was signed by the Atlanta Braves on December 8, 2013 as a free agent to help bolster the Braves bench or be a factor in Gwinnett. Spring Training was a little disappointing for the 29-year-old as he was unable to make the Braves 25-man roster and was sent to the Gwinnett Braves.
Hamilton was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2nd round of the 2006 amateur draft. After six seasons in the Cardinals minor league system and a couple stints with the big league club, Mark was released by the Cardinals in August of 2012. The Boston Red Sox saw something in this 6’4″, 215 lb man in January 2013. A full season later with the Pawtucket Red Sox, he was released again. Now, getting another chance with the Braves, Mark looks ahead to a potential bright future.
Tomahawk Take was given the opportunity to sit down with Mark and we put him on the hot seat for a little Q&A.
Tomahawk Take: I attended a Spring Training practice game back in February and you were destroying the ball, what was your first Braves Spring Training like?
Mark Hamilton: Spring Training was great. The facilities at disney are top notch and the Braves do everything they can to make sure everything is first class. The biggest thing that
Mar 9, 2014; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada (11) turns the double play over Atlanta Braves first baseman Mark Hamilton (68) in spring training action at Tradition Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
sets the Braves apart is the attitude and overall vibe of the coaching staff. It is unbelievably refreshing to have such positive and caring staff members backing you at all times. In addition, it seems the braves pride themselves in signing individuals who are great people as well as great players. I always say that it is impossible to get along with everyone on your team (just imagine how a family of 25 in a cramped house would have their differences!) but you want respect and you want to share a dugout with the type of guy you would trust to go to war with. I’d share a foxhole with these guys any day.
TT: What changes in your swing (if any) have you taken to reduced strikeouts, while maintaining power and improving your average in 2014?
MH: To me strikeouts are arbitrary. There are very few players that have high end power production without striking out a fair amount. At times, a strikeout is actually a more productive out that other possibilities. Especially when in a double play situation the last thing I want to do is create weak contact in play. As a player who features power production I see my at bats as opportunities to make something happen. Rather than average, I prefer to look at OPS. If I get on base and drive the ball I am going to produce runs. As a middle of the order guy that is my job: put runs on the board. I have made adjustments to increase my consistency but I would say that if you look at my career I have consistently hit for a strong average with plus power. At this same point, I feel my approach and swing pattern has been constantly improving and I look to hit for overall higher production this year.
TT: You’ve played both outfield and first base, and had quite a bit of experience in the outfield with Tulane University and have great range at first base, but where would you prefer to play going forward in your career, infield or outfield?
MH: Honestly it makes no difference to me. They are very different and I enjoy playing them for different reasons. At first base nothing is more gratifying than handling myself around the bag. Sure, my job is to be an infielder and field my position as well, but more than anything I am the catcher for the infielders. If I can save them errors and runs by making plays on balls in the dirt I feel like I am really contributing. I take pride in that and work really hard to make every play around the bag. As for the outfield, I actually really like playing out there. In a way its a break versus playing first. At first everything happens so much faster; you are just that much closer to the batter. In the outfield you just have more time and making a play in the gap or making a good throw to prevent a runner from moving up is really gratifying.
TT: Which Atlanta Braves during Spring Training were you most impressed by inside and outside the clubhouse? Whether it be maturity, stature, ability, etc.
MH: I think I would have to stick with the attitude. Everyone from coaches to players to staff just had that positive vibe. It really is a winning attitude. I like how these guys go about it and I feel that the level or respect shown to players by staff and the staff by players is nearly unmatched.
TT: Do you have any pre-game rituals or superstitions?
MH: Superstitions not really. I used to be superstitious when I was younger but as I have matured I think I have seen enough how superstitions can cause problems and I try to
avoid them if possible. Superstitions are based on fear: I have to do this so I can do that, etc. What does that really mean? It means that you are basing your success on an unrelated action. I’ve seen guys panic because something is out of place or they didn’t have this or that. Its not the type of thing I want before a game. I’m as guilty as any in the past but now I try to have more of a routine than superstition. For me routine is doing something consistent that will contribute to my success. I listen to music and visualize my at bats. I visualize who I am facing, what they are throwing me and how it looks coming out; how it feels to execute quality swings to quality pitches to hit. I work on getting my energy level high enough to feel aggressive and strong but low enough to be fully in control of my body and mind.
TT: What’s in your mind when you’re walking to the plate?
