With their 18th pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, the Mets selected first baseman Chase Chambers out of Tennessee Tech.
After going undrafted in the 2017 draft, Chambers elected to return to Tennessee Tech and it paid great dividends.
On the season, he hit .400/.498/.652 with 15 home runs and 41 walks.
After signing with the Mets, the 22-year-old embarked on his professional career with Short-A Brooklyn.
Since playing there, he has been entrenched in the cleanup spot, where he has hit .300/.385/.375 with one homer and 10 RBI to go along with 11 walks in 22 games (80 plate appearances).
Last weekend, I had a chance to catch up with Chase, where we talked about who he rooted for growing up, his college career, how he found out he was drafted and the beginning of his pro career in New York City.
Piersall: Take me through what it was like to be drafted. How did you find out and what were you doing?
Chambers: I went to Tennessee Tech and we were playing in the Super Regional. So if you’re in the Super Regional, you’re practicing during draft day. First day of the draft was during our regional championships, second day was during our travel day and third day was during our practice.
So we were practicing running first to third defenses and we had a bunch of guys get picked. We had eight guys get picked (in the draft) this year, you know, and we expected some guys to be drafted during our practice. We had all of our phones lined up and they had them labeled whose phone is who.
My roommate got picked before me, Trevor Putzig got picked up by the Orioles in the 17th round, and I’m sitting there waiting for my phone to ring and we are running first to third defenses and I see our student manager pick up my cell phone and answer it. I knew it was mine because I have a red cell phone, he picks it up and the play during practice goes on and it turns into a busted play.
I’m watching the manager come out of the dugout and our coach is yelling at me like, “what are you doing?!”
I was a senior so I knew what to do, I just totally wasn’t locked in. Then the manager comes out and tells me, “hey, you’ve got a call.” I picked up the phone and talked to my scout and he told me the Mets had picked me up.
It was pretty cool being at practice and having all my teammates around me. Some of them I’ve played with for four years, so for me to get picked up and them to get picked up at the same time was amazing.
Piersall: Did you have any knowledge that the Mets were interested in you prior to the draft? Did you have any insight into what team you might get picked up by?
Chambers: Honestly, the Mets were not the one I thought was going to pick me up.
I had contact with the scouts, I had actually known (Mets scout) Jarrett England since I was a sophomore in high school. He came out to a few of our games and you know, he’s a hard guy to miss. I know him very well and he’s 6’5″, 6’6″ and he stands out.
He came to a few of our games in Nashville and I knew he was interested. I filled out a questionnaire but other than that, not much more contact.
I figured it was going to be the Orioles to be honest. They called me before the third day of the draft and they were like, “we’re excited to see you in an Orioles uniform.”
So I get the call and I think to myself that it’s the Orioles picking me up right after my roommate because they picked him up in the 17th, and then it ended up being the Mets and I’m really excited to be here. I know the system is really good and especially where I am right now, I love Brooklyn. It’s different but the fans are great and I’m having a really good time with a great group of guys.
Piersall: Had you ever been to New York before playing in the Mets organization?
Chambers: I remember I went to Shea Stadium back in, I think 2007. It’s been awhile since I’ve been up here but it’s been everything I’ve expected and more to be honest.
Piersall: How do you like playing under your manager with Brooklyn, Edgardo Alfonzo?
Chambers: Fonzie is amazing. He does his own thing most of the time, obviously he makes the lineups and the decisions, but he’s just here to help us learn and he’s doing a great job. He doesn’t over-coach and just let’s us play. You know, we all got to this point for some reason and he does a great job and has a great staff around him.
From top to bottom it’s just a great group of coaches and just baseball minds.
Piersall: You had a really strong career in college, especially your senior year. How did your time there help prepare you for professional ball?
Chambers: Honestly just experience. It’s a little bit different up here, the pitching is different. Guys are better. I played in the Ohio Valley conference and don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredible conference, but you don’t see pitching staffs that have multiple guys consistently up to 96-97 mph.
That’s the main difference, but it prepared me extremely well because staying for my senior year, I learned a whole lot this year I may not have learned before. Also playing in a couple regionals and a Super Regional prepared me for an atmosphere like MCU Park, and having five, six, seven thousand fans.
I was prepared for that because we played at Ole Miss this year, there were 14,000 in the first game that we played them, so I was 100 percent prepared for the atmosphere. The only thing college didn’t really prepare me for was playing everyday.
In college, you play one midweek, maybe two, and then a three game series on the weekend. You have a couple days off. The only difference here is, you know, you have five days off in 82 days. It’s a pretty packed schedule, but that’s the way it’s going to be and I’ve just gotta learn on the fly.
Piersall: Kind of derivative of the last question, but how has the personal transition been from college to pro ball? You’re away from home now and you’re traveling a lot. What is the big difference?
Chambers: It only took me about a week to get mostly acclimated I’d say. Because I came in and guys had already been down to Port St. Lucie, and a lot of them had already been in Brooklyn for four or five days.
Just watching the guys that are returning or have played pro ball, I’ve just been paying attention to them.
Piersall: It’s a short season in Brooklyn, but what are your goals for the rest of 2018?
Chambers: I just want to keep playing good baseball. I’ve been playing pretty good defense and I want to get a little more power, hit for more power, but MCU Park is pretty unforgiving most of the time, so it’s a tough place to hit.
It’s a pitcher’s park for sure, but I just need to keep centering baseballs like I have and the power will come. I know it’s there so I don’t need to stress over it. Also, as a team, we want to win a championship here, obviously who doesn’t, but I just want to keep playing good baseball.
