The Everett AquaSox have been lighting up the competition this season, with a formidable offense and one of the best defenses in the league. Key to both sides of that attack is speedster Connor Kopach. Recently Seattle Sports Union had the opportunity to meet Connor and ask him how he became the dangerous basestealer he’s known to be.
Seattle Sports Union (SSU): Connor, looking at your stats, both high school and college….there seems to be a theme. Speed. Where did you get that speed? The stats are pretty amazing.
Connor Kopach (CK): I’ve been an average runner my whole life until I went to Get Fast, a speed training facility. With treadmills and bio-metrics, I think I lowered my 60 time by .3 seconds alone. I got down to maybe a 6.7. It really helped my reaction time, everything got a lot better.
SSU: Do you like stealing bases now?
CK: Oh yeah! It’s part of my game now, I try to do it as much as possible. As long as I dont get thrown out, I’m good with it. Just trying to get to the next base.
SSU: You grew up in Illinois, right? When did you start playing baseball?
CK: Yep. About 4 years old I think. My dad got me into a bunch of sports, from gymnastics to volleyball, basketball, wrestling. Literally anything and everything.
SSU: Do you have a favorite position on the field?
CK: Middle infield, maybe center field. Pretty much anywhere.
SSU: Do you know what the Mariner’s plans are for you?
CK: No, they haven’t really said anything. But anywhere they put me I’ll try my best basically.
SSU: We noticed you had #TrueToTheBlue on your Twitter account. Whats that mean to you and how’d you come across that?
CK: I saw it on Twitter, it’s the Mariners hashtag and it means a lot being drafted by them so I definitely had to put it up on my Twitter account. I hope I get up to the big leagues with them.
SSU: You went to Southern Illinois University…what’s a Salukis (their mascot)?
CK: It’s an Egyptian dog, a racing one. One of the fastest in the world. A lot of folks ask that question, haha.
SSU: So you broke your hand sophomore year. How bad of an injury was that?
CK: Yeah, it was Opening Day and Nathanael O’Reilly, the closer for TCU that year was throwing 95 mph and caught me in the wrist. I played the next half inning and I couldn’t turn it over, so I didn’t know how I was going to field the ball. I sat out the next 2 games and the following weekend I went to play, got 2 hits but the following night I went to tag and hurt it even more. That’s when I got it x-rayed and they found the fracture.
SSU: We saw you broke a lot of records over your years. Is there any one that stands out?
CK: I dont really have a favorite record. Stolen bases is always a fun one, because its a hard skill to have. Not many folks have it.
SSU: What’s you favorite moment from college?
CK: Facing TCU, one of the top programs my sophomore year. Seeing the atmosphere and what they played in every day. That was probably one of the best moments.
SSU: I saw you played summer ball. After your redshirt sophomore and junior year, was it?
CK: Yeah, in Walla Walla. Then in Northwoods League, I broke the single season record for stolen bases.
SSU: Wow! Congrats. Do you know who’s record it was?
CK: No, I have no idea. I started out as a temp there too, which is what made it more fun. Having to challenge for a spot on the team.
SSU: Any difference between summer ball and college ball? Using different bats, etc?
CK: Summer ball is wooden bats only. College is of course metal. But pitching wise they’re all pretty much the same. I like using the wood bats more. I like the feel of it, and dont really like the grips on metal bats. I try to stay away from those.
SSU: When the Mariners drafted you, where were you and what was your reaction?
CK: I was golfing with my brother at St Andrews in Chicago. I had hit my ball into the woods and was looking for it when my phone rang. It was the regional scout saying, “You’ve just been drafted by the Mariners!” I was kind of reactionless. I couldn’t believe it. It was crazy! After that it was a great time, I didn’t really care how I did golfing that day.
SSU: Did you have any idea they were looking at you? Or any program in particular?
CK: Yeah the Mariners scout that was scouting me actually called me the day before and said there was no guarantees but that I might get drafted on the 3rd day.
SSU: What was your first reaction when you arrived in Everett? Was it different?
CK: It’s not much different from where I’ve been. I’ve been to small places like Walla Walla and I’ve been to Kalamazoo. It’s kind of in the middle of everything, it’s a nice place. You get beautiful views of the mountains in the back, so it’s really nice.
SSU: So how did they greet you?
CK: I went to Arizona first. For the physicals and mini camp and then we all met up, the players and coaches. It was a fun time. Getting to know everyone right away was great!
SSU: So you hit your first home run back in June. How’d that feel?
CK: It was my first hit, my first RBI, my first home run, basically everything. It was a great feeling!
SSU: Were you able to get the ball?
CK: Yeah I did. A kid got it for me. It was awesome.
SSU: So how is the adjustment going from college to here?
CK: I would say it’s not much different. You’re getting guys throwing in the 90s instead of the 80s. Its a matter of just making the adjustment. If you see 95 every day at some point it’s going to look like 88. So it’s a great experience.
SSU: Are you staying with a host family? Rooming with anyone?
CK: Yes, I’m staying with a host family, rooming with Nick Rodriguez, Jake Anchia and Mike Plassmeyer. It’s fun! We’re having a lot of fun together, playing video games and just enjoying it.
SSU: What was your favorite team growing up and a favorite player?
CK: My favorite team was the Chicago Cubs, even when they were bad. They were my hometown team.
I dont really know who my favorite player is. I would say I’m most like Ian Kinsler, I guess. So I kinda gravitate towards him, seeing how he plays and how he wasn’t drafted very high. He wasn’t really that big guy in the draft so I feel more like that’s who I identify with.
SSU: So you majored in Sports Administration. What do you hope to do after your baseball career in 20+ years?
CK: Hopefully either coach or go into management. I got my bachelors and I’m not sure yet if I want to go back for my Masters degree.
SSU: In the next 2-3 years where do you see yourself? What are your goals?
CK: I want to win a championship with whatever team I’m on. I hope to get up to Double A in the next few years, but if I dont, I hope I’m winning championships in the High A level. I just want to win, basically.
SSU: They have you batting lead-off most of the time. Do you like batting lead-off? Or prefer being lower in the order?
CK: I prefer being second, but lead-off is fine…I’m an aggressive hitter. I like to hit the first pitch, cause I know it’s probably gonna be a fastball. As a lead-off hitter you usually have to kinda take that first pitch to see how it moves and how fast it actually is. Its not a big deal though.
SSU: You faced recently a pitcher named Jake Long, from Seattle University. We covered SU baseball this year so we got to see him a lot. We felt he was pretty impressive, but I’m curious what your take on him was?
CK: He had a great curve ball, it was hard to pick up. His fastball was pretty straight, I’d say 90-92 mph. He seemed to command everything pretty well too. I mean he struck me out….so….haha. He did pretty good there. Pretty good pitcher.
SSU: Jose Moreno is your manager. What’s something you can share about working with him?
CK: Well he really knows his stuff as an infielder. He’s always coming up with new drills and stuff I haven’t tried before. Base-running, he’s really helped me there. Going from first to third on balls I’m not usually thinking about it, he’s helped me in those areas.
SSU: Everett Memorial Stadium is I’m sure your favorite stadium to play in during your career of course, but were there any others that stood out?
CK: I’d say TCU’s, and Dallas Baptist because theirs is like a launching pad. Great field, stands and facilities. But TCU’s was probably the top one because the attendance was so high and the atmosphere was intense.
SSU: What is your favorite sports related movie of all time?
CK: Either Rookie of the Year or Miracle. Rookie of the year for the Cubs, obviously. Miracle was just a great chemistry movie and how the team came together and beat one of the best in the world.
We wish you nothing but the best, Connor! Go Frogs!