else so you have to be open to everything.”
Q: Coming off of last season and I read some strong comments from Rays manager Kevin Cash in spring training, you have to feel pretty good with where you’re positioned now. Have you proven to yourself that you belong and that you can make it at that level?
(According to MLB.com, Cash said this spring, “Motter’s pretty interesting, if you ask me. He’s going to get to the big leagues one way or the other because he’s versatile. He kind of has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder that’s fun to be around. The guys like him and he carries himself really well.”)
Motter: “I was really excited to see what Cash had to say. It was good, it only helps you, it boosts your confidence knowing that you can play. [But] I’m still trying to prove to everybody, you know, I still have a big chip on my shoulder. I’m still trying to prove to myself and prove to everybody that I can not only be in the big leagues but stay in the big leagues. So I’m not going to get comfortable. I don’t want to be comfortable.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318 or on Twitter @RyanYoungTSN.