I recently chatted with Nelfi Zapata, the Mets 19th Round pick out of English High School (MA), who is working at the Mets Instructional League in the Dominican Republic. We talked about the instructional league, catching Billy Wagner, and the name of his fanclub, among other things. Check here for the full instructional league rosters.
Sam Page: So, how's it going?
Nelfi Zapata: It's going good so far, just working hard. You know the deal.
SP: Most fans don't know what instructional league actually is. What is the typical day like for you, as a catcher specifically?
NZ: Well, instructional league is where they send the guys, who did their job during the regular season and who they think could become a player at the next level. The typical day for me as a catcher is pretty average. You stay hot all the time, which gets you tired, but it's all about having fun and enjoying the baseball weather down here.
SP: Has anyone there particularly impressed you?
NZ: Yeah, a couple of my teammates. Everybody has gotten better in their particular ways.
SP: Any names?
NZ: [Amauris] Valdez, the catcher. We are very friendly, talk a lot, and help each other out on what we need to work on to get better.
SP: He was your teammate in the gulf coast league, right? How was the transition from high school to the GCL, specifically catching pro pitchers?
NZ: Hey, man, it's incredible. At first, it's tough to fall into track really quickly; it's tough to catch them. When you are normally used to catching pitchers at 85 to 86 mph and you come up and catch the pitchers throwing 96 mph, it's just incredible. It's all about making adjustments and everything falls into track. Catching Billy Wagner for a couple of innings before he went to the Red Sox was a good experience. I learned a lot from it and I hope I can go to the majors and catch those guys and get to play with them. It's my dream and one day it will come true; I have faith.
SP: Did you talk with Billy Wagner at all? Did he have any advice for you?
NZ: Yeah, a lot. He gave some tips on how to be smart behind the plate, what kind of pitches to ask for, and how to be mentally prepared.
SP: Did anyone else at GCL throw as hard as Wagner?
NZ: Our closer, [Luis] Rojas threw 96 mph.
SP: Nice. One last question before you go: What do you think about your fans calling themselves the Zapatistas?
NZ: I think it will be great. [laughs] That's a good one.
Thanks again to Nelfi for taking the time to talk with me.