Rosales, a native of Park Ridge, Illinois, is a graduate of Maine South High School in Park Ridge. Rosales played his college baseball for Coach Fred Decker at Western Michigan University before being selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 12th round of the 2005 MLB Draft.
Rosales is known for his versatility as well as his team-first attitude, but most importantly as a baseball player that always plays hard and hustles when he is on a baseball field.
I spoke with Adam about his time in the major leagues, what he has learned, what it takes to make it to the big leagues, and more this morning. You can read our conversation below!
Patrick Flowers: Tell me a little bit about your organization, Baseball Utility, and how that came about.
Adam Rosales: I started Baseball Utility to connect with the next generation of youth baseball players, and get in touch with the “Little League Adam Rosales’”. Basically players can send me videos of them, and during my downtime in-season I can break down their swings and send them feedback, and a list of things that they are doing well, and what they should improve on and how to do so. I also have created a player check-list as well as instructional videos. It’s really cool to see the improvements that they make over time.
Working with these young players has helped me as much as it has them. It has helped keep the passion for baseball going inside me, getting back to the roots of where we all come from in baseball, so it’s been great.
We also do Sandlot Nation, which is where I basically participate in pick-up baseball games with young players at their local fields. They’re usually organized by a parent, and they’re a lot of fun as well as a good way to just get kids to appreciate playing the game of baseball.
PF: So I read on Baseball Utility’s website that you had a decision to make between attending Illinois State and Western Michigan University to play college baseball at, particularly in regards to one school offering certain things like a nice facility and nice equipment, as opposed to a fair shot at playing time that you would get at the other school. Would you tell me what went into your decision when choosing the right college for you?
AR: My decision to attend Western Michigan University really came down to Coach (Fred) Decker and the way that he made me feel. Basically I was told by Illinois State, “Adam, you have a chance to be the backup shortstop here at Illinois State.” Whereas Coach Decker told me, “I’m not making any promises Adam, but I see big things for you and your future”. I didn’t hear that from Illinois State, and that’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to continue to play ball, wherever that was going to be.
So I busted my butt at Western Michigan, and I was named the starting shortstop for my freshman season there and I got the opportunity to be a starting shortstop at a Division I school. So ultimately it was Coach Decker, and the confidence that he had in me from day one even though I was just a young high school kid with really raw talent at the time.
PF: So you chose to go to the school with lesser materialistic amenities in favor of a school with a coach that had confidence in your abilities and your future, that allowed you to entrust your future in him and his program. Coach Decker gave you the best opportunity to play, and continue to grow as a player and I feel like young players need to hear that.
So many young players become so enamored with brands, and hell-bent on playing for the Vanderbilts of the world or whatever other school happens to be the flavor of the week at that time, that they sacrifice their best interest in the process.
AR: That’s exactly right man, players need to focus on a program that will provide them with the best opportunity for them. If that program happens to be Vanderbilt, or LSU, or something like that then so be it, but don’t get lost in that idea.
I played my college ball at Western Michigan, and I’ve been in the big leagues for nine seasons because I chose to play somewhere that helped me develop and succeed.
My goal was not to play for the LSU Tigers or whatever, my goal was to play in the major leagues, and college was just a bridge to get me there, so stay focused on your ultimate goals.
PF: So you came into the league as a shortstop primarily, but you have the ability to play all over the infield. How important is it for a young player to be able to have that type of versatility defensively?
AR: Being able to play the utility role, and being able to play anywhere is what has kept me in the major leagues for so long, doing whatever is best for the team has allowed me to remain a valuable player throughout my career.
I was drafted as a shortstop, I’ve always been a shortstop, but I embrace the utility role. The problem with a lot of kids is that they can’t swallow their pride and say, “Alright you know what, the team needs me to play second base… I’ll go play second base, or if the team needs me to play third base today… I’ll do that as well. I’ll play first base or whatever you need me to do because that’s what’s best for the team.”
I was able to swallow my pride, and be aware of the situation around me and say, hey, that guy deserves to be at shortstop, he has excellent range and if I want to be there I have to find a way to keep up with him. But until then, I’ll play second base, because that’s what the team needs and that’s how I can play every day. Playing the utility role is challenging for sure, but that brings value to a team.
PF: Having been around Major League Baseball for the past nine years, what player or coach has had the largest impact on you thus far?
AR: That’s a tough question to answer because there has been so many people who have helped or influenced me so far. I believe the manager that has really helped me the most was Bob Melvin when I was in Oakland. He was totally honest with me all of the time, and allowed me to understand that I needed to have confidence in myself to succeed.
Playing with Mark Ellis in Oakland was a great experience as well. The major-leaguer that has had the most influence on me as far as how a ballplayer should carry himself, and approach the game on a daily basis, would have to be Adrian Beltre. Adrian is probably the most professional player that I’ve ever met, he really knows how to grind it out, and be a leader. He is one of the players that I respect the most, he is a great role model for other players.
