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Sudden impact: Q&A with Cody Bellinger

The Dodgers rookie sensation talks about early stardom and perfecting that ferocious swing
October 13, 2017

Cody Bellinger is the most recent in a line of Dodgers Rookie of the Year candidates, and also one of the greatest, having eclipsed the club freshman home run record set by Hall of Famer Mike Piazza at a position where Steve Garvey and Gil Hodges were once fixtures. The

Cody Bellinger is the most recent in a line of Dodgers Rookie of the Year candidates, and also one of the greatest, having eclipsed the club freshman home run record set by Hall of Famer Mike Piazza at a position where Steve Garvey and Gil Hodges were once fixtures.

The 22-year-old son of former Big Leaguer Clay Bellinger, Cody didn't even open the season on the Major League roster, but he was called up in late April when injuries depleted the Dodgers offense and he's helped carry it ever since. He's already been an All-Star and showed off his prodigious power in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, and his absence from the lineup with a sprained ankle coincided with one of the club's roughest patches of the season.Along the way, he hit for the tenth cycle in franchise history, was twice National League Rookie of the Month, and became just the second Dodgers rookie ever to blast more than 30 home runs in a season.

Bellinger is a big part of not only his club's commitment to developing from within, but Major League Baseball's growing legion of young stars. He talked about that youthful surge, along with the ups and downs of his first season.
MLB is enjoying a renaissance of young stars and this year, along with Aaron Judge, you're one of them. Any thoughts on why so many are having so much success at a young age?

I noticed it a few years ago, when Trout and Harper came up. I would say that was the starting point, with Machado, too. I think, for whatever reason, maybe the young guys aren't scared of the spotlight anymore because they've seen other guys have so much success. And that was kind of it for me. I've seen all these guys when I was in the Minors coming up. You see Harper coming up at 19; Michael Trout was 21 or 22. I got called up and wondered what makes them so special? So, I said, "Why not me?"
During your Minor League career, you sent videos of every game to your Dad, because he knows your swing so well and he can spot flaws. Do you still enlist his help?

I still send him videos. Shawn Wooten (organization hitting instructor) still sends them to me, and I'll send them to him. It's better to have more eyes that understand the game.

What's the best baseball advice your dad gave you?
Video: MLB Tonight: Clay Bellinger talks about son's success

Just respect the game, on and off the field. The better reputation you have, the better it will be for you. Players, umpires, whoever -- treat the game with respect.
You mentioned Wooten, as do many of the hitters that have come up through the Dodgers system. Minor League instructors are often overlooked, so can you explain why he's so instrumental?

He's gifted at looking at video and noticing a centimeter if your foot is tilting this way or that way. That can make a world of difference in your swing. He'll put the videos side by side and it's an easier way to learn for the younger generation.
What aspect of your game has improved the most?

It's the little things I have to pay attention to. Not the offense, not the defense, but the focus in between pitches. Focusing on signs. Focusing on video. What to look for from certain pitchers. Paying attention to the shifts. There's a lot to it.
You hit .207 in Spring Training and began 2017 in the Minor Leagues, but at the time, you said you weren't worried about your ability to succeed. What did you know that the rest of us didn't?

I wasn't worried one bit. I usually have bad Spring Trainings. I made a swing change this year with Wooten, standing completely straight up, and got really comfortable with it at the end of Spring Training. I knew going into the season I'd be fine.
Did you model your game after any other player?

Not necessarily. I watched certain players. For me, while I was in the Minor Leagues, I watched big lefties, like (Joey) Votto, I watched a lot of (Eric) Hosmer, and I feel he swings aggressively like I do. Like me, those two guys are not physically huge, they're just naturally gifted.
What was your most embarrassing Sports moment?

It was in the Little League World Series, when I had an interview on Baseball Tonight and they asked me a question and I didn't answer for about 15 seconds. Dead silence. The video is out there somewhere.
What do you enjoy away from baseball?

Honestly, time with family and friends is huge. Whether you're successful or not, they'll still be there. I enjoy golfing, only been once during the season, but it takes your mind off everything.
What's your favorite meal?

Shake Shack. Man, those burgers are unbelievable.
Favorite movie?

Remember the Titans. Love that movie.
Favorite musician?

Don't really have one. I like Florida Georgia Line. Big fan of Kendrick Lamar now. All genres.

Is there something about you that people would be surprised to learn?

I'm really laid back. I really don't do much. Just relax, and keep it low key.
This article appears in the World Series Program. To purchase a copy, visit mlbshop.com.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.