MH: I’m always looking at the situation and what I need to do to be successful. It all starts in the on deck circle. I work to find rhythm and comfort to the pitcher on the mound. In a standard, non-situational at bat, I am just looking for a mistake. Something that I am on time with to do damage. I think about being ready to be on time. If there is a situation on the other hand, I am trying to figure out how I can execute and what the pitcher is going to try to do to me to prevent my success.
TT: What do you enjoy doing outside of the ball field?
Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
MH: Off the field I love being with my family. I am lucky to have a wonderful loving wife and two beautiful daughters. In fact, my second just joined us two weeks ago! With baseball I spend a lot of time away from home and it almost feels like I live a double life! Because of this I try to make the time when I am home to be very high quality. I spend a lot of time playing princesses with my daughter Lilly and I have to say that I absolutely love being a father. Other than family life I play a lot of golf. I am a pretty high energy guy and have a lot to say (just ask my teammates), so when I am in the offseason its nice to go out and play golf alone. My wife works and I have free time during the week while the courses aren’t very crowded and its so nice to just get out and compete agains myself and just be.
TT: If not for baseball, what do you think you’d be doing?
MH: 100% I would be a doctor. I majored in Cell and Molecular Biology at Tulane University and my father is a M.D. I have always had an affinity to science and if it wasn’t for baseball I always said I would have gone into Orthopedic Surgery. Maybe that is still ahead of me, only time will tell.
MH: I joke that my musical tastes range from “you gotta hear this” to “yeah, I know… sorry”. I kinda listen to everything. I listen to a ton or rap and hip hop. Personal favorites are Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and Lil Wayne (New Orleans boy!). Lately though I have found myself listening to more electronic and techno. Something about the energy in the music just makes me feel good. I really feel that music speaks to people, and unfortunately I have to admit Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga have been known to speak to me at times as well.
TT: What was your favorite team growing up and why?
MH: I must have been a masochist but I loved the Orioles growing up. I was born in Baltimore and while many of my friends rooted for the Yankees who were nearby and
Mar 8, 2012; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox first baseman Mark Hamilton (71) prepares to bat during the game against the Minnesota Twins. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
winning I was an O’s fan hell or high water. I think it was just the players they had. Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, and what kid in that area didn’t want to be Cal Ripken. My dad would take me to Orioles games and when I got to play in Camden Yards in 2011 it was really special for me. I moved to Houston when I was 11 or 12 but for some reason I didn’t jump ship to the astros. I was an O’s fan for awhile. As I have gotten older I am more of a baseball fan in general. I just enjoy watching good players play and the way I view the game has shifted drastically.
TT: Currently, what TV shows are you a fan of and what’s the last movie you saw in the theaters?
MH: Vikings. If you haven’t seen it you are missing out. It’s on the History Channel and although I like Game of Thrones as well, I prefer the characters in Vikings more. I actually watch a ton of History Channel and Science Channel. Quality documentaries of space and time just speak to me. Other than that I have finished and really enjoyed Dexter and Breaking Bad. Last movie? American Hustle, I think. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. It was one of those movies that the middle just dragged too much for me. The acting was outstanding though.
TT: What is your favorite quote from your favorite movie?
MH: “No one gives it to you… you have to take it” – Frank Costello in The Departed. A fabulous movie and some really good advice.
TT: Who is your favorite person to follow on Twitter?
MH: @ShooterMcGavin_ The guy just cracks me up. Sometimes I even find out about happenings solely because of the jokes he’s making.
TT: Do you live by a moto or creed or a famous baseball quote?
MH: There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will. – Epictetus I cannot tell you how many hours of my life I have wasted concerning myself with things I cannot possibly control. It took a long time and a lot of maturation to understand how right the author of that quote is, and I am a much happier person now.
TT: What’s your 2014 expectations and in November, what would be considered a good year for you?
MH: A good year for me will be one where I compete everyday. I can’t control outcome and when I try to I become miserable. I want and plan to put the work in and give it my all everyday. It is very cliche, but its also very difficult. If I can maintain my focus and passion for 144 or 162 games and just be the player I can be then I can accept the results. The reality is I want to do this as well as I possibly can. If you ask any player they are lying if they say they never give away an at bat or lose focus. We all do, but the good ones have very short term memory of failure and can maintain focus and compete more consistently than the average players. Control what you can control and dump the rest.