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June 13, 2007 at 2:42 PM

12 Questions with Bubba Bell

A left-handed-hitting outfielder, Bubba Bell has skyrocketed up the prospect ranks in 2007 after a MVP-caliber season thus far. The Red Sox 39th round pick in the 2005 draft out of Nicholls State, Bubba is currently with the Lancaster JetHawks and is batting .352 with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs through June 13.

SP: Hi Bubba, thanks a bunch for taking the time to answer some questions. First question – how did you get the nickname Bubba?

Bubba: I actually got the nickname Bubba from my dad. He told me he was calling me that before I was born because he "thought it sounded like a good baseball name". I haven't ever been a huge fan of it, but it stuck, and people have an easy time remembering it.

SP: Going into the 2005 draft, where did you expect to be taken and have you been motivated at all by the round that you were taken?

Bubba: To be honest, coming from a mid major school with minimum exposure, I wasn't really sure WHAT to think about the draft. I always felt I had the ability to play at the next level, and when the opportunity came I was grateful. I feel that it's motivating if only for the simple fact that I have to work that much harder than the next guy to get the attention and recognition for doing well.

SP: You were drafted in the 39th round, and I was wondering what its like first coming into camp being a lower round guy vs. a top draft pick. Do you feel that the lower round guys really need to go the extra mile at every turn to prove themselves to the organization?

Bubba: I think that is definitely the case in your first couple of years for sure. Without a ton of money invested in you, I feel like you’re expendable, so you have to do all the little things day in and day out that other people may take for granted.

SP: In the 2005 and 2006 seasons you showed some flashes of brilliance but seemingly not a lot of consistent high level success. You also moved around a bit team-wise. Please talk about your development during your first two seasons of pro ball.

Bubba: My development has come a long way. I think the biggest part has been the mental side of the game and learning to deal with the failure that is no doubt going to come in pro ball. My first two years came with some disappointment as far as placement and playing time. With that disappointment came some lessons that I'm very glad I've learned, and in turn I feel like it's made me a better player.

SP: Congratulations on the tremendous season you are having thus far. What adjustments or changes have you made that you can attribute to your success this season? Have you changed your approached much? Any specific coaches to thank for your success?

Bubba: Thank you for the congratulations. I think the biggest adjustment I have made this year is discipline of MY strike zone. I have always known what pitches I could and couldn't handle, but haven't been able to take pitches, be it a ball or a strike, that wasn’t where I was looking. I feel like I'm doing a much better job of that this year.

SP: What areas have the team expressed they want you to improve on before getting a promotion? In what areas do you feel need improvement?

Bubba: That isn't an issue that has been brought up yet this year. I feel like the organization is happy with my performance so far this year, but haven't found the right time for a move. As far as areas that I need to improve, I guess it's a little bit of everything. You can't just stop getting better and expect to keep moving through an organization. I feel I have improved a little bit every year thus far, and by no means do I feel like I've reached my ceiling.

SP: Which OF position you feel best suits your skills? Do you prefer playing center, left, or right? How would you generally grade your arm strength and your jump on the ball?

Bubba: I feel the most comfortable in either center or right. I played those two for the most part in college, but I honestly have no problem playing at any of the three. I feel like I get very good jumps on balls which can most of the time make up for my lack of Jacoby-like speed. I feel my arm strength is definitely a plus tool.

SP: Please give us your impressions of playing in Clear Channel Stadium compared to the other California League parks and Wilmington and Greenville. Do you try to hit differently in Clear Channel to play into the wind patterns or are you simply focusing on getting a good pitch, no matter the stadium? Also, we’ve heard at least one player say “hitting at Clear Channel is like cheating.” Any truth to that?

Bubba: I think there are both advantages and disadvantages of hitting in Clear Channel. It's definitely a park that creates gaps. On the other hand, I have been guilty of trying to hit with the wind, and it did more damage than good. You can find yourself pulling off of balls and gearing up WAY too much to get a ball to pull. You have to check yourself daily. Hitting in Wilmington was very different for the simple fact that you could murder a ball and it would not go anywhere. And Greenville was more hitter friendly to the right handed hitters in my opinion. There's no denying that Clear Channel is a great park to hit in, from either side of the plate, but you still have to stay within yourself.

SP: We've heard a lot about hitting in Clear Channel Stadium, but I would be interested to hear what its like playing defense there. As we have been told, its a very large outfield with a lot of ground to cover. What changes have you made to your defensive game to combat this?

Bubba: Knowing how to play defense at Clear Channel is definitely a home field advantage that you can only learn with time. The outfield is very big, and like I said earlier, with it's size PLUS the wind, it creates huge gaps. We have found the best way to go about it is to play about seven to ten feet deeper than normal. Anything getting over your head past that is either going off the wall or out anyway. And with the ball hanging up in the air there, you can still defend against little flares or bloopers. You also have to constantly check the wind because that really comes into play as far as moving balls around.

SP: At the time I’m writing this you’re leading the California League in all three triple crown categories and Lancaster is in first place in its division. What would winning the triple crown and/or a league championship mean to you? I’m sure you’d love to get a promotion to AA, but is there any part of you at all that wants to stick around with your current teammates and win a league championship while also taking in a possible league MVP?

Bubba: To me, it's kind of a double edged sword. Of course I want to continue to move up in the organization, but at the same time, I really would like to win this half AND the league championship. The triple crown and the MVP would be great accomplishments no doubt, but you can ask any of my teammates, I am an extremely competitive person, and would rather have a ring.

SP: Michael Bowden has been the only starting pitcher to truly dominate in Lancaster. There seem to be a bunch of other pitchers in Lancaster with awesome tools who haven’t put up the best numbers. In your opinion, what is the reasoning behind this? Is it the stadium? Anything else?

Bubba: I think that the stadium weighs on these guys sub-consciously. We have a lot of really great arms that are extremely capable no matter where they throw, but after seeing some of the numbers put up by some of these Cal League hitters on top of the park we play at, I think the guys try to get a little too fine in the zone.

SP: We hear you’re one of the most popular teammates in the organization. Do you and your teammates hang out a lot off the field, and if so, what do you like to do for fun? And if you’re going out with the Lancaster bunch, who’s picking up the tab?

Bubba: I am with a great bunch of guys, and although Lancaster doesn't have a ton to offer, we like to able to cut loose with each other away from the field when the opportunity rises. We will go out and have a few drinks now and then, but we also have no problem just hanging out at the apartments we all live at. There are always the core groups of guys that you hang out with, but everyone on the team seems to get along with each other very well. As far as the guys I hang out with the most, the guy picking up the tab would definitely be Aaron Bates. The guy loves to pick up the bill.