Roche Working On Consistency

Roche has one of Brooklyn's two home runs

BROOKLYN, NY - James Roche's first love wasn't baseball. The Arlington, Massachusetts native admits that he was more into football growing up and had dreams of playing in the NFL someday. Since he figured he lacked the physical tools to become a serious NFL prospect, Roche turned his attention to baseball.

The 24-year-old Roche signed with the Mets this summer as an undrafted free agent out of Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire. Two of his Cyclones teammates, first baseman Zack Mathieu and right-handed pitcher Kevin McGowan, were also his teammates at Franklin Pierce. Roche credits his time there for his development as a player.

"A lot of people aren't too familiar with the smaller division II schools especially in the Northeast, but it's a pretty competitive league," Roche said. "I think being able to play every day just helped me mature as a player."

In his senior season, Roche set a Franklin Pierce record with 17 home runs to go along with his .361 batting average and 61 RBIs. He says his most memorable home run of the season was the one that propelled his team to an improbable win over a conference foe.

"It was against our rival Southern New Hampshire and it was at our home field," he said. "During that time, we were going through a little bit of a downslide so that win right there kind of gave us the momentum to finish strong and we ended up going to regionals. So that was really a great moment for me and the team."

Despite a stellar senior season, Roche wasn't selected in the 2012 First Year Player Draft; so he spent the 2012-13 season in the Independent >eague as a member of the Quebec Capitales and Newark Bears. Roche believes his experience in the Independent League cushioned his jump somewhat from college to the pros, but he knows that pro ball still presents a tougher challenge.

"It's definitely a step up," he says. "I got a little taste of what professional baseball is like [with independent ball], but affiliated ball is definitely a step up from college. As you mature and grow, you have to make the adjustments necessary to succeed."

The challenge of playing professional baseball has not tempered Roche's excitement for the opportunity to begin his journey to the Majors in Brooklyn.

"It feels great," Roche said. "I'm really excited to have a shot at affiliated ball and I can't think of a better place than Brooklyn; great fans, great stadium, great personnel. I‘m [just] excited all around."

In his first game with Brooklyn, Roche belted his first professional home run.

"Any home run is a great feeling," he said, "but to get the first one in the first game felt really good. Hopefully, there's more to come."

Roche's power has impressed Cyclones hitting coach Bobby Malek, who saw it first-hand at Extended Spring Training.

"I think it was his first at-bat when he hit a 500-foot home run," Malek said. "It was just amazing the amount of power that he supplies to the baseball, which is really good."

Hitting for power is certainly an area of strength for Roche, but he believes there are other aspects to his game besides it.

"I'd like to think that I have decent speed and can be aggressive on the base paths," he said. "A lot of people like to focus on hitting but the whole second half of the game is defense. So I take pride on my defense. I love making catches just as much as I love hitting home runs."

For his entire college career, Roche had been making catches as a centerfielder. Thus far, he has been playing in right field for Brooklyn. While he would prefer to play in center, Roche says he has no problem playing a different outfield position long term.

"Wherever they put me, I'll play," he said.

In his short time with the organization, Roche has already made a good impression on his coaches with his offensive abilities and team-first attitude. He may not have a glaring weakness, but according to Coach Malek one aspect of his game that needs some work is his two-strike approach.

"He has all that power yet we need him to be aware of that approach and kind of shorten up to put the ball in play with two strikes," Malek admitted.

Developing a solid two strike approach is just another short-term goal for Roche, who strives to be the best.

"I just want to become as well rounded as possible and be the five or six tool player that every team wants," Roche said.

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus is a Major League player whom Roche is modeling his game after because he embodies that ideal of the "complete baseball player."

"[Rasmus] can hit the ball really well and he plays great defense too," Roche said. "I don't know him too well, but I like what I see so far."

Roche's goal is to ultimately to get to where Rasmus is; playing in the Majors. But if he is to make it to the Show, Roche knows that consistency is key.

"One thing that I always try to work on is being consistent with my approach and just be consistent [in every aspect of the game] day in and day out. I think that's the biggest battle in baseball: to be consistent every day," Roche concluded.

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