Honorary Citizen Aaron Bray dominated Astros County last off-season, writing a weekly series of posts for us as he prepared for his first full season in the Astros' organization. While we don't want to put that same pressure on him this off-season, he was kind enough to answer a few questions about 2010.
AC: Last time we talked to you, you were gearing up for Spring Training. How was this season - your first full one - different, and how did it meet your expectations going into 2010?
AB: Well, it was totally different compared to my first. 162 games plus spring training is a very long time. I felt like this is the hardest part in your professional career - you don't know what exactly to expect when you go into spring training or when you go into your first full season. It was a great experience and I understand how it all works now. I am already working out, because I know what it takes now physically to get through a long season. I do feel like the hardest thing to make the jump from rookie ball to full season is mentally. That's what I would say was different from my first year in Greeneville: you have to come to work each day with an attitude of wanting to get better and put yesterday behind you. I am already looking forward to going back.
AC: You got off to a slow start in April and May (.440 and .470 OPS, respectively) before absolutely lighting it up in June (.966 OPS) and finishing well down the stretch. What happened after your first 100(-ish) ABs that made everything click in June (.391/.451/.516)?
AB: Last off-season I worked on a few things with my swing. At the time I thought felt better. I found myself, come season time, changing things every day. I did not feel comfortable in the box. It wasn't that the pitching was better, it was more of a mental thing. So I worked on it by myself, and I have to also thank hitting coach Stubby Clapp - he let me venture off and figure it out on my own. He did have input, but told me the only way I would find something that works is on my own. I think he appreciated the fact that I learned on my own. I think that shows a lot of the time and effort I put in to what I am doing.
As for the problem, I felt like I had nothing into my swing. No weight, no power. I was stiff. I watched film on myself and then went on youtube and watched guys like Hamilton and Cano, guys that I can emulate. I adopted a leg kick, that I felt helped me have rhythm and a good weight transfer. So now I am still continuing to work on stuff but I have made it a lot easier to myself.
AC: What was the biggest adjustment you had to make, going from college/Greeneville in 2009 to Lexington this past season?
AB: The biggest adjustment is the traveling. In school you flew places. In Greeneville we did not travel far. Long bus rides that go all through the night and different hotels is a culture shock. You have to get yourself to adjust to sleeping on a bus, as well as eating a different places. Trying to be healthy is hard to do when you're on the road. You may only have a fast food place by your hotel. It is a different lifestyle, but like I said after you go through it once, with trial and error, you prepare yourself for the next go round.
AC: What are the types of end-of-year conversations you have with teammates, coaches and other Astros organizational guys?
AB: Most of the conversations between players as the year came to an end were about what the off season was going to be like. I still stay in contact with guys that I played with, whether it be through Call of duty, Facebook, or Twitter - we all still have a good relationship. Coaches just said work hard. They gave us some information about what we need to do in the off season to get better. Not much was said because when you're with people for seven months, especially coaches, you get a great idea of what they focused on during the season. So you take that information and work on that in the off season.
AC: What will you be working on this off-season as you prepare for 2011, and do you know where you'll be playing next year?
AB: I am going to be working on eating healthier. I want to put on some weight but maintain the little speed I have. I do want to get faster and stronger. There is always work to be done on the field, as well. I want to find a swing that makes me feel comfortable. I found that during the season, it's just time to build off that. I will also prepare myself to play wherever. Last year I played first, third and left. If I show I can hit at this level playing many positions, that will help me out. I do not have an idea of where I will be next year - I can just work hard and go to spring training ready to play.
Big thanks to Aaron for taking the time to do this, and as always, we'll try to check in with him later on in the off-season. And if you're a new citizen of Astros County, be sure to read his weekly posts last year - they give great insight into the life of a professional baseball player.