Gonzaga alum Darin Holcomb (pictured) tore up the South Atlantic League this past summer in only his second season of pro baseball. He led the Asheville Tourists in batting average (.318) and RBI (102) and earned South Atlantic League MVP honors.
This isn’t Holcomb’s first MVP honor. The third baseman from Spokane, Washington was named the 2006 West Coast League MVP for his hometown Spokane RiverHawks. Holcomb followed up his All-WCC sophomore season at GU by hitting .324 with 12 doubles, 6 home runs and 34 RBI for the RiverHawks.
Darin played two summers in the West Coast League with Spokane in 2006 and the Aloha Knights in 2005 before getting selected in the 12th round of the 2007 MLB draft by Colorado.
Holcomb signed and played the summer of 2007 for the Tri-City Dust Devils of the Northwest League.
Following his MVP season at Asheville, the Rockies sent Darin to Honolulu to play in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League.
We caught up with DH at his hotel and he was kind enough to respond to our below online interview.
West Coast League: You destroyed South Atlantic League pitching this past summer, what routine or preparation helped you maintain such consistency?
Darin Holcomb: What helped me the most was preparing and working hard each and everyday. With such a long season, and so many games, consistency was my goal and to do that you have to prepare the same way day in and day out no matter what happens. The more work you put in the more confident you feel as a player and the more it will carry into your performance and that is what I strived for throughout the course of the long season.
West Coast League: How would you rate your season defensively?
Darin Holcomb: Defense has always been a question mark for me. I have never been the most agile or quick defensively, but I always strive to work hard and get better defensively everyday and every year. I believe this year was a huge improvement for me at third base. I learned a lot more thanks my coaches and the work ethic I put into wanting to get better. Although my performance was probably average based on statistics, I felt I improved drastically from last year and I now have the information to keep getting better for the future.
West Coast League: As a college hitter, you had a professional approach, what advice can you give young hitters?
Darin Holcomb: My advice would be trust your skills and don’t try to do too much. As a college hitter, I realized what kind of hitter I was and did not stray from that. I didn’t hit for much power, I was more of a doubles guy that gets on base and had good strike zone judgement. I did not try to become a player that I wasn’t. I played my game and got better at it as my career progressed. Based on my experiences with that, I would say use the tools you have been given and don’t try and complicate things by changing who you are as a player. Trust your skills and work hard. Everything will come together.
West Coast League: Who was the toughest pitcher you faced this past season?
Darin Holcomb: This year I was fortunate enough to face several big league pitchers such as Phil Hughes, Carl Pavano, and Fausto Carmona. But hands down the best pitcher I faced was John Smoltz. It was an honor to face a Hall of Fame pitcher and it was a great experience.
West Coast League: How did playing summer ball in the West Coast League prepare you for professional baseball?
Darin Holcomb: My experience playing in the West Coast League was the best you could possibly hope for at that age. It was great in preparing any player for the possibility of playing professionally. The schedule in pro ball is very grueling and long and the West Coast League has the same format. Playing almost everyday and the long bus trips on the road really replicates the life of a professional. It was a great experience and it really prepared me for the future life of playing professionally.
West Coast League: Do you recall your home run derby performance at the 2006 West Coast League All-Star Game? What was that like, blasting mammoth homers and meeting Jon Olerud?
Darin Holcomb: Yes, that’s something I will never forget. It was a great experience. Getting to meet Jon Olerud and the atmosphere with the fans was a thrill for me. It was a new experience for me as well, because I had previously never participated in any home run derby’s because that really wasn’t my type of game. I was never a real big home run hitter so it was a new experience for me to say the least. Which is why I was very nervous as well, I wanted to put on a show, but I didn’t want to look stupid at the same time. It turned out well and meeting Jon Olerud was a bonus.
West Coast League: What was your favorite West Coast League city to visit and why?
Darin Holcomb: There were so many great cities in the West Coast League that I had never been to, such as Bellingham, South Kitsap, and Bend, but the one that stands out was Kelowna. It was a great city with plenty of places to go and visit. It was a very interesting place as well because it is in Canada so the people are interesting and different.
West Coast League: Where do you think the Rockies will assign you next season?
Darin Holcomb: Hopefully with my performance this year I will move up in the ranks to at least high A in the California League, but double A in Oklahoma hopefully isn’t out of the question. Either way, just moving up in the minor league ladder is always a positive.
West Coast League: What are Darin Holcomb’s plans this off-season?
Darin Holcomb: I will be playing in a winter league in Hawaii until the middle of November and after that its back home to Spokane to start the off-season. I will probably head down to Arizona in early February just to get outside on an actual field before spring training starts in early March.
West Coast League: Thank you, Darin. Best wishes!