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OPEN MIC: Derrek Lee Q & A

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Jeff Torborg¿s Florida ¿ roster is engineered to emphasize a running game, what with speedsters and firmly entrenched at the head of the lineup, but every ballclub needs some muscle in the heart of the order to keep the runs flowing.
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  • That¿s where comes in. Florida¿s big 27-year-old first baseman is playing his sixth season in teal, fresh off of a 2002 campaign in which he established new career highs in runs, RBI, walks, on-base percentage and, yes, stolen bases (he fell just one swipe short of having his first 20-20 season). That genre of all-around performance is just what Florida needs as they scratch and claw back to respectability after the post-1997 fire sale debacle, and the are counting on another big year from Lee (2002 stats: .270, 27 HR, 86 RBI) as they battle in the ultra-competitive National League East. We caught up with Lee recently to talk a little bit about his development as a legitimate power hitter, his minor league days on the Vegas strip and more.
    What do you remember about your major league debut? I was pretty fired up. I was with the (Lee was inserted into the starting lineup on April 28, 1997 at Florida), and there was a minor little rain delay so I was kind of bouncing off the walls for a little bit. It was just exciting, and that was probably the best moment of my career so far. I went 1-for-3 with a walk, and my first hit was off (in the ninth inning). You played in all 162 games for the last year. What kind of toll did that take on your body? For me, I don¿t know, I don¿t even think twice about it. I come into the season prepared to play in every single game: in the off-season, that¿s my routine and my goal, to play every single game. I think I get my body in shape where it doesn¿t take too much of a toll. What kinds of injuries did you have to play through last year? I had the usual knicks and knacks, but nothing I would really call an injury. There were no broken bones or anything like that. Who was the most instrumental in your development as a player? Probably my father. My dad played professionally (Derrek¿s father, Leon, was drafted by the and reached Triple-A before playing ten seasons in Japan), and I was always with him at batting practice and stuff. He was definitely the most instrumental in my development. What¿s your daily routine when you come to the stadium? Well, as soon as I get here I¿ll get a bite to eat and watch some video. I try to lift weights pretty much every day, but I¿ll take a couple days off now and then, so (on those days) I¿ll take a few extra swings ahead of the game. What team did you grow up rooting for? Mostly the , because I¿m from Sacramento. They were pretty close (to me). My favorite player growing up was Rickey Henderson. He did everything: stole bases, had power, he was just an exciting guy to watch. Favorite non-baseball team? Oh, the Sacramento Kings. Every now and then I¿ll go check them out. In your opinion, what¿s the best road city? New York has to be one of them. It¿s just the city, you can shop, they¿ve got great food and you can walk around all of the streets and see all of the people. San Diego is great too: the best weather, a beautiful city, the hotels on the water and 75 degrees every day. I¿d probably say those two. You played in Las Vegas (home of San Diego¿s Triple-A farm club) in 1997. What was that like? It was fun. Las Vegas is a good city, but it can get you in trouble, so you¿ve got to control yourself a bit. But it was a fun place to play, definitely. Did you ever go out on the Strip? Every once in a while, but if you play there, you¿ve got to kind of stay away. If you get on the strip, that means you¿re probably not getting home until 5:00 in the morning. You¿ve got to stay away as much as possible, but they¿ve got everything you could want in Vegas. What was your first job? Baseball (smiles). I¿ve never had a job outside of baseball. Baseball¿s my first and only job ¿ hopefully ever. Would you agree that the National League East may be the toughest division in baseball? It¿s certainly the most competitive, I¿d say. Every team in this division has a chance, I think, to compete day in day out when you play these divisional teams, so I¿d say it¿s the most competitive. What needs to go right for the to wind up on top of this division? First of all, it¿s just health. Everyone needs to stay healthy and we need everyone to kind of step up and exceed all the expectations. We have a real good team and a lot of talented players here, and I think we¿re capable of doing it. Bryan Hoch is a contributing writer to FOXSports.com. He can be contacted at bryanhoch@yahoo.com.
    Tagged: Cardinals, Padres, Giants, Marlins, Juan Pierre, Derrek Lee

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