Hopefully, also give myself a chance to move up in the ranks soon.
Piersall: You talked about playing in a ballpark that isn’t exactly home run friendly, but you’ve managed to keep your average up and get on base. Have you had to make any adjustments to your game since you’re playing in a big park?
Chambers: A little bit, but not really. You’re approach just changes a little bit. In college, you’re playing with a metal bat and the sweet spot’s a whole lot bigger and the parks are quite a bit smaller mostly. But I’ve been able to hit the ball the other way in my college career, but in college I could get away with just trying to pull everything.
Since I’ve gotten here, Marlon Anderson our hitting coach has encouraged me to hit the ball the other way and says that’s where my hits are going to be, and he’s right.
Definitely more than half my hits have been the other way and just because pitchers have been pitching away and it also puts me on for some offspeed, and a good chance to stay on a changeup or a slider.
Just using the whole field has been the biggest thing for me.
Piersall: Growing up, did you have a favorite team you liked to root for?
Chambers: I’ve always been a Boston Red Sox fan. I really can’t tell you why, I had some family that lived in Boston. It’s funny, they’d send us Patriots shirts and hats and Boston Red Sox stuff and some Bruins things. Every Boston team they’d send us some gear.
The only gear I would not wear was the Patriots stuff. Can’t stand ’em. I’ve been a Panthers fan since I could remember. I have family in Charlotte.
I think it was 2004 when the Panthers beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl? They had Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith and a few other guys, but yeah, I’m a Red Sox fan. Well, I’m a Mets fan now, but it’s kind of good because I can cheer for the Red Sox since they’re in a different league and division. I can still get away with it. (laughs)
Overall though, I’m just glad when anybody beats the Yankees. Especially at this point. I was definitely not a Yankees fan before and I’m especially not a Yankees fan now.
Piersall: Being a first baseman, are there any players that you model yourself after? Whether it be professionals or other guys you’ve played with?
Chambers: Obviously, Adrian Gonzalez didn’t have the best fit here in New York, but back when I was growing up, he was a stud in Boston and a stud in Los Angeles and I always thought of myself as a player like him.
He’s not a great runner, I’m not a great runner, I know that. I’m not here to steal bags, but him being a little bit undersized for first base standards has always been like, “Look at this guy. If he can do it, I can do it.”
Adrian Gonzalez was a guy I kind of looked up to as a player because he hits for power, but when he was going good, he also hit for average and hit the ball all over the field. That’s the type of player I want to be.
I don’t want to be a one-dimensional hitter. You look at a guy like Chris Davis, he just hits for power. He can hit for some average, but overall he’s a power guy. I don’t want to just be a power guy, I never have. I want to be an on-base percentage guy and a guy who can hit for some average while also being able to hit for some power.
Especially being in the middle of the lineup, being a four hole guy hitting with runners in scoring position, you can’t always be a power guy.
Sometimes you have to hit a ball in the field and get a run in. That’s one of the biggest things I learned this year in college. I led the country in RBI, not because I hit for the most power, but because I tried to not do too much with runners in scoring position. The pressure isn’t on the hitter at that point, it’s on the pitcher.
He’s got a runner at second or a runner at third, and he’s trying to keep me off the outfield grass. The more pressure he puts on himself, the more chance he has of making a mistake.
That’s the biggest thing for me, just trying to not do too much with runners in scoring position.
Piersall: How do you prep for each game and maybe for a pitcher you haven’t seen before?
Chambers: Honestly, I haven’t seen a scouting report since I’ve been here. I go into it with the same mindset everyday, “I’m going to have good at-bats, and I’m going to work a good plan.”
My plan is: be on the fastball. I don’t want to miss a fastball. Everyone is going to at some point, but I’m trying to minimize making mistakes.
The first time I see a guy is when I see him during warm-ups, so I’m learning on the fly there. I’m seeing what he likes to throw, and watching the hitters in front of me (during the game), but I don’t do anything special for different pitchers.
In college, maybe I’d do some things different, but I just go into it with the mindset of getting a good pitch.
Piersall: Who has influenced you the most in regards to your baseball career?
Chambers: It has to be my dad. He was tough on me growing up, not overly tough, but he was tough when I needed it and he toughened me up a little bit.
When it’s come down to it, he’s always been there to support me, as well as my mom, she’s always been there. Both of them have done an amazing job and have put so much time and effort in getting me to where I am today.
I’ve got a younger brother who is playing college baseball, and they put in just as much work for him as they did for me.
My parents for sure are the two people who have influenced me the most.
Coaching wise, there’s a lot. It’s hard for me to pick just one, but my high school coach did an amazing job molding me as a player. All my coaches along the way, and the hitting lessons I did with my coach growing up, there’s just a lot. I could go on and on, but if I had to pick one or two people who have influenced me the most, it’s my parents.
Piersall: This is perhaps my most burning question, but how is the food for you guys in the minors? What’s the spread like?
Chambers: It’s pretty solid. I’m trying to eat good but at the same time, not eat too much. I try to eat throughout the day, and not eat those big meals. It’s a lot easier on your body, especially during games. So I’m just kind of snacking all day.
But it’s been good, I’ve been eating well for sure.
We normally get a pre-game meal right after batting practice and then a post-game. I snack on yogurt or peanut butter and jelly during the day, and then I’ll normally eat the pre-game which is wraps or sandwiches and then the post-game is almost anything.
Normally, it’s meat, rice and broccoli, but we eat good.
Piersall: Thanks for taking your time out to talk to me Chase, I really appreciate it.
Chambers: No problem!
Give Chase a follow on Twitter: @C_Chambers_25.