University of Miami baseball coach Jim Morris recently spoke with DA about his former star catcher Yasmani Grandal. The switch-hitting backstop was drafted 12th overall by the Cincinnati Reds in this year’s MLB Draft.
DA: What was it like to coach a player as talented as Yasmani?
JM: When I first saw him play, I remember saying this guy’s outstanding, and he’ll probably never go to college because he’s too good. Because he could really catch and throw, and when I saw him he really hit well that day being a switch-hitter. A prototype guy – a stocky, strong, switch-hitting catcher that can catch and throw, and that’s exactly what they’re looking for in the big leagues, and of course we are too. He’s a guy that’s very motivated and focused, that works hard everyday. He’s very goal-oriented to play in the big leagues, and to get that done, whatever time he needed to spend, he was going to spend.
DA: What was that recruiting pitch like, knowing you had a guy who already had major-league skills, to get him to play for your program?
JM: I mean we try to recruit the best players, particularly from South Florida, and hope that they’ll go to school. And he’s one of those guys that did go to school versus sign pro, and we lost five of them last night that didn’t go to school, so it works either way. But it was great to have him here. He worked hard, he really improved his value as a player. I think probably the biggest thing he improved on was his hitting while he was here. He’s always been known as a really good catch and throw guy.
DA: So you kind of had an idea he would be a first-round talent from day one?
JM: I don’t want to say that. If I was that smart, [the Reds] would have taken him in the first round and saved a lot of money. But I just thought he was a pretty special player when I saw him play in high school.
DA: What particular aspects of his hitting did he improve on?
JM: I think he improved both ways. He hit with power and average by the time he left, and you can look at his statistics and see that he made a lot of improvements while he was here.
DA: What was the experience like for you and him on draft day?
JM: We were right in the middle of the Texas A&M game [during in-state regionals]. We had a rain delay, and he’d actually found out before I did. He was out on the field so I went and saw him out on the field and congratulated him. It had to be a pretty emotional time for him to get drafted in the first round… It was actually right before the game started. It was supposed to be in the middle of the game, but we had a rain delay.
DA: And obviously his family was all there to celebrate with him?
JM: Of course. He’s a great kid that came over from Cuba, and when you leave there… you leave everything. And you come here to start a new life, and you bring whatever you have on your back to come and start over. So it’s a big process for him, his family, and everybody. It’s exciting to watch someone that’s worked so hard and is so goal-oriented and is really a good player and a good kid.
DA: What is the Reds organization getting in Yasmani Grandal?
JM: The real deal is that when you can catch and throw and hit and you’re a catcher like him, then you’ve got a chance to move pretty quick [up the ranks of the system]. There’s no question that when they took him in the first round that they expected him to move quick.
DA: I assume you will be keeping up with him and keeping in touch?
JM: Sure. It’s great for both of us, for him and the program, to have such great success.