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Interview with former first-round pick Boof Bonser

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Boof Bonser was a first-round pick (21st overall) by the San Francisco Giants in the 2000 amateur draft. Bonser has played over 13 years, including four at the major league level.

Since 2000, Bonser has spent time with multiple organizations including the Giants, Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics, New York Mets and the Cleveland Indians. Recently he spent time in Taiwan with the President 7-Eleven Lions. Tossing over 400 innings in 60 starts, Bonser won 19 games and struck out 334 hitters.

People see the statistics and are entitled to their own opinion, but when you look at the overall body of work, you realize just how talented they really are.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Bonser who discusses his draft year, trade specifics, what makes certain players so special, and the experience of playing overseas.

The GM’s Perspective: As a first-round pick in 2000 by the San Francisco Giants, can you briefly describe the process?

Boof Bonser: The day of the draft I had my family over watching the ticker just like everyone else. You’re waiting and wondering! The phone rings and it’s the Giants letting me know they selected me with their first pick. They sent down a scout and the rest of their people, started the negotiating process, and the next thing you know I was a Giant.

GMs: Not many get to be a first-round draft pick. As you know, I played a little independent baseball via a small school in Nebraska (York College). To even think about what guys like you have done, and how good you actually are, to be in that position is really something special when you think about it.

Saying that, you have all those so-called experts out there who claim that "so-and-so didn’t’ meet expectations"…to get where you have gone is a feat within itself.

GMs: In 2003, you were traded with Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan to the Minnesota Twins for A.J. Pierzynski and cash. What’s that like when you’ve been with one team your whole career, they draft you #1, and decide to trade you? Do you view it as a motivator to prove them wrong or is it a business decision that has to be made?

BB: For me it was weird because I was a first-round pick with the Giants. I started thinking “did I do something wrong”? Why would they get rid of me are thoughts going through your head. It is what it is. I went over to Minnesota and they were great to me. They gave me my first shot at the big leagues, and what a great organization they are.

It turned out to be one of the craziest trades in Giants history. It was a good opportunity. I went to a new team and did some great things.

GMs: For those that didn’t play the game and aren’t used to what’s involved, what’s the most difficult thing you experienced during your four major league seasons?

BB: The expectations. Major League ballplayers can’t really fail. You have to work so hard to be perfect. You never want to go back to the minor leagues, obviously it's not fun after you get a taste of the bigs. Once you hit the top, you want to work as hard as you can and hopefully be one of the fortunate ones that spend ten years plus up there.

GMs: For what you’ve accomplished, it's very impressive. I played for a short time in the Frontier League, but what you’ve done, some don’t or can’t recognize how very difficult it is to do? What do you say to the people out there that can’t see the difference?

BB: That’s a good question. To be honest, I don’t know. I got to the big leagues; obviously I want to go back. I want my ten plus years. If it doesn’t happen, you can’t say I didn’t try. I’ve spent 13 years playing baseball. It’s a game I love, and no one can take that away from me. I did what I love to do.

GMs: I wasn’t as gifted as you. I played two months in the Frontier League, but it was my dream and I got to do it. Like you said, absolutely no one can take that away from me.

If I wasn’t 5’10 and 180lbs, maybe things would have been different. I did go to a small school; York College, and going there was the best thing I could have ever done. You can be a big fish in a small pond, but one you sign that professional contract you understand that it’s a business. Every kid has had the same dream, and plenty out there are just as talented or more than you could ever be. It’s a numbers game, and opens your eyes to a whole new world.

BB: Absolutely, you couldn’t have said it any better. That’s spot on.

GMs: You’ve been a number one pick and pitched in the postseason. What separates you from a player an independent player or a MLB veteran like Mark Buehrle or CY Young winner Felix Hernandez? How narrow is that talent margin?

BB: Their talent is at a whole other level. Some have that electric arm; they study hitter’s everyday and pick up everything so fast. That’s why they’re the best in the game. There’s a reason why they have been successful for so long. There’s no coincidence’s in the game of baseball.

GMs: On a side note, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas have been inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. I don’t understand how Greg Maddux, arguably the best pitcher ever, gets 97 percent of the vote. Who’s not voting for him?

BB: There’s always that doesn’t vote for them, I never understood that. I still look at Cal Ripken Jr./Tony Gwynn. There was what, a handful of voters that didn’t vote for them. Why aren’t those guys 100 percent? I just don’t understand it.

GMs: Over the last couple years you have spent time in the Mets, Giants and Indians organizations spending a lot of time in Triple A, last pitching in the big leagues in 2010. The Indians released you in August of 2013, eventually leading to a brand new opportunity with the President 7-Eleven Lions in Taiwan. What was that like?

BB: To be honest with you, it was great. I’ve always thought about going overseas to play, and I got my opportunity. I thought I did pretty good. I’m actually still trying to sign something to go back over there and play.

GMs: Was it difficult competing in a completely new league and environment?

BB: The first couple weeks you spend a lot of time adjusting, meeting your teammates and coaches. The language barrier takes a bit to get used to. Once everyone spends some time together, the expectation is to win. We had a fun.

GMs: Are you back with the Lions in 2014?

BB: If it’s not with the Lions, I’m hoping that one of three other teams gives me a shot.

GMs: Any possibility of coming back to North America?

BB: I would love too, but I haven’t had calls as of yet. I don’t know if I will? My options are open that’s for sure. I would never rule out anything.

GMs: What are you’re plans when you’re finished playing?

BB: I would like to coach. Just being around some of the younger guys, and helping develop them in Spring Training.

GMs: You have the experience and have seen the peaks and valleys. The younger guys coming up think they’re bulletproof. At that point, you'd be in a different stage of your career allowing you to assist with things they may not expect.

BB: Exactly, that’s what I would love to do.

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