Catcher Derrick Chung is starting to make some noise playing for the Dunedin Blue Jays in his second year of pro baseball. While his first year in Vancouver had him playing all over the diamond as a second baseman, a third baseman and a catcher, he’s been the primary receiver for Dunedin this year. He’s also hitting up a storm, leading the team with a .330 batting average as the first half of the season comes to a close. Defensively, Chung is also locking the basepaths down, with a 43% caught stealing percentage (excellent anywhere) and only 5 passed balls in 24 games behind the plate. While some of his counting stats might seem low, Chung spent some time on the DL earlier in the season which has limited his action to 30 games so far.
Derrick was gracious enough to answer some questions for Blue Jays from Away with the Dunedin Blue Jays embroiled in a heated fight to get to the Florida State League playoffs by winning their division in the first half.
Blue Jays from Away: You played baseball in Korea before your family moved to the US. How did baseball ease your transition to life in the US?
Derrick Chung: My family and I actually lived in the States much longer than we lived in Korea. We moved back and forth a lot, and I was always playing baseball regardless of where I was. So there wasn’t much difficulty there.
BJfA: You didn’t start to catch until your junior year. Did Coach Christiansen (of Sacramento State) tell you why he wanted you to catch? Had you caught before then? Who did you work with to get better at that position?
DC: The reason he wanted me to catch was that we had two catchers and neither of them were able to play that year due to an injury and suspension. Coach Christiansen put me behind the plate in an intrasquad game one day, which I wasn’t informed about on right before the game, and liked what he saw. I never caught before then. I was pretty surprised that he actually decided to have me catch for good. I worked with Coach Callahan (no longer with Sac State) and our injured catcher named Brent Hottman. They helped me a lot.
BJfA: Did the Blue Jays talk to you this past off-season and let you know that they wanted you to be a full-time catcher?
DC: The Blue Jays didn’t talk to me about catching. It was something that kind of just happened during spring training. I think I was supposed to play more in the infield rather than catching. I still think of myself as an utility player because I still enjoy playing in the infield.
BJfA: What is different about being ready to play any position (like you did last year in Vancouver) and knowing that you’re most likely going to be behind the plate?
DC: I honestly don’t see any differences yet because I’m still ready to play whatever position the team needs me to play.
BJfA: You’ve been really hot with the bat this year. What’s it like hitting when you’re “in the zone?”
DC: I don’t really put too much pressure on my hitting right now. My main focus is always on catching. I have been working with our hitting coach Stubby Clapp on some stuff and it’s been helping me a lot.
BJfA: What’s the difference in the way pitchers pitch to you between Vancouver and Dunedin? Are you doing anything differently than you did last season?
DC: I think pitchers pitch to me similarly between Vancouver and Dunedin. I try to stay with my approach and since I am facing better and more consistent pitching than in Vancouver, I try to stick to my strengths rather than worrying about my weaknesses.
BJfA: What’s it like catching some of the team’s top prospects as well as rehabbing major leaguers (both in the regular season and in spring training)?
DC: Catching major leaguers is a lot of fun and has been a learning process for me. I try to communicate with them and take what can help me. I know that eventually it will make me a better catcher. It is always the same for me, whether the guy on the mound is a top prospect or not because everyone has the stuff to make it one day, and it’s a matter of being consistent with it.
BJfA: What areas are you focusing on improving in? What do you feel like you need to do to move up in the organization?
DC: I’ve been focusing on becoming a better catcher, not just physically but all the other intangibles and tangibles that I need to have in order to become a major league catcher in the future, such as game calling, communicating with pitchers and infielders, etc.
BJfA: Tell our readers one thing that they didn’t know about Derrick Chung that you think they’d find interesting!
DC: I am the greatest breakfast cooker ever.
Big thanks to Derrick Chung for answering our questions. You can find him on Twitter: @therealthing6