Reggie Pruitt posted a .357 on-base percentage over 103 at-bats when he led off an inning for the Vancouver Canadians in 2017.
The man who scored the winning run in the clinching game of the Northwest League final stops by in this instalment of C’s Chat. I had the chance to speak with Vancouver Canadians center fielder Reggie Pruitt before the season started at the team’s Media Day and the 20 year-old from Kennesaw, Georgia graciously donated his time to chat with me once again to look back on 2017.
We began by talking about Game 4 of the Northwest League final against the Eugene Emeralds at Nat Bailey Stadium and things were not looking good for the home side early on. Emeralds starter Jose Albertos had shut the C’s down over the first four innings with an overpowering fastball that reached 98 miles per hour. The 18 year-old righty—the Chicago Cubs’ #3 prospect according to Baseball America had issued four walks but did not give up a hit. With a 1-0 lead, the 18 year-old Albertos was trying to get through the fifth inning and retired the first hitter he faced. However, a four-pitch walk to number-nine hitter Deiferson Barreto helped open the door for a comeback.
That brought the right-handed hitting Pruitt to the plate and he talked about his game plan for that at-bat.
“I knew when (Eugene) had scored that run early and we were down, I guess it wasn’t too late in the game but I knew we had to pick something up, we had to manufacture a run. When Barreto got that walk, I was like ‘Alright! This is the time! One out, we can do this! We can do this right here!’
So I got up there and I was talking to Dave Pano, our hitting coach and (Albertos) was running it up there pretty hard. There’s not much you can do but try and get his fastball and sit on his fastball and hit his fastball because his breaking stuff, I don’t want to say it wasn’t good but it was a chase breaking ball to where like if you’re swinging at it, it was most likely a ball.
So I had to kind of sit on his fastball. I got a pitch good enough to hit and I got a hit up the middle. On deck, I was just thinking I got to find a way to get Barreto to second, I got to find a way to help the team get this run in. Fortunately enough, I got a good enough pitch to hit up the middle and we went from there.”
On why he decided to jump on Albertos’ first pitch after seeing Barreto walk on four pitches but also drawing a walk in his previous at-bat.
“We talk about being aggressive. There’s a good way to be aggressive and there’s a bad way to be aggressive. I feel like I’m an aggressive hitter. I want to put pressure on that pitcher. I was aggressive in that at-bat, got a good fastball to hit. Fortunately, it was up the middle and it got Barreto to second.
I didn’t want to go up there and put too much pressure on myself but I knew that at some point that it had to open up. When it rains, it pours. We had to open up that game somehow and fortunately, I was the guy to do it. I was the guy to help pick my team up because all those guys are great and that’s how we won a lot of games. We’d always pick each other up and we’d always find a way to get the job done.”
On scoring the go-ahead run after moving up 90 feet on a Chavez Young groundout and a single by Logan Warmoth.
“Starting with Chavez, he’s the same way, we’re all the same way. We’re all trying to figure how to help the team out and I knew he was looking for a ball to pull so that he could move everybody up 90 feet. I remember I finally had a pretty big lead because I knew like if this ball gets hit to a middle infielder or the second baseman or something, I want to try and beat it out. I want to get to second because obviously getting one run was the goal but more than one is definitely better. I remember he pulled that ball and it was a little bit to the left of the second baseman and once I saw the ball behind me, I’m in there.
On second, I was getting my lead and I knew that Rich Miller, he’s a very aggressive manager. He likes to play the game aggressively. As soon as I saw Logan hit that ball to the right side, I just took off and I knew that as soon as I put my head up that Rich would be sending me. I saw the ball through, saw it through the outfield, turned around, saw Rich waving me in so I was like, ‘Alright, here we go! It’s time to go!’ “
On crossing the plate with the eventual winning run.
“It was great. I mean, I’m a very emotional player and sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me but definitely, when I’m happy, you can definitely see it. I’m been trying to get better at that but I’m an emotional player and I love to express myself in the game.
It wasn’t so much of me being happy scoring that run, it was just being happy for the team and happy that Logan came up in that huge spot and really kind of put the team on his back right there and I was just a small, little piece of it.”
Logan’s a big-time player. That kid’s one heck of a player. I knew there wasn’t a better guy for the spot right there and he was definitely going to take advantage of the moment.”
On winning the Northwest League championship.
“That was just awesome. Just to be able to grind through everything we went through from spring training to extended (spring training) and then to cap off that season with a championship was really the icing on the cake.
I know our bullpen had been very strong all year. Those guys are really shutdown (relievers). I knew that whenever those guys were in the game. Ouellette, Bouchey, Pascual, Graham Spraker, all those guys. I knew they’re super-shutdown so I knew all we had to do was play defence behind them in order to give us a chance.
I remember when they called strike three, I threw my hands up in the air. I was running in so hard I think Logan tried to give me a high-five and I’m pretty sure I missed his whole hand but I just kept running in and threw my glove and jumped on the dogpile with the rest of the guys. That was an awesome feeling to really cap off that season with a championship and bring that city back to the winning ways.”
On why the C’s were champions.
“We were just like a big family, man. Everybody was comfortable being themselves, everybody really liked everybody. You have teams where guys are into themselves. On that team, we really didn’t have a lot of guys that were that way. Everybody was trying to figure out how to help the team win. It was a very team-oriented team. Even the draft guys that came up, they fit right in to the mindset that we had of just going out there and playing our butts off everyday to win a championship.”
