Larsen is happy to be back in Staten Island
In baseball, like life, it is sometimes necessary to step back in order to take two steps forward and according to a Japanese proverb lauding buoyancy, if one falls seven times, he must stand up eight. In the Staten Island Yankees 18-0 opening day rout of the Brooklyn Cyclones, first baseman Kyle Larsen certainly stood out, launching two home runs and driving in five runs.
Following a successful 2005 season with the Yankees that earned him a New York-Penn League All Star selection and promotion to extended-season Class-A, Larson struggled this year with the Charleston Riverdogs, hitting just .179 in 23 games, and was sent back to Staten Island. Disappointed but not disheartened, the 22-year-old sat with PinstripesPlus.com to discuss his baseball career and experiences.
PinstripesPlus.com: From college to the minor leagues, your batting average has fluctuated from season-to-season. You hit .342 as a freshman at the University of Washington then followed with a .280 season and went up to .344 as a junior. It dipped to .273 in your senior year but you rebounded and hit .308 for Staten Island last year. To what do you attribute that?
Kyle Larsen: I think one of my problems was that I was trying too hard to do too much. I had success and I really wanted to come out and improve and prove myself, but my swing got out of rhythm. But I definitely try to learn from my mistakes.
PinstripesPlus: You've stolen a few bases here and there, which is pretty impressive for a guy your size. They couldn't have all been errant throws by the catcher.
Larsen: I'd say that most of them must have been botched hit-and-runs. I almost never get the steal sign, but when I do get a chance I try to make the best of it.
PinstripesPlus: Did you play other sports growing up?
Larsen: I played basketball in high school.
PinstripesPlus: What position did you play?
Larsen: I was a power forward.
PinstripesPlus: In your hitting style and approach, who do you model yourself after?
Larsen: A lot of people. My swing is always changing. But being from Seattle, I always tried to hit like John Olerud when I was younger. I don't usually hit a lot of home runs but I try to hit for average, drive in runs and contribute to the team.
PinstripesPlus: What are your best and worst baseball memories thus far?
Larsen: My best memory was definitely winning the championship last year. When Reegie [Corona] got that two-out hit in the bottom of the ninth, that was the best feeling for sure. My worst experience was getting knocked out of the regional finals three years in a row in college.
PinstripesPlus: What was your college major?
PinstripesPlus: Why anthropology?
Larsen: University of Washington is a tough school and there isn't a lot of variety in the majors. That's the one that best fit me.
PinstripesPlus: You've gone from the west to the east coast and then down south to Charleston. How do the regions differ?
Larsen: It's weird because you never know where you're going to be. You can get settled in one place then you get a call and you're gone. Seattle's nothing like New York - nothing like New York. I used to think it was a big city, but then I came [to New York] and saw what one of the biggest cities in the world is like. But I love it. I really enjoyed my time here last summer. Charleston is a small town and it's real quiet, a lot like my hometown.
PinstripesPlus: You struggled at Charleston. What do you think the problem was?
Larsen: I came out the gate slow and just couldn't get a rhythm there. Before I knew it, it compounded and got worse. I think, again, I was trying too hard and put too much pressure on myself. Sometimes, it's bad luck as well. There were games when I hit the ball hard but came out with a 1-for or 0-for. You can do everything right and make an out. That's how baseball is.
PinstripesPlus: Was it a blow to your pride being sent down?
Larsen: A little bit. You don't ever want to be sent down, obviously. But now that I'm back, I'm happy to be here. I loved it last year.
PinstripesPlus: What is the biggest difference between the two levels?
Larsen: In terms of baseball, there isn't that much of a difference. You come out and do your work every day, the same as you would anywhere. The fans in the South League are great, just as they are up here. It's pretty much the same.
PinstripesPlus: What's your personality on and off the field?
Larsen: I'm real quiet. Not much of a vocal guy because I'm shy at times and I think it carries onto the field. I like to just go out and play my game. I like to have fun but I'm also pretty laidback.
PinstripesPlus: You showed last year that you can hit in this league. Now that you're back, what facets of your game will you look to further develop?
Larsen: I hope to get better at everything. There is always room for improvement. I'm not in the big leagues yet and even there, you'd still want to get better every day. I want to be better than I was last year. You never know about the numbers, but hopefully I'll have another good year.
PinstripesPlus: What's your favorite movie?
Larsen: Probably "The Big Lebowski."
PinstripesPlus: Favorite musician?
Larsen: I don't really have a favorite one. But I just bought the Three Days Grace CD so I'll go with that.
PinstripesPlus: Favorite food?
Larsen: Turkey sandwich, hands down.
PinstripesPlus: Do you have any pre-game rituals?
Larsen: Not really, but I do try to do what I do every day. I get to the park, hang all my clothes up then put on my shirt, jersey, pants then I come out and take batting practice and try to take the same number of ground balls every day.
PinstripesPlus: If you could have three dinner guests, dead or alive, who would they be?
Larsen: Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. - he was always my favorite player growing up - and probably my dad.
PinstripesPlus: Who would be cooking?
Larsen: My dad is a real good cook so we'd definitely let him do it.
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