Eric Yardley Interview: Opportunity in Every Difficulty

Credit: AP Photo

What were your emotions like when you got the call from the Padres?

My emotions were so scattered. I didn’t expect a call because I honestly didn’t know that undrafted free agents were a thing in baseball. By the time I got to Phoenix, all I had was a duffel bag of clothes; I actually had to go to the mall and pick up some extra clothes so I could look presentable. My dad was able to get my car from New Mexico and bring it to Phoenix, and that allowed him to be there for my first appearance in a minor league uniform, which was really special for both of us.

You’ve made pretty quick work of the Padres’ minor league ranks. What’s been your favorite stop along the way?

Fort Wayne (A) was awesome. It was eye-opening to be able to play in front of thousands of people for the first time. In college, we’d had games in front of some decent-sized crowds at Oregon and Oregon State, but nothing like Fort Wayne. The stadium there is gorgeous.

El Paso (AAA) was special too. Because of the role the city played in the beginning of my career, it was really cool to be able to come full-circle and go back there. Even in the PCL, we were playing in front of sellout crowds almost every night. The groundskeepers did an incredible job on the field every night, too.

You were at Spring Training with the Padres this past season. What were some of the biggest things you took away from that experience?

I got to go to a couple big league spring training games and actually got to pitch in one. It was a great experience to be able to be in the bullpen with guys from the Padres roster and to pick their brains and see how they go about work. I also got to travel with the team to Mexico City (for a two-game series against the Astros). That was an amazing experience. It seemed like we were treated as close to big leaguers as possible.

You also

Credit: Storm Baseball

were a part of El Paso’s PCL championship run in 2016. With the Padres out of playoff contention, it definitely seemed like a greater focus shifted onto the Chihuahuas that time of year. Describe the experience of a minor league title chase.

In the minors, there’s so much movement throughout the season. During the playoff race, though, the roster became a lot more stable. The organization clearly cared about what we were doing in El Paso and wanted to make sure we got that ring. We felt the same; if you’re going to be late getting back to your families, you might as well win the whole thing. Every day was a chance to win a championship. We ended up in a tough spot with Albuquerque where we couldn’t lose and they couldn’t win, and we ended up getting hot at the right time and going all the way to the AAA national championship. It was a great experience to see top-of-the-top guys in person, and it’s something we’ll all be a part of forever.

Looking at some of the members of that team who are likely to start 2017 in the big leagues (Renfroe, Hedges, Margot, etc.), who impressed you the most and why?

Probably Renfroe, just because of his natural athleticism. His arm strength and power are unreal. As a pitcher, having Hedges behind the plate and being able to throw to him was really enjoyable too. It’s honestly really special having all of those guys behind you though. They make things really easy and allow everything to just come together.

The Padres’ youth movement is starting to get some attention as the team continues its rebuild. How does it feel to be a part of that next crop of Padres players, one that local fans have some pretty high hopes for?

It’s great to think that there’s potential for that. Considering what I’ve had to go through and my story, to even think that my name’s being brought up like that is crazy. Sometimes I have to take a step back and live in the moment, but you look forward to making that last step. Getting that group into San Diego and starting a winning culture there could create something really special. Andy Green’s big too. He’s got it all figured out and makes everything feel as comfortable as possible for the guys.

Looking ahead to 2017 from an individual point of view, what are some of your goals you hope to accomplish this upcoming season?

I don’t really have any crazy goals. I just want to keep driving and being the consistent reliever that I have been. I want to put myself in the best possible spot to succeed so I can do whatever is asked of me by the organization. That focus goes into the off-season and my preparation to be the best guy I can be, both on the field for my teammates and off the field for my wife and family.

Finally, I’m sure as a professional baseball player that the vast majority of questions that you get asked are related to baseball. I think its cool when fans can also see that in many ways, players are people just like them, too. I hope it’s ok if I ask you a couple questions that have almost nothing to do with baseball?

Yeah, of course. Go for it.

How do you like to relax away from the field?

I’m a TV guy, just flipping through channels. How I Met Your Mother is probably one of my favorites. I’ll go golf occasionally too. We have to be at the ballpark from 1:00 until midnight most days, so any free time we get is usually used to just hang out and take things easy.

What would you be doing if you weren’t playing baseball?

Before I decided I was going to play independent ball, I was enrolled in the graduate program at Seattle University and was ready to get to work on getting my Master’s in education, so I likely would’ve continued with that. I wanted to be a middle school or high school math teacher. I probably would’ve gotten started in coaching too.

What’s one thing you wish you were better at than you are?

I’d say dancing. I got married in December, so I definitely wish I could’ve had some sort of rhythm to show for that.

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Noah Hilton
Noah is a current undergraduate at the University of San Diego. In addition to his classes as a Business Economics student, Noah serves as the scouting director for the nationally-ranked USD baseball team and as an NFL correspondent with The Mighty 1090. You can follow him on Twitter @thebackseatlamp

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