Twins' Julien on his dad's influence and his baseball journey from Quebec
Quebec is hardly a baseball hotbed. Entering this season, only 32 players born in the Canadian province had suited up in a Major League Baseball game.
On April 12, Edouard Julien became the 33rd. The Minnesota Twins player is just the second Quebec City native to reach the majors. Max St. Pierre, a catcher who appeared in six games for the Detroit Tigers in 2010, is the other.
Julien isn't just a novelty, though. After earning accolades playing second base and hitting leadoff for Canada at the World Baseball Classic, he's been making an impact for the Twins all season, particularly since he was called up for good on June 10.
He's second on the team with a 135 wRC+ and leads the Twins in on-base percentage (.383), helping them pull away atop the American League Central. He's one of the top rookies in baseball. Minnesota selected him in the 18th round of the 2019 draft.
theScore caught up with Julien, 24, last week to learn about his ascension from an unlikely region and understand how he arrived with such a refined skill set, which includes an elite walk rate and swing decisions.
theScore: Having been raised in a hockey-first hometown, how did you become interested in baseball?
Julien: I think it's just my dad. He liked to play baseball. He liked to play softball. He put a glove in my hand when I was 3 or 4 years old, and I just liked it from the get-go. He just played for fun … He grew up in Quebec. He was an Expos fan. He loved them.
theScore: How did your dad help you develop your skills?
Julien: We would hit in the garage. In 10th grade, my dad started having me use this app. You put it on your bat and it calculates your bat speed. I would try to compare myself to Mike Trout and all these guys in the big leagues. I would swing as hard as I could, hitting off a tee, to create good numbers.
theScore: Why was your dad focused on bat speed at the time? Weighted bat regimens have only become trendy in more recent years.
Julien: His favorite players had a lot of bat speed, like Vladimir Guerrero, Gary Carter. … Growing up, my dad would always say, "Swing hard. Have a lot of bat speed. That's how you hit the ball hard." Because I wasn't a big guy (Julien is listed at 6-feet, 195 pounds), I just focused on swinging hard. I remember my days with Team Canada, I was swinging so hard my helmet would fly off. The coach would be like, "Swing less hard and put the bat on the ball." (But swinging with intent is) how I got my twitchiness and bat speed.
theScore: The majority of major leaguers hail from warm weather states in the U.S. or countries like the Dominican Republic. How did you get in the reps as an amateur player in Quebec?
Julien: Back home, we were pretty lucky. We had this big soccer field (at Cardinal-Roy Secondary School), where we'd put (a temporary bubble) on it and field ground balls, and hit in there during the winter. So it wasn't too bad even though you're not playing games. You can practice, and I was practicing pretty much every day in there. That's how I became good. That's how I became a little more skillful. In the summer, when you get older, you are just trying to go play around in the United States. (As a prep player, Julien played for the Team Elite club in the Atlanta area.)
theScore: I understand that you didn't speak English until you arrived at Auburn to play college baseball. How did you get by?
Julien: Initially, they would ask me anything, and I would just say "Yes." I didn't understand what they were asking. They would ask me if I wanted to play left field, and I would just say "Yes." I didn't care. The coach would say go over there, point, and I would just go. … I learned (English) just being around my teammates every day in college. In pro ball, you learn how to speak.
theScore: How did you develop your plate discipline? You rank ninth in walk rate among players with at least 300 plate appearances this season.
Julien: I think it started my second year in college where teams would just pitch around me. I learned to focus on one area of the plate and just swing at that. In pro ball, it got even better just playing every day and being more thoughtful. I found that approach worked for me. I can have a good eye and utilize that, and take my walk, and go deep into counts, and take pitches.
Travis Sawchik is theScore's senior baseball writer.
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