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Indians prospect Quentin Holmes knows he needs more than raw speed to succeed in MLB

Quentin Holmes opens up about adjusting to pro ball, getting help from Jackie Bradley Jr., and learning harmonica in this exclusive interview with Let’s Go Tribe

Anthony J. Causi

There’s more to Quentin Holmes than meets the eye.

Standing 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, the Cleveland Indians liked the recently turned 18-year old enough to make him their first selection at pick 64 this past June in the 2017 MLB draft.

Hailing from East Elmhurst in Queens, New York, Holmes was graded as the fastest player in the draft by the experts, but that wasn’t the only reason the Indians liked him.

Just like last year’s top Tribe pick Will Benson, Holmes has strong character, an incredible work ethic, and the Indians brass are big fans of his leadership ability.

Holmes began his professional career exactly one month ago today, and while it’s been a bit of a learning process (slashing .185/.217/.338), he’s already showing flashes of his potential, hitting his first home run in just his fourth game and providing excellent defense in the outfield.

The former 18U Team USA member spoke with Let’s Go Tribe about adjusting to pro ball, getting help from Jackie Bradley Jr, and learning harmonica in this exclusive interview.

Brian Hemminger (Let’s Go Tribe): Can you tell me the story behind “Bro 1” and “Bro 2”?

Quentin Holmes: My brother and I were on vacation with my parents in Atlantic City and we saw those shirts on the boardwalk and it just felt like something we had to do because everyone used to say we were twins. Even though we were four years apart, people said we looked like twins so it just made sense that we wore those Bro 1 and Bro 2 shirts, kinda like Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Doctor Seuss. (laughs)

Brian Hemminger: Did your brother ever hold it against you that you sprouted up so quick and were basically the same size despite the four year age gap?

Quentin Holmes: No, not really. Once he finished high school he started doing his own thing down in North Carolina A&T. He started doing community outreach stuff and teaching the younger generation out there about the right way to live. He works with underprivileged kids in North Carolina near his school so he’s busy doing that and it gives him the same amount of joy that I get from playing baseball. He wasn’t too upset about me being his size so quick since he had more important things to focus on.

Brian Hemminger: Speaking of that, character seems to be a really important thing that the Indians have focused on lately with their top draft picks. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to talk with Will Benson yet but he’s about as classy as it gets and that appears to be a big factor in who they take at the top of the draft. Can you talk about your influences for character and work ethic?

Quentin Holmes: It was definitely a lot on my parents. Growing up, my brother and I wanted to play baseball so bad and it was either “do your homework or don’t play baseball.” We didn’t have much of an option not to behave because every time we didn’t behave at home or in school, they’d take something away like, “You’re not going to practice today” or “you’re not going to the game next week” or taking away phones, this and that. It really helped us focus on doing what we had to do.

Also, going to a private catholic school at McClancy definitely helped me too just because all the brothers at Sacred Heart that were there and the teachers, they definitely led me down the right path, helping teach me the rights and wrongs of society.

Brian Hemminger: And from everything I’ve heard, that helped turn you into a great leader. You were voted captain of your baseball team when you were just a sophomore which is a pretty high honor. What goes into being a good leader? What are some qualities you learned along the way?

Quentin Holmes: I think definitely confidence. I have to have confidence in myself. To be able to lead a team, I have to have confidence in my team to motivate them to do well and I have to know what my coach wants to do and I have to relay his message to the team in the right way and to be able to talk to my peers and interact with them on the same level while somehow having authority over them. I’m not telling them what to do, more telling them the way coach wants to do things.

Brian Hemminger: Now has that translated at all to Arizona or is it a bit more difficult dealing with all the players from Latin America?

Quentin Holmes: It’s not too difficult, it’s just I’m trying to more figure out what I need to do first before I can be leading guys around. I’m trying to show guys how to stay healthy, doing stretches and workouts in the gym. I’m trying to lead them in those things and trying to show them how I do things in New York and whatnot. The Latin American guys, they’re not too bad. Most of them have been learning English pretty well and I’m learning Spanish with them so it hasn’t been too difficult.

Brian Hemminger: Have you learned any favorite Spanish phrases yet?

Quentin Holmes: We say “boocan la” a lot when someone hits a bomb, we say that. I’d have to hear them say other things because they have so many great things they say. We’re still learning.

Brian Hemminger: I saw you had some pretty nifty secret handshakes with your teammates back in New York. Have you tried getting that going with the guys in Arizona yet?

Quentin Holmes: No, not yet. I’ve been trying to figure out some and we tried them one time and then forget about it right after. I tried with my roommate Tyler Freeman to get some down but it just hasn’t been working out.

