GCL MVP, two championship rings...yeah, 19-year-old Dante Bichette, Jr. is off to an impressive start with the Yankees (Photo: Mike Ashmore)
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Dante Bichette, Jr. has been in the Yankees organization for just a few months now, and has already won a league MVP award and two championship rings. Suffice it to say, the future seems quite bright for the personable 19-year-old, who was drafted in the first round (51st overall) by New York this year.
The next in a long line of “future Yankees third basemen,” Bichette may very well jump to the front of that line sooner than you think. After posting a silly .335/.440/.507/.947 line with four home runs and 48 RBI in 52 games with the Bronx Bombers GCL affiliate and leading them to a championship, he was called up to Short Season-A Staten Island, where he appeared in two games and was shut down prior to their successful postseason.
The son of well-known former big leaguer Dante Bichette, the Yankees farmhand will likely start his 2012 season in Low-A Charleston, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think he could be calling Waterfront Park home as soon as the following year.
But for now, his professional career is just starting out, and I was fortunate enough to catch up with Bichette prior to a Staten Island game in Brooklyn. So, before he gets to the capital city, here’s an interview with the future Trenton Thunder third baseman.
Mike Ashmore: Getting selected by the Yankees in the first round, that must have been quite an experience…take me back to that day, what was that like for you?
Dante Bichette, Jr.: “I was sitting in my living room with all my family and my close friends, and we had a feeling it was going to be the Yankees. It turned out to be the way that we wanted it to go. It was the greatest feeling. I was speechless for a while.”
Ashmore: You mentioned that you thought it might be the Yankees…had they been following you for a while in high school?
Bichette: “They were good at staying under the radar and not letting me know that they were there too much. But towards the end, about a week before the draft, I knew that it was going to be either them or a couple teams.”
Ashmore: The numbers are impressive, certainly…but how would you describe your experience in the GCL this year?
Bichette: “Things were great. I had a great start to my career, I think. It was a great team to be with, with a great manager and coaches throughout the whole time there. I loved it. We ended up winning the whole thing, and I played well. My hitting started off slow, and I worked with Gonzo (Former Thunder OF Edwar Gonzalez). He’s the man. He helped me with so much stuff. Him and my dad, talking to my dad every night, that helped a lot.”
Ashmore: Was it a goal of yours to get to Staten Island at any point in the year or after the GCL season was done, or did that not really cross your mind?
Bichette: “You know, it’s not really a goal of mine to move anywhere. I’m just going to play my game, and if they think I’m ready to go, then I’m ready to move.”
Ashmore: What was it like to win a championship in your first pro season?
Bichette: “Oh, it was great. It was the greatest feeling that I’ve had on a baseball field ever. Just the feeling of knowing that you’re the last one standing out there on the field, and all the hard work that the whole team put in…coming out on top is great.
Dante Bichette in 2004 (Photo: Mike Ashmore)
Ashmore: You mentioned your dad, and I’m sure you’ve been asked 20,000 questions about him…but what kind of influence has he had on you and your career?
Bichette: “My dad and my mom, both of them, they are the greatest resources that I could ask for. My mom helps me with the mental aspect and my dad, of course, with the physical and also the mental part of hitting. Both of them just help me, and I couldn’t ask for anything more from them.”
Ashmore: People compare you to your dad all the time, I’m sure. But I’d be curious to see your take on how you think you two compare as players…
Bichette: “We’re very similar. The weaknesses that he had are the ones that I have, and the strengths…he could hit and I can hit. That’s not a bad thing to have, I’ll take that any day.”
Ashmore: You’ve played third base coming up this season, is that kind of where you project yourself to end up long term?
Bichette: “I’m working real hard at being more agile and all that and playing a good third base. If I keep progressing how I think I’ve been…the coaches don’t seem to mind putting me there, so as long as I keep working, I should be fine.
Ashmore: I haven’t seen you play yet, and the majority of the people who are going to read this probably haven’t either. If someone asked you to describe yourself as a player to someone who hasn’t seen you play, how you would do it?
Bichette: “I’d say that I’m looking to learn, really. I just started, so I’m still going to try to learn a lot. I can hit a little bit and I think that’s good, but with the other stuff, I still have a lot to work on.”
Ashmore: Just in general, what’s the transition been like coming out of high school and going to pro ball? That must have been a pretty big jump…
Bichette: “It was a big transition going to playing every day, and the better pitching and all that, a faster game. But I was ready for it, and I was looking forward to it like three years before the draft. I’m ready now.”
Ashmore: Is it difficult to stay patient in the minor leagues? Obviously, like you said, you are just starting and you do want to learn, but you also want to progress as quickly as you can as well…
Bichette: “Not really. I’m having a blast out here, and I love every single day getting up, especially now playing in front of a whole bunch of people in a fun atmosphere. I’m loving it. I’m as a patient as can be.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com