Around the EL: Matt LaPorta

There are many reasons to come out to Waterfront Park tonight for Game 3 of the Eastern League Championship Series.

But one of the better ones has got to be the chance to see one of the game’s elite prospects, Akron’s Matt LaPorta.

LaPorta was kind enough to give me a few minutes of his time before last night’s game rainout, and here’s how it went down…

Mike Ashmore: It’s been quite a year for you…you got traded for one of the best pitchers in baseball, you got to play in the Futures Game and the Olympics, and now you’re playing for an Eastern League Championship.  Have you had the chance to kind of step back and wrap your ahead around this season yet?

Matt LaPorta: “A little bit.  It’s been a great year, and an exciting one too.  There’s been a lot of things that have happened to me this year that probably don’t get to happen to a lot of people in baseball, and I’m very thankful for that.  I’ve been blessed.  I think after the season is done, I’ll have a chance to sit down and really reflect on the things that I’ve accomplished and some of the things that have happened to me this year.”

Ashmore: I’d imagine the Olympics are probably the freshest in your mind right now, tell me about that experience…

LaPorta: “It was a great experience.  China did a great job of hosting the Olympics.  We had a great time, and I met a lot of new people out there who are now friends.  Getting to win the bronze medal was a great experience for me.”

Ashmore: Outside of what you were trying to accomplish over there, it seemed to be one of the more discussed Olympic Games in recent years with Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps and USA Basketball and so on.  Did you get to see any other events outside of the ones you played in?

LaPorta: “I didn’t get a chance to go to too many other events.  Baseball was going on at the same time as a lot of the track and a lot of the swimming events.  But at the village, they’d always keep you updated with what was going on and show some of the highlights.  So I had the opportunity to watch those.”

Ashmore: At the Futures Game, you got to play at Yankee Stadium.  What was it like getting the chance to play there before they close it down in about a week or so?

LaPorta: “It was the first time that I’d ever been there with my dad, and he got to watch me play at Yankee Stadium.  It was the first time he’d ever been there.  It was a pretty unique experience to be able to go out there and do that.”

Ashmore: You’re considered one of the elite prospects in the game, but you were surrounded by a lot of guys who carry that same status.  Was it kind of interesting for you to get to share a clubhouse and a field with some of them and get to know them a little bit?

LaPorta: “Definitely.  It’s always a great chance when you get the opportunity to play with some of the best baseball players in the United States or in professional baseball and just get to rub shoulders with them and get to know them a little bit better.  I’m thankful.”

Ashmore: A lot of guys talk about how much of an adjustment it is between the different levels of the minor leagues, but the trade from the Brewers to the Indians sent you to a different league at the same level.  Was there any adjustments that you had to make as a result, or is it pretty much the same thing?

LaPorta: “It’s not really difficult.  Double-A is Double-A no matter where you go, probably.  The Akron Aeros did a great job of really accepting me as a teammate, and I’m really pleased with the way they treated me so far.”

Ashmore: What was it like getting thrown from one playoff race to another?

LaPorta: “It was great.  Being over in Huntsville, we were in the playoff race as well, so coming over here, it wasn’t new being in the playoff race, but I was glad to go to a team that was in the playoffs.”

Ashmore: I’m obviously not the first person to ask you about the CC Sabathia trade…but I’d be curious to know what went through your mind when you found out about being involved in a deal like that.

LaPorta: “Well, it’s just another opportunity to play for another baseball team.  It’s going to work out great.  I’m excited for the Brewers, they got such a great player in CC.  I’m excited for them to see what they do with the rest of this year.  I’m looking forward to my career as an Indian.”

Ashmore: Were any thoughts along the lines that there might be an opportunity to get to the big leagues more quickly with this organization?

LaPorta: “No.  I’ll get to the big leagues in my time and whenever the team feels there’s a need for me to be up there.”

Ashmore: Is that a sort of goal that you put a timetable on?

LaPorta: “No, there’s no set goal.  I can only take care of going out and playing hard every day and getting better every day.  The rest will fall into place.”

Ashmore: What have your thoughts been on this series so far?  We’re tied at one, and it seems like this thing could go the distance…

LaPorta: “It’s been exciting.  The Thunder have a great ball team.  You’ve just got to go out there and play hard every day and see what happens at the end of the series.”

Ashmore: With the kind of year that you’ve had, are you just kind of looking forward to getting this series over with and taking some to step back from everything for a little bit? 

LaPorta: “This is my job and this is what it entails.  I’ve got to go out there, we’ve got three more games left and then I can take a break and the season’s over.  But right now, I’ve got thre days left of business.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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