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Carroll taking Konerko, Helton MLB advice: relaxing

When Florida Marlins outfielder Brett Carroll got his first Major League Baseball hit in Chicago June 18 last summer, White Sox All-Star first baseman Paul Konerko shared some advice.

“He said, ‘don’t look back, enjoy this time, continue to work,’” recalled Carroll, a former Bearden High School standout (Class of 2001) and All-American at Middle Tennessee State University. “He had some nice encouragement … a guy of his stature. He said, ‘there’s going to be highs and lows, unfortunately everything’s on T-V and you’re going to look really stupid at times, but there’s going to be some good times, too.’

“I thought it was a good conversation for two minutes while I was standing on first base,” added Carroll, who batted .184 in two call-up stints — 23 games total — with the Marlins last season, which included several starts in center field.

To begin 2008, the 6-foot, 190-pound Carroll was optioned to Class AAA Albuquerque last week from Spring Training, where the 25-year old was hitting around .300 with more than 30-at bats with the Marlins. Last season in 88 games in AAA, Carroll hit .314 with 19 home runs and 70 RBIs.

As for being sent down to AAA to begin 2008, Carroll’s mother, Laura Kinzel, is hardly discouraged. “That was not surprising. … It’s not a big disappointment,” she said. “Going into camp the only position that was really in question was center field. And he is definitely more of a corner fielder [left or right field]. … And mainly right field because of his arm strength, is really his position.

“And next year for those positions [left, right field], they’ll be in arbitration,” Kinzel added.

Laura talked about witnessing Brett’s first two Major League hits that June evening in Chicago alongside Brett’s stepfather, Chuck Kinzel, and brothers Brandon and Chase Carroll.

While saying the game was “extremely exciting,” she added, “it was a little intimidating to see your son play in an arena amongst 40,000 people, and it was a pretty packed house all three days.

“A little bit overwhelming for me, being his mom knowing how hard he’s worked to get to where he is,” she added. “And as fast as he’s gone up the ladder.”

Though Brett’s father, Mike Carroll, wasn’t able to attend the Chicago series, “He later on got to see me play in Colorado,” Brett said about a September series. “I was able to get my dad on the field when we were taking [batting practice]. It was a great experience.”

Carroll’s first stay in Florida lasted two-and-a-half weeks, until July 2, before being sent down to Albuquerque. He was called up again in Sept. 4 when Major League rosters expand.

Playing mostly center field in June when the Marlins were thin depth-wise due to injuries, the former BHS standout shortstop mostly batted No. 7 or No. 8 in NL games and often No. 9 in interleague games where American League has the designated hitter.

As for memorable encounters with pitchers, Carroll batted lead-off the day Florida faced then Minnesota Twins ace Johan Santana — as one of MLB’s best pitchers now with the N.Y. Mets.

“He is what they say he is,” said Carroll, who went 0-for-3 against the mighty southpaw. “He’s got that disappearing change-up. Struck me out once.

“They probably figured out I wasn’t much of a leadoff hitter.”

As for visiting the various Major League parks and cities, “Every place I went was really eye-opening,” Carroll said. “I thought every park was beautiful.”

In Colorado, “Todd Helton was really good to me,” Carroll said about the former UT Vol All-American and multiple Major League All-Star game selection. “He called me when I got called up. … He said, ‘have fun, you’re putting in all the work. Just relax and have fun now.’

“That’s a little easier said than done.”

Traveling to New York to face the Mets, “It was pretty neat being able to take the subway to the field in Shea Stadium,” Carroll said.

“Another good moment was when we played at Turner Field, growing up a Braves fan my whole life,” he added said about his first playing experience at the Atlanta Braves’ home. “I remember going to the games and sitting in the upper deck and seeing those guys down on the field and wanting to be a part of that.”

Then as a Major Leaguer, “The fact that I was actually standing on the field looking up was pretty touching for myself,” Carroll said.

Carroll stressed “consistency” and “keeping your focus the whole game” as keys to success on the Major League level, adding he might have pressed too hard with the Marlins last year, especially during his first stint.

“You want to show everybody that you belong, and maybe you do too much at an at-bat,” Carroll said. “Trying to hit that fastball 500 feet instead of putting a good swing on it and seeing where it goes. … If I can just focus on having four good at-bats instead of trying to hit four home runs can help you built upon getting more playing time. We’ll see where it goes.”

With Florida’s regular outfielders back from injury by September, Carroll’s playing time was much more limited during his second MLB tour. “It’s frustrating from an individual standpoint,” Carroll said. “You want to get out there and get into the flow. But learning patience is a key thing too.”

Saying he’s projected to play right field in 2008, Carroll added, “Things have been going pretty well in the spring. ... I definitely feel more comfortable and more confident this time around.”

As for specific goals either in the Majors or AAA, “I don’t really set a whole lot of numbers, because when you start focusing on numbers that’s when you start to press,” Carroll said.


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