Following a terrific regular season with VCU, rising junior outfielder Bill Cullen has not slowed down one bit, while playing summer ball in Alaska. Over the summer, Cullen, has been a member of the Mat-Su Miners of the Alaska Baseball league.
Cullen finished the summer season hitting .312, he had four doubles, two triples, while finishing second in the homerun (8) and RBI (31) race. He was named a league All-Star, and also competed in the Home Run Derby before the game.
VCUAthletics.com caught up with Cullen for a question and answer about his summer in Alaska, and the success he has had on the diamond.
VCUAthletics.com: What are some of the highlights about spending your summer in Alaska?
BC: Just going across the country to a completely different environment to play baseball. I also got to meet a bunch of the best guys in the country and being able to compete with them.
VCUAthletics.com: There is a lot of daylight in the Alaskan summer, how does that impact your baseball schedule, and do you see it has an advantage or a disadvantage?
BC: It took a little bit of time getting used to it since it was light out when I would try to go to sleep, but it was an advantage. I would never need to worry about having lights to hit in the outdoor cage, and it made me start my days earlier and end them later since I was so used to having it dark before I called it a night.
VCUAthletics.com: You have had a very successful season, first here at VCU, and now continuing that in Alaska, what are some of the key factors that have led to such a breakout year for you?
BC: For me it was my work ethic. When I was at VCU I was always one of the first to be at the field before practices and games hitting in the cage, off the tee, and doing front toss. I believe that gave me more confidence in my swing so when I go into the games it was all about me competing against the pitcher. I have also evolved as a player being more mature at the plate and knowing what the situations are and what I need to do as a hitter.
VCUAthletics.com: Because of the success you have had, you were named an Alaska Baseball League All-Star, and got to participate in Home Run Derby, what was that whole experience like, and did it live up to all of you expectations?
BC: It was a great experience they had everything planned out. It felt like the real deal in the pros. We had a lot of fun during the Home Run Derby. Some of the guys would go out and bring me a towel and a Gatorade during my round to give me a break. It wasn't so much about winning the derby, but all of us wanted to have a good time doing it. The all-star game was a great time too. They split us up into teams the North and the South. It was some of the best competition I have ever played against. All of the pitchers and hitters were the best of the best so it was always an exciting matchup. That whole day was just an amazing experience, and it exceeded all expectations I had for it, and it was very similar to the MLB All-Star Game.
VCUAthletics.com: How long did it take you to get adjusted to being in Alaska, and what is like being so far away from home?
BC: For me being away from home isn't something new even though I don't live too far away from my home at school. I have been traveling across the country over the summer for many years now even before college baseball. It took me few days to get use to the time zone, and the sun being out so much. My parents always support me while I am away because they understand the importance of what I am doing. For me that makes it a lot easier to be away and be focused on what I am there to do.
VCUAthletics.com: What are some of the opportunities you have been able to take advantage of off the field while being out there?
BC: The scenery in Alaska was amazing. We would go hiking on mountains and there would still be snow on the peaks of the mountains. We also got to go hiking on a glacier a few hours away on one of our off days. It was completely different than anything you would ever see being in Richmond. Whenever we had free time the guys would always get together hangout and go out to do something.
VCUAthletics.com: Off the field how is lifestyle the same, or different in Alaska compared to being in Richmond?
BC: The life style was different because Alaska is so rural, and only have a few big cities in the whole state. Since Richmond is a city there are so many more people you see just walking around. I feel like that more people cooked their own dinners rather than always going out to dinner in Alaska. Another big thing was the price difference between Richmond and Alaska because everything in Alaska was so much more expensive. They did have some things in common like the store you would shop at and places where you could go to hang out with friends.
VCUAthletics.com: What has been the best part about spending your summer in Alaska?
BC: The best experience for me was just playing the game against some of the best competition, and meeting the guys on my team. It was great to become better friends with them.