Reggie Pruitt finished second in the Northwest League with 28 stolen bases.
On turning his season around after a slow start.
“I really believe it was just the manager Rich Miller having faith in me. I remember in the middle of that rough spell, we had a chat one day in his office and he told me that I was going to hit ninth that day and I wasn’t really distraught about it. I was kind of just happy to still be in the lineup.
Going along with that, he told me I was going to hit ninth and he told me I wasn’t going to be there forever. But he also told me that he had faith in me and that I was going to go out there and play center field for him everyday and that he wanted me out there in center field. Just hearing him say that gave me a lot of confidence to kind of take the pressure off myself and just go out there and play and be myself and be the type of player that I know I am, to go out there and play my best and play my hardest.
I remember the day he hit me ninth, I got two hits that game and after that game, I kind of reflected and realized that I don’t have to put a bunch of pressure on myself to go out there and blow the roof off. I just got to go out there and be myself and be the player I know I am, be the player that got me to the point of my life of where I’m at today.”
Reggie Pruitt credits manager Rich Miller for helping him develop in 2017.
On having the confidence of his manager Rich Miller.
“Even back when he was playing, I guess me and him were the same type of player a little bit. He was a true player’s coach, he really knew the struggles that us as players go through and he could really relate to that. That confidence boost that he gave me really did wonders for me.”
Reggie Pruitt made 68 starts in center field and recorded 155 putouts for the C’s in 2017.
On his mentor Tim Raines joining the Chicago White Sox organization.
“We just clicked from the start. We’re still good friends to this day. It’s unfortunate that he left us and I’m sad to see that but I know he’s got huge things ahead of him with the White Sox. It was a great honour to meet such a great player like that and he’s a Hall of Famer. He’s where I want to be in 20-plus year or whenever my career is over, I want to end my career like he did.
He was a big help to me because he played a long time in the big leagues and he knew those little things whether it was on baserunning, on defence or hitting—little things that me as a player now I wouldn’t have even thought of. When he told me, it really did put my game to a whole other level because he knew how to get the job done. He would tell me all these little tidbits and things that I could turn into my game. It really just helped me strive in my game.”
On getting to wear Montreal Expos-style jerseys to honour Raines’ induction into the Hall of Fame.
“That was very special and I mean, those jerseys were sick. I wish we could wear more jerseys like that but that was super special and a super special moment. We ended up going out and winning that game, that definitely made him proud. That was a super special moment to honor such a great player like that, for all the accomplishments that he had in his career.”
It definitely does. Those jerseys were sick. A lot of people like to say, ‘You look good you play good.’ I believe that we definitely looked good that day. It gave us a little boost and a little swagger. We strapped them on that day and everybody looked real clean. We were going out there to get the job done.”
On his favourite moment of the regular season.
“When we on the first half of the season, that was pretty special because there was a lot of talk about how the Canadians haven’t won the first half ever. That was just special, to be able to bring that back to the city and celebrate with those guys when we clinched in Salem-Keizer. That was just real special to be able to share that a moment like that with the guys.”
Reggie Pruitt hit his first two professional home runs with Vancouver in 2017.
On his favourite of the two home runs he hit with the C’s.
“I have to say with me just being a speed guy, definitely the inside-the-park home run (at Hillsboro August 4) because I remember in the at-bat like it was yesterday. I believe it was a 2-0 count and I just looked over the pitcher’s shoulder and their center fielder was kind of shallow and I didn’t really think anything about it. And then when I hit it and dI saw his numbers running back to the wall, I was like, ‘Alright, I got to get on my horse! That at least it was going to be three.’ I remember about five steps away from third base, I saw Rich (Miller) just waving me in. I was like, ‘Alright, this is the last leg so let’s do it! Let’s see what happens!’
On what he has been working on during the off-season.
“A lot of people read stuff about me and if you’ve read anything about me, it’s really everybody says I can be a great player. I just got to get my swing more consistent, my swing more fluid. That’s really what I’ve been doing a lot of work on. I’m not saying I’ve only done that because I know defence and baserunning is still a huge part of the game but I’ve been really putting the emphasis on being stronger. I’m in the weight room everyday and really getting my swing more consistent and more in tune with my body and what kind of the player I am and not trying to do too much but trying to get the most out of myself and my swing.”
On what he hopes to accomplish in the upcoming season.
“Going into 2018, the way I turned around my season (in 2017). Just going out there and playing every day and believing in myself and knowing that I’m supposed to be there, knowing why I’m there and knowing that I’m not always going to succeed but I’m playing against the best players in the world. I’m not always going to succeed but not put a whole bunch of pressure on myself to feel like I always got to be to be the best, or I always got to go out there and get three hits a day. I just want to go out there and be a real team player this year and really just kind of go out there and play my game and be who I know I am.”
On his favourite college football team, the Alabama Crimson Tide, winning the national championship.
“That was crazy. That was definitely awesome. That was probably top five best football games I’ve ever seen in my life. I mean, I was sitting on pins and needles for a little bit. I thought Georgia had us going for a little bit but I know, watching Alabama over the years, that they’re a real second-half team so they went into the locker room at half-time and made some adjustments. I guess Nick Saban spoke some good words to them and they came out hot in the second half and just to see them overcome that was really awesome.”
My thanks again to Reggie Pruitt for talking the time to talk to me again in this episode of C’s Chat.