We here at East Village Times had the privilege of interviewing recent San Diego Padres draftee, shortstop Peter Van Gansen.
Peter Van Gansen was drafted in the 12th round of the 2015 Draft out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (the same school of fellow Padres minor leaguer Nick Torres).
Van Gansen is currently 21 years old and fresh off his first half season of professional ball. In his first season with the Tri City Dust Devils, Van Gansen slashed .267/.352/.352 all while playing a stellar shortstop defensively.
Van Gansen is a rather small guy, standing at only 5’9” and 175 pounds, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in heart and drive. One of the hardest working players on the field at any given time, Van Gansen always gives it 110% percent when playing the game he loves.
For our interview we talked about what it was like for Peter being drafted to play in his home state of California, his relationship with teammate Nick Torres, what baseball has meant to him, as well as his misadventures in basketball.
What was it like being able to be drafted by a California team?
“It was definitely awesome. I grew up a Dodger fan but San Diego has always been a really cool city and being able to stay so close to home is awesome and it’s just been a great experience so far.”
What kind of relationship do you have with Nick Torres? Went to the same college, drafted by the same team?
“Nick is a great guy. He’s been there for me since my Freshman year of college and anytime I have any questions about pro ball or anything he is there for me and answers any question. He’s a great guy to have in the clubhouse and I am glad I am able to be on the same team as him.”
How was your time at Cal Poly Slo? What was the program like?
“Cal Poly was definitely one of my top choices. Just because of the education and the head coach, Larry Lee, was a middle infielder as well so that really opened my eyes to that school as well. I loved all three years. It was really hard to go into the draft but it was the right thing to do. I wouldn’t change my decision to go there because what they taught me there helped form me into the baseball player I am now.”
Tell me about your first year in Tri City. What was that like for you? What was it like being away from your family?
“It was awesome. I loved every minute of it. The guys, we all got together, we’re like family now. People usually say that doesn’t happen in pro ball but everyone is so for each other. Tri City is such a great place and I just really loved it.”
It was tough because in college my family got to see a lot of games. But being out-of-state they didn’t really get to go. It was awesome being able to go to new cities I had never been to before and playing in front of new crowds.”
Any fun/funny stories from your first year in professional baseball?
“Not really. Everybody was just goofballs on the team. Everybody just had fun with each other even though baseball is our job we still took it as being fun because baseball is a kids game.”
“My biggest strength has to be my defense. I pride myself on my defense a lot. I know there is that quote ‘Defense wins championships’ and I really took that to heart and I have tried so hard to make my defense as perfect as possible. If I am able to keep my defense strong I will definitely be able to move up through the different levels.”
“Probably hitting for power. I am not a very big power hitter because I am a smaller guy, but I could always hit for more power and drive the ball more. I have been working on that a lot and getting stronger in the gym. Also I have been using a heavier bat during the offseason so when I use my regular bat it feels lighter and I can get more whip on my swing.”
Do you feel like your size is an advantage or a disadvantage? Like has it given you an extra drive to succeed?
“Oh definitely. My whole career I have always been told I was too small and it always felt like there was a chip on my shoulder. I have always used that as an advantage to prove people wrong.”
Most influential person for your baseball development to this point?
“Definitely my coach Larry Lee from Cal Poly. He definitely helped me the most out of everybody. He taught my a new way of fielding a ground ball. When I first got there as a Freshman, I thought I was okay at fielding a ground ball but when I first got there on campus he changed everything completely. Even now I am a training with him this offseason because I trust him so much.”
Favorite baseball memory?
“This year I was able to make the All Star Game in Spokane and I got to walk off on the other team and it was awesome. It was the bottom of the 10th and I hit a line drive down the right field line and we were able to win the game.”
Biggest moment of adversity?
“My freshman year of college I remember I was able to start and I struggled and I thought to myself ‘Will I ever be able to perform and compete against these guys.’ But then I realized that I was there for a reason and I could be as good as any of those guys. My parents really helped me through everything by telling me I could compete with anybody.”
Favorite player growing up?
“When I was growing up it used to be Ichiro Suzuki because he was like me, more of a slap hitter. But now that I am grown up I like Jose Iglesias because he is a smaller guy also but he knows how to play defense and he plays one of the best shortstops I have ever seen. So I have a lot of respect for him and the fact he is able to do that.”
Any Padres you look up to as players?
“Matt Kemp definitely. They’ve always told us he has a great work ethic and it shows. He is a great ball player, he is a team leader, he can drive the ball, he is definitely a five tool player and being able to do that at the major league level is an accomplishment and a lot of people don’t realize how hard it is to do that.”
What other hobbies do you have?
“I like to go hiking and bowling. I really like to go bowling. My family and I really like to go bowling whenever we get the chance.”
Play any other sports?
“I tried basketball but I was really bad at it. Funny story actually. I played basketball one year and I only scored one basket all year because I was so bad at it. So I decided to hang that up and stick to baseball.”
What sets baseball apart for you?
“I feel like it’s the place where I am most comfortable. Like once I step on the field I am able to relax and calm down and just play the game I love. It’s just my safe place and I’ll go to the field if I am having trouble with anything. I’ll go hit or take ground balls and everything just disappears. I just know I want to play this game as long as I can.”
What are you looking forward to most next season?
“Just the daily grind. This offseason we have been working so hard and finally being able to play a full season of baseball is really going to be fun. Just being with the guys and proving what we can do.”
Ever been to San Diego/Petco Park?
“Yeah I have. I have seen a couple of games. Also last October they had Instructional League and we were able to play a couple of games on the field so that was really cool. It was unreal just looking at shortstop/second base and the stands and just thinking wow this stadium gets filled. Thinking about how loud the stadium gets when it’s filled.”
Your thoughts on a national league DH?
“I feel like if they do that they will kind of take away the history of baseball. That’s always been part of the game and I personally love watching pitchers hit. I know it might not be safe all the time but I know some pitchers get a kick out of it and they love to hit and produce for the team.”