PF: As a player, you are always hustling whether it be in the field, while you’re running the bases, all the way down to running on and off of the field between innings. Why is that so important for younger players, and how has it stuck with you to this point in your career?
AR: It started when I was younger, I knew that there was always going to be someone watching me, and I wanted to separate myself from the guy next to me. I wanted to be recognized as the guy that hustles on and off, the guy that hustles on walks, pretty much the guys who works hard all of the time.
That’s why I did it while I was younger, now it’s different in the sense that I want the kids who are watching me play to do the same thing. I want to show kids that it is good to do things differently than the next guy, and this is a good way to be noticed. I also do it still to keep reminding myself how much I love the game, it’s a youthful energy that reminds me why I play the game, because I love it from the heart. I always told myself that if I ever got the chance to play professional baseball that I would play that way, because in my eyes that’s the spirit of baseball.
PF: It’s very impressive that you play that way, and it’s very helpful for coaches to reinforce the theory with our players that if you play the game the right way, and you work hard all of the time, you could reach your goals one day.
As you know, it’s tough to get noticed by the right people in baseball, more so now than ever, with that aspect of the game kind of being monopolized at this point. What piece of advice do you have for a high school baseball player trying to get noticed by a college scout or college coach in the near future?
AR: The first thing that they have to understand is that it is not easy at all. The second thing would be that you always need to find somewhere to play, whether that be down the street or an hour away, you always have to find a place to play because you love the game, regardless of your ultimate goal.
One kid’s goal may be to play in the major leagues, another kid’s goal may be to just make his high school varsity team at this point. Regardless of the goal, focus on just playing the game rather than the results, you have to swallow your ego a little bit and not worry about being a major-leaguer or the starting shortstop on your varsity team as much as you should be just enjoying the process.
Enjoy working hard at becoming a better hitter, enjoy working hard at learning how to field a short hop, enjoy the process rather than the results, and that’s why you have to make sure that you have somewhere to play baseball and enjoy those things. If you’re not enjoying the process, you’re not really enjoying playing the game of baseball.
You’re not going to go very far if the only reason that you play the game of baseball is to obtain a scholarship, or put food on the table for your family as a big-leaguer, and you’re not enjoying the game, or loving the game. So the best advice I can pass down is to just enjoy the process of making your way through the game of baseball, and always make sure that you have a place to do so.
PF: Another major deterrent for baseball players of all ages, but especially for high school and college players looking to keep advancing in their playing career, is the mental side of the game. I see players struggle mentally all of the time, and often fail themselves physically because they can’t put it all together between the ears, how do you go about handling that?
AR: (Laughing) Honestly, I’m still working on that myself as a baseball player, but you know what’s funny about that? Recently I spoke with Andy Green (manager of the San Diego Padres), right after the All-Star break I was hitting about a buck-eighty-eight (.188 batting average) at the time, and I actually played with Greeny back in 2008 with the Louisville Bats.
He remembers in June of 2008 I was hitting about the same as I was this past June, so I went up to him before batting practice one day and I asked him what I did back then to get past that rough period. He said, “You know what Adam, you weren’t so hard on yourself, and you tried to focus on the fact that you always had another chance at it, you didn’t get down on yourself about the negative things and you had a short-term memory.”
He remembered that, and that’s why he is such a great manager, he has such attention to detail for his players and the game. Having a short-term memory is so important in this game, like yesterday in Miami I came up to bat with a runner on third base, the infield was in and I was trying to hit a fly ball to score the runner. I grounded out to the shortstop, and I was so upset running down the line, but I quickly remembered that my manager told me that I play better when I’m not hard on myself. So the next at bat I had a runner on second base, two outs, three-and-two count, and I was able to get the job done and drive in the runner. What it really comes down to is having confidence in yourself as a ballplayer.
PF: Give me your favorite overall part of being a major-league baseball player thus far in your career.
AR: The people who you meet in the game is probably my favorite thing about playing professional baseball, I mean Mark McGwire is our hitting coach. It’s amazing that I have had the opportunity to pick his brain about the game.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet my favorite player growing up Shawon Dunston, who now coaches for the [San Francisco] Giants. I got to meet Andre Dawson, and Mark Grace, so yeah the people who I’ve been able to meet have been the best part of playing at this level, because it really is the people of the game that make this game so special.
PF: So you’re from Park Ridge, Illinois and before moving there you lived on the north side of Chicago. I have to ask, Cubs or White Sox?
AR: Definitely the Cubs, being from the north side of the city as well as the surrounding suburbs I grew up a Cubs fan. I remember the first time I was up for an at-bat at Wrigley Field, and looking around at all of the seats that I used to sit in as a kid, looking at the big green scoreboard in center field was almost overwhelming, I felt like I wanted to pass out, it was just so surreal.
PF: Well Adam, I won’t keep you any longer, I know that you’re a busy guy but thanks for taking the time out to speak with me this morning, and good luck the rest of the season.
AR: No problem at all, thanks for reaching out to me and helping develop the next generation of youth baseball players.