A Matador Minute With C.J. Belanger
C.J. Belanger was a standout redshirt freshman for the Matadors in 2007, starting 53 games in the outfield and finishing the season having played in 55 of the Matadors' 56 games. Belanger hammered six triples and ten doubles and finished second on the squad with 17 extra-base hits.
Belanger heads in to 2008 as the Matadors' starting centerfielder and projects as a key contributor to the Northridge offense. Recently, Belanger sat down with the Northridge media relations staff to offer his thoughts on leadership, summer ball, and the 2008 season.
How do you feel about moving to centerfield, and do you feel that's your most natural position?
Yeah, that's where I played throughout high school and that's where I feel the most comfortable. I feel like you get a better read off the bat in centerfield and I like to talk a lot, and the centerfielder is kind of the captain out there.
Is there a player that you watched growing up that impacted the player you've become, or the style that you play?
Growing up, I always loved Jim Edmonds. Being from California, I loved the Angels, and he was the centerfielder for the Angels. He batted left-handed, and he was just an amazing defensive and offensive player. Lately, I've been in to Grady Sizemore, so those are probably the biggest two.
You were on quite a tear at the start of last year. What is it like to be in that kind of zone?
All hitters will tell you that sometimes you get in that zone and the ball just looks huge and everything you hit goes through. Honestly, it's great. You have so much confidence at the plate, it doesn't matter who's pitching or what they're throwing, you're getting hits. Hopefully I can do that a little longer this year!
You spent the summer with Mankato Moondogs. What's the town of Mankato, Minnesota like and how did you spend the typical Friday night?
Being from California, it's a little different... it's wide open, nature everywhere, cornfields... I lived just outside Mankato and there were only 1,500 people living in the town. There were only six houses within a couple miles so if I wanted to go anywhere I had to drive a few miles in to town. A lot of the guys would go into town, hang out, play pool. It was great! We were like celebrities in their town.
Is there a stadium that you particularly enjoyed playing at, or an opponent that you always look forward to facing?
last year I really enjoyed playing at [Long Beach State's] Blair Field, because I've seen it but never had the chance to play on it, and I'm from Orange County near, so a lot of my friends and family came out to watch me. They had a good crowd, so that was one of my favorite stadiums to play in so far. But this year, but this year I'm really looking forward to playing at Fullerton. Irvine also was amazing.
What's the aspect of your game that you've been working to improve this off-season?
I've worked a lot this season on bunting and hitting the ball to the opposite field. My bunting's better no than it's ever been, and talking to coach about it, we think it's going to greatly help me get more hits, try to bring the infield in and try to hit it through.
How does the team bounce back from the type of finish it had in 2007?
We did have a rough finish, but we had played a lot of great games, we lost I can't even count how many games by one run, or we were up in the eighth inning and just lost. We're not dwelling on it, it's over, it happened in the past, and I think we're a better squad this year. We're young, but the young guys are good players. It's not even phasing us.
have you tried to take a position of leaderhsip with the team? What other players have taken advantage of the opportunity to become leaders?
I have definitely tried to step up, but I think there are a lot of leaders this year. All the returners have stepped up, from P.J. Rousey, Phil Hann, Jason Dabbs, John Parham, Richard Cates, Jowen, Jolicoeur... all those guys have stepped up, and it's cool because we kind of have to with all of the freshman, we can't just have one or two. We need to have several.
Who do you look to as a leader on the team?
Well, I've been here for three years now and there's only a few of us left... Jolicoeur, Quirarte, Parham... so I usually go to those guys, and Phil Hann, being a returning older guy. My roommate, Richard Cates. Mostly the older guys- we've been here, we've been through all of the same things, had the same struggles... we kind of count on each other.
What are your thoughts on the incoming freshman class?
At first I was like, "We've got how many freshman?", and, "We have to play them?" And having been a freshman I know it's tough going from the high school level to the Division I level. But as time's gone on , they've impressed me more and more. I'm excited to see what they can do out there- we've got people that can swing it, we've got people that can play D, we've got live arms- they're pretty exciting.
You've been drafted once and you're eligible again after this season, so is it hard not to focus on a career in professional baseball?
Absolutely. Every time I go home, I've got people asking about it, so yeah, definitely, but it just makes you work that much harder, and by working hard you make the team better. People see me working harder, so maybe that makes them work harder, and that makes the team better.