Q&A with Rangers 36th Rd Pick Jason Kudlock
Jason Kudlock became one of the first players to ever be drafted from the upstart Cal State Bakersfield program when the Texas Rangers took him in the 36th round last week. The Roadrunners started their program from scratch in 2009, going straight to NCAA Division I with intentions of eventually joining the baseball power-heavy Big West Conference. Kudlock was part of CSUB's first recruiting class, coming to California after spending two years at Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Arizona. In his first year with the club, Kudlock split his time between the field and on the mound. The Arizona native batted .270 with two home runs in 89 at-bats, and he also logged 8.1 innings as a relief pitcher. The versatile 22-year-old became a full-time starting position player this past season, and he blossomed at the plate, hitting .364 with 17 doubles, six triples, eight home runs, and 51 runs batted in. A third baseman for most of his career, Kudlock moved to the outfield at Cal State Bakersfield, and he is currently listed as an outfielder on the Spokane Indians roster. Still, the 6-foot-3, 202-pound athlete may be using his versatility in the Rangers' system. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the right-handed hitting Arizona native. Jason Cole: What were your thoughts on the Texas Rangers taking you in the draft? Jason Kudlock: It feels good. I really worked hard this year, and I'm just glad that the Rangers are willing to give me the opportunity to play baseball and further my career. Cole: This was the first time you'd been drafted. What were you doing at the time your name was called? Kudlock: Yeah, I'm not going to lie, I was sitting in front of the computer really hoping it was going to come. I was just watching the Rangers every round to see if they were going to select me. Finally it came, and it felt pretty good. Cole: So coming into the draft, you thought there was a good chance the Rangers were going to select you? Kudlock: Yeah, I got a phone call prior from a scout, and he told me that they were looking to select me in the 20s. I was kind of looking for them, and I was just curious to see what would happen. They ended up selecting me, so I really appreciate that opportunity. Cole: Since you played your college ball out in Bakersfield, where the Rangers have a minor league affiliate, the obvious question is have you ever gone out there to watch them? Kudlock: I've gone and watched a couple times. My old volunteer coach last year is their field operations guy. I've been out there a few times. I've played some games out there, too. It's a real great place. Cole: You got some time on the mound last year. But you didn't pitch this year did you? Kudlock: No, I didn't pitch at all this year. Cole: Have you always been more of a position guy than a pitcher? Kudlock: It's kind of bounced back during my college career. My freshman year, I was more of a pitcher. Then the next year, I was more of a hitter. I had an arm problem a little bit, and that kind of took me away from the mound. Cole: From the numbers, it looked like you improved quite a bit on the hitting side of things. How'd you feel about your season? Kudlock: I felt really good. You always wish you could do better, and I know there were moments where I wish I could've come through a little more, but it's just nice to focus on one side of the ball for once. I felt that really helped me out a lot. I was just focusing on one side and putting all my effort and time on the field to that one aspect of the game. Cole: As a position player, what areas of your game did you feel progressed the post? Kudlock: My first three years, I didn't get a lot of playing time. This year, for me to play a lot and just get down and dirty and take advantage of that––I felt like I progressed tenfold from when I first signed to junior college out of high school to where I am now. I feel like I've come such a long way. Everything both mentally and physically. Cole: You were part of starting up the baseball program at Cal State Bakersfield. The team got a new ballpark recently, as well. Can you talk about being there through that transition over the last two years? Kudlock: It's one of those things where I was recruited there––when I came there, we didn't have a baseball field. We just had a giant dirt lot. Our coach said, ‘This is a risk you have to be willing to take.' I put a lot of work in. Last year, we got beat around a lot, and this year, we doubled our win total. I feel like these guys are only going to get better. I felt like we really came a long way, and it really means a lot to me to be part of the program. It's an honor to be part of what we did, and hopefully for future generations to come through there––I hope they can understand what we went through and just take care of business. Cole: Given the fact that you guys had been through so much as a team, was it more of a tight-knit group than you'd generally find? Kudlock: I'd say so. There are always going to be your battles within the team, with personalities and stuff. But I feel like this group––we went through so much, and I feel like it brought us together and bonded us together from losing all those games and getting kicked around. This year, we went out and took two out of three from Arizona––stuff like that really helped us become more of a group. That first team will always be the team of Bakersfield. Cole: You were listed as an outfielder when the Rangers drafted you. What has been your primary position? Kudlock: I've kind of bounced around everywhere. I came up as a third baseman and a pitcher. But because of my arm, my pitching just kind of faded away. Infield-wise, we had better options in the infield, and I was one of those guys the coach could trust to play in the outfield. Over the last year, I worked really hard and tried to get better at it. I really like it––it's a lot more fun to play in the outfield. Cole: Do you have any idea where you'll be playing in the Rangers system? Kudlock: I'm guessing outfield. I haven't really been told any different. I just want to hit and play. Wherever they want to play me, that's all their decision. Cole: Tell me about your approach at the plate. What are you trying to do when you're in the box? Kudlock: I'm a very aggressive hitter. I love to go up there, and I'm not afraid to swing at that first pitch. I usually sit fastball and try to drive a fastball. I'll also look for hangers. But this year, I got a lot more offspeed, batting cleanup. Oftentimes, if I knew guys were going throw me their breaking stuff early, I would just sit on two plans––plan A would be a fastball and plan B would be offspeed. I'd just sit on that pitch and hopefully I got one I was able to drive and don't miss my pitch.