The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association named redshirt junior Kyle Conley (pictured) of University of Washington to its pre-season All-America third team.
The right-handed hitting outfielder from Richland, Washington, led the Huskies in virtually every offensive category last spring, including average (.337), home runs (19) and runs batted in (57). He also either led the team or shared the lead in runs, hits, doubles, triples and stolen bases.
Conley played summer baseball for the 2006 WCCBL champion Wenatchee AppleSox following his freshman season.
We caught up with Kyle online and he was gracious enough to take time out of his busy school and workout schedule to conduct the below interview. Conley hopes to lead the Dawgs to the postseason this spring in the ultra-competitive Pac-1O Conference.
westcoastleague.com: How has swinging a wood bat during the summer improved your hitting?
Kyle Conley: Swinging wood definitely forces you to make mechanical adjustments and take a nice balanced swing. With metal bats, you don’t get the feel off the barrel like a wood bat, and sometimes you want to keep hitting it harder and harder, until you find yourself doing some bad things. With wood, I’ve found that just trying to square the ball up is enough to really have it come off the bat good. Plus (-3) bats sometimes work against you. I like having a nice and head heavy bat to just drop the head on the ball, and it goes just as good as off metal.
westcoastleague.com: You played for Wenatchee following your freshman year, what was that experience like and was that your first summer away from home?
Kyle Conley: It was a great experience. With my offensive production that summer, it was a very humbling experience. But the team was a second-to-none group of guys with great chemistry and winning attitudes. Winning the WCCBL championship was so fun, especially with those coaches and that team. I always tell guys on the UW team to try and go there because the fans will always have your back and make the game fun. It’s a special program, and that made my first summer away from home like a vacation almost. I didn’t want the summer to end.
westcoastleague.com: You had a breakout season last spring, what do you credit for the much improved offensive numbers in 2008?
Kyle Conley: I just kept working hard. Unfortunately, it took tearing my labrum on a check swing for me to finally listen to my coaches when they told me I was pulling off the ball. I feel almost fortunate that happened, because then I learned to go to the opposite field and not try to kill the ball every swing. When that happened, the game just slowed down and I had more success. I now know what major leaguers are talking about when they say “slow the game down.” That’s all.
westcoastleague.com: What was your fondest memory in the West Coast League and your favorite town to visit that summer?
Kyle Conley: My fondest memory was when we were playing Kelowna, and we were smashing balls left and right that game. I’m talking everything we hit we hit on the screws and everyone got involved. It was just so fun coming into the dugout and seeing Coach Hippi with a grin on his face high-fivin’ guys after every hit. Kelowna was definitely my favorite place to visit because I don’t really get out of the Northwest much, so it was cool visiting somewhere so different from here.
westcoastleague.com: How are the Huskies looking for 2009? What are your team’s strengths and who is a new Husky (or Dawgs) to keep on eye on this spring at UW?
Kyle Conley: We’re looking just fine. We don’t really have any holes anywhere I don’t think. Guys are all working hard and having a good time doing it. Our strength coach, Hans Straub, is a pro at getting the most out of guys as far as the physical side of things in the off-season. Everyone has been working hard and is ready to play. I think we have a nice mentality on the team starting to form about not standing for not performing. We have a real experienced pitching staff ready to earn respect. It’ll be fun. I can’t really say one guy to watch, but I think some of our freshman pitchers are bulldogs on the mound and they like to get after people. It’ll be fun.
westcoastleague.com: Thanks for the time, Kyle. Best wishes this spring season!