Inside The Ivy: Dave, tell us your thoughts on spring camp now that we're past two weeks in.
David Kelton: So far, so good. I really can't complain. Dusty has given me a lot of playing time, so that's been fun. There are a lot of players in camp and a lot of decisions that have to be made, but I feel confident in the situation I'm in. We'll see how it all plays out.
Inside The Ivy: How is your confidence level at this stage of the spring?
David Kelton: I'm very confident. As you know, I'm out of options so something has to happen. I'm in a situation where I either make the team, get traded, or get put on waivers, so I'm ready for something to happen. I would love more than anything to make the team and to stay in Chicago, but it's a business. You never know what will happen. I'd love to stay here, but you have to move on if not.
Inside The Ivy: What did your offseason consist of? What was the one thing you really focused on fine-tuning?
David Kelton: Consistency. You're always learning things as a hitter, and pitchers are always finding some way to get you out. There were a lot of things I needed to work on. The main thing was trying to stay back, use the entire field, and just try to become a better hitter.
Inside The Ivy: What advice have you been given by your fellow teammates and coaches this spring?
David Kelton: Go out, play hard, and leave it all out on the field. There are certain things you can't control, and you have to know not to stress out over them. You just play hard and hope for the best.
Inside The Ivy: From a defensive standpoint, you've made the transition to the outfield extremely well. But do you ever wish third base had panned out?
David Kelton: I do. I was always an infielder my whole life playing shortstop while growing up. But once I had shoulder surgery (in 1997), it was downhill from there; I just never really recovered from it. I was always having shoulder problems and I just never found my release point at third after I had that surgery. It altered my release point and then it got mental. I wasn't having fun there anymore, and I just felt that moving to the outfield was something I had to do.
Inside The Ivy: Last year, you struggled against left-handed pitchers but in 2003, you murdered them to the tune of a .340 average. Was there anything that contributed to the change in pattern last season?
David Kelton: I've hit really well against lefties my entire career, but I was just off last year. I was hitting fine when I first got called up to Chicago (in May), but when I got sent down around mid-June, I think I put a lot of pressure on myself in trying to get back up to the major league club. I was trying to realize—okay, "why have I not been able to stay up there?" And I realize now that I had Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou and guys like that in front of me, and that I really couldn't control it, but I wanted to so bad, you know? I wanted to be able to say, "I'll be all right if I can just get back up there," and I think I just put too much pressure on myself and tried to do too much. I got into some bad funks at the plate, which took its toll on me. One of the reasons I went to winter ball was to work on getting out of some of those problems I developed and just fine-tuning my swing a lot.
Inside The Ivy: What did you experience in Venezuela while you were there for winter ball a few months back?
David Kelton: I had a blast and have nothing but positive things to say about it. Of course, playing well helps out a lot, but our competitors took it serious, especially those who went back to play in their home country. The fans take it serious and you get good crowd support. It's just a real competitive league. I had a real good time; the pitching was really good and I faced a lot of good pitching and defense. I will probably go back again this year if I feel I didn't get enough at-bats during the season.
Inside The Ivy: Another thing we noticed is that in both years at Iowa, you got off to hot starts but cooled off during the course of the summer. Was there anything that specifically led to that?
David Kelton: No, I just think a lot of it has to do with being moved up and down in 2003 and '04. I think a lot of it was pressure, and me trying to get back up there and do too much instead of going out, relaxing, and just playing my game without worrying about the things I couldn't control. You learn from those things and I've learned a lot these past two years at Triple-A; not just on the field, but knowing how to prepare for the season and not worry about the things you can't control.
Inside The Ivy: How did you cope with that (the roster shuffling)? Was it something that was always buried deep in your mind?
David Kelton: It was. You know, if I had to do it all over again, instead of just thinking about "Why this?" or "Why that?", I'd just forget about it all, play my game and know that if I go out and play well, things will work themselves out in the end.
Inside The Ivy: Do you feel less pressure now knowing that you've got nothing left to lose this spring?
David Kelton: I do, because it's now a situation where they have to make a decision on me one way or the other. I feel like I've put myself in a good position to play well, and I've done a lot in this organization. The Cubs have been nothing but great to me, so hopefully it pans out. If it doesn't, you have to move on.
Inside The Ivy: Let's say things don't work out with the Cubs. What then? What do you fall back on?
David Kelton: It's the same thing; you just keep fighting. You never know how close you are until you actually get there. I can very easily be traded to another team and be right in the big leagues from day one, or I could be sent right back to Triple-A.
Inside The Ivy: Enough baseball for now; who is your pick in this year's NCAA Basketball Tournament?
David Kelton: I have to say Illinois. They're extremely hot right now and I think they're just the better team.
Inside The Ivy: David, thanks for joining us. We wish you the very best of luck, and we hope things work out for you.
David Kelton: They will. Thank you.
Kelton was the Cubs' second round draft pick in 1998 out of La Grange, Ga. He turned 25 last December and hit .248 with 19 HR and 68 RBI at Iowa last season.
An interview with Cubs outfielder David Kelton in Mesa.