Brian Hemminger: When you’re not working out or practicing or playing baseball and you need to recharge the batteries, what do you like to do?

Quentin Holmes: If I’m not sleeping, I’m sitting there meditating or listening to some Simran, some Waheguru or I’ll take a dark shower, turn all the lights off and just shower with some calm music on. The last few weeks I’ve also been learning how to play the harmonica, so that’s something different too.

Brian Hemminger: Harmonica, really? Maybe you guys can start up an old blues band.

Quentin Holmes: (laughs) Taylor Murphy is out here on rehab and he actually said he wants to start a band with him being the singer and I told him I’ve got my harmonica so I’m all in.

Brian Hemminger: Most guys, I’d ask them what Netflix show they’re watching but that doesn’t seem like your style.

Quentin Holmes: Not really. My laptop’s old and slow and it’s not really something I enjoy for long stretches. I used to watch Prison Break a lot but I watched all of those already so I can’t watch that. I did just start watching Last Chance U so I can get into that a bit more.

Brian Hemminger: I heard you had a good relationship with Boston Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. How did that start?

Quentin Holmes: My trainer back in New York, Youman Wilder in Harlem, he used to work out with Jackie before he went to college and he kept in touch with him and Jackie and I got in touch and it’s just been good ever since. He’s helped me out a lot through this process since he’s obviously been there before and has achieved success.

Brian Hemminger: Now something I read about that I thought was really cool was you like to follow along with the umpire’s pitch count and you’ll even ring guys up when they strike out from out in center field. Are you still doing that in Arizona?

Quentin Holmes: Yes, definitely. I definitely still do that. It keeps me in the game so I always know the count and it’s something interesting to do. I don’t make noises when I do it and most of the time the pitchers don’t see it but if someone notices, they’ll laugh about it. Back in high school, there one pitcher who would always turn around and point to me when I did it so it switches up every once in a while.

Brian Hemminger: The Cleveland Indians have had some pretty iconic center fielders over the past 30 years. It started with Kenny Lofton in the 90s, then Grady Sizemore in the 2000s and most recently Bradley Zimmer has been doing a great job. Are there any center fielders that you really looked up to or patterned your game after?

Quentin Holmes: Definitely Ken Griffey Jr., Jackie Bradley of course and Adam Jones. My swing used to be exactly like Adam Jones’ three years ago. Mike Trout, the intensity, the swagger they bring. They know they play the game the right way so I would always watch videos of them and try to play like them and even walk around like them.

Brian Hemminger: What’s the adjustment been like turning pro? You were in New York before, going to school, playing maybe two games a week and now things are ramping up considerably in the dry heat of Arizona.

Quentin Holmes: It hasn’t been as much of a shock as one would think. It’s been pretty comfortable with the way the Indians have made me feel. They prepared me for it and I feel like coming out of high school I was prepared for it as well. The heat is not that bad. I think I’ve gotten used to it but every once in a while I’ll come outside and it’s like 120 and I’m not used to it. It gets to 104 or 99 and I’m like, “Okay, it’s cool out today.” The atmosphere of the games, everything goes fast and everyone’s bigger and stronger and it’s definitely different than high school baseball but I think I was well prepared for it.

Brian Hemminger: Everybody is raving about your speed, saying you were the fastest player in the 2017 draft, but you can’t just rely on being fast out there. Have you had to make adjustments with stealing bases? Maybe having to pay more attention to the pitcher, finding the perfect time to get a good jump rather than simply being super fast?

Quentin Holmes: Yes, definitely. There are new things that the coaches are helping me look at. What’s their first move to the plate? What’s their first move to first base? How long are their hold times? Some guys move differently and pitch differently, maybe moving their back arm before lifting their front leg, so the regular person will see them lifting their front leg but maybe I’ll see them lifting their arm before the leg so that could be an extra 0.3 seconds I get on my steal.

Brian Hemminger: What’s been the most difficult adjustment so far to the pro game?

Quentin Holmes: I’d say it’s having to hit consistently. Having to come out every game and hit the same pitching consistently. Everybody throws hard and most guys know what they want to do with the ball so having that consistency in my swing is something I have to work on really big.

Brian Hemminger: Do you have any goals or anything you’d like to accomplish the rest of the year?

Quentin Holmes: Not really, I just want to be more consistent with what I’m doing. I want to keep playing hard and bring my team a couple more wins as much as I can.

Quentin would like to thank Youman Wilder of the Harlem Baseball Hitting Academy, his high school coach Nick Melito at McClancy and his parents, his brother and the big man above. You can follow him on Twitter @jonezz_quentin.