Rookie Scott Van Slyke is enjoying his first taste of the big leagues. The Dodgers left fielder made his Major League debut on May 9 and hit his first home run on May 20 at home against the Cardinals. It was an important one, as he came off the bench to hit a game-winning, three-run homer to help L.A. to a series sweep of the defending World Series champion. The son of former three-time All-Star outfielder Andy Van Slyke recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com:
MLBPLAYERS.com: How do you describe this experience so far?
Scott Van Slyke: It has been great. It has been a lot of fun. It has been a tremendous learning experience. I am not playing every day and that has its challenges. I have had some spot-starts and some pinch-hitting appearances, so I am trying to really learn what to look for at the plate. It continues to be a process.
MLBPLAYERS.com: When was the last time you did not play every day?
Van Slyke: It has been awhile. It has been about five years, I believe. It is tough, especially at this level. When you get up there and fall behind in the count, it is a battle. Sometimes you are just trying to foul some pitches off.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What is the hardest thing to get used to?
Van Slyke: I am used to having some four at-bats per game. That helps you get a little more comfortable. At the same time, I understand that it is a long season and being here has been great.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Have you had a different approach at the plate because of the sporadic playing time?
Van Slyke: I think what I am starting to learn is that you can't take too many fastballs up here because a guy's secondary stuff is usually so good. Being down in the Minor Leagues I think I got away with a little bit more. I would take a pitch, a fastball, to see what a guy had. Now when I am pinch-hitting late in the game, it is different.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What is the big difference late in a game?
Van Slyke: You don't want to chase too early in the count and you don't want to take that first pitch fastball. I think I have been doing that too much. I have looked at some pitches I probably could have hit and then you are suddenly behind.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Is it safe to assume that your home run against the Cardinals has been your biggest highlight this season thus far?
Van Slyke: Yes, for sure. Also, that first pinch-hit resulted in my first hit.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How do you describe the emotions you felt when you got the call that you were coming up to the Dodgers?
Van Slyke: I was running on adrenaline there for a while. When I got to the ballpark, the national anthem was underway. Everything happened so quickly I never had the chance to catch my breath. It was fun, and I will always remember it.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Can you talk about some of people who have helped you so far?
Van Slyke: From a coaching standpoint, our hitting coach Dave Hansen, for sure. Confidence is not a problem for me, but it has been about keeping me straight as I try and figure out what pitchers want to do against me in certain situations. Matt Kemp has really helped me with my thought process, about having that up-the-middle approach.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What about getting acclimated to a new city?
Van Slyke: Well, there is a lot of traffic for sure. That takes a lot of getting used to. It can be a headache. But overall the weather is great, the people are friendly, there are a lot of great places to eat. It has been real good so far.
MLBPLAYERS.com: When you do get a break, is there anything in particular you are looking forward to doing in L.A.?
Van Slyke: I think my wife and I would like to go see a TV show taping or something. Maybe something like the Conan O'Brien or the Ellen show. We'll see.
MLBPLAYERS.com: And how does your wife like it in Southern California?
Van Slyke: She loves it. She has been a real trooper the last few years. Lots of traveling to little cities in the Minor Leagues. I could be gone on a 10-day bus trip, and she is back at our place by herself. It is good to be here and I am around some friends who I came up with, especially guys like Clayton Kershaw and Josh Lindblom. I think this is good for her, too.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.