Class-A catcher Kyle Higashioka was the youngest guy in camp this spring. He’s less than half Mariano Rivera’s age, and he only got a handful of at-bats before being reassigned to the minor league complex this afternoon. He’s a long way from New York, but how many 19-year-old kids have ever had a locker four feet from Derek Jeter? I did this Q&A several weeks ago but kept holding off on posting it. It might take a few years, but I hope you start hearing more about him down the line. Good guy with a good head on his shoulders, respectful and polite without being overwhelmed or intimidated.
When did you find out you were coming to big league camp?
Higashioka: I think I got called at the end of January. It was just really exciting. I kind of had a suspicion that I was going because the farm director, the vice president of the team, left a message on my phone rather than (assistant director of baseball operations) Eric Schmitt. When Mark Newman leaves a message on your phone, usually it’s a pretty big deal.
What’s the experience been like?
Higashioka: It’s almost like you’re playing in the big leagues. It’s like you get that taste. Once I go back, I’m just going to have even more hunger to get back here.
Have you been able to pick up anything from Jorge Posada?
Higashioka: The older guys like Posada and Rivera and Cervelli, they always help out, give us tips if we’re screwing up. They’re willing to help us out, which I think is great. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can here, and having them around is definitely great… Sometimes just hanging around practicing with all the big dogs, sometimes makes you better without even knowing it. You want to perform at their level, so you automatically elevate your game so that you can compete with them. I think this is definitely going to make me better.
What’s your background? What led you to this point?
Higashioka: I’m from Huntington Beach, California. I got drafted in the seventh round. This was actually one of the teams I really wanted to play for, and it ended up just working out. I came up and played in the GCL for three weeks or so after I signed. Last year I played in Staten Island. I thought I did alright. I could have put up some better numbers, but for the most part, I did an alright job. Getting the invite to big league camp, that was a big thing.
You’re in an organization that’s very deep at catcher. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Higashioka: I feel that we push each other. It’s not to the point where we’re really worrying about one another. We know that we just need to do our own thing and we can’t really control what happens as far as the organization goes. If one of us is going to get traded or who’s first in line, we can’t control that. We just work on making each of ourselves better every day and try to be the best player we can be.