You asked. I answered.
Q – My questions involve your conception of how players, in this case pitchers, move up from rookie ball to A/AA/AAA ball. Is it as simple as pitch well and move up, depending on how pitchers above your level are doing? Are you expected to stay at a certain level for a set amount of time? Being on a limited pitch count, does that mean your odds of moving up early are lower? And is that a taboo subject that most players try not to talk about, similar to never discussing a no-hitter in the dugout during the game?
A – This is a question to which every minor league player wishes they knew the exact answer. There is no cookie cutter approach. Each organization is different, and decisions are fluid from one case to the next. The one thing I know to do is to focus on the things I can control. I can control how much I learn about myself, pitching, and my opponents. I can control how hard I work, how well I take care of my body, and my performance on the field. I can’t control how the pitcher in AA is pitching, or even the starting pitcher at the same level as me for that matter. Being on a limited pitch count means I have about a zero percent chance of moving up this year. But, that is also by design. The Angels are being cautious and protective of my arm. At the same time, I am 22 and that is considered old in professional baseball. Hopefully, the Angels will want to push me through the system, and at that point, it becomes sink or swim. As for it being taboo, it is just a part of the business. It is common for players to move up and down, so we are pretty used to it. We all hope to be moved up; it’s just a matter of if and when.
Q – So…who leads the antics in the dugout since you aren’t in there every game? Or isn’t that sort of thing allowed in rookie ball?
A – The whole team concept is a bit different in pro ball than in college. I still do have my fun in the dugout, but I am usually charting hitters and have to stay somewhat focused on the game. This keeps my dancing to a minimum.
Q – I know a lot of the running in baseball is simply going from foul pole to foul pole along the warning track, or maybe treadmill work depending on the facility. But what exactly is arm care work?
A – I actually only run pole to pole one day out of every five. For now, I separate my days into 5 days because every 5 days I am pitching (unless blessed with a random off day). As far as the treadmill, I hate them so I stay away from those. We do sprints and agility work. We need to stay athletic even though we’re pitchers. But to the heart of your question: Arm care work consists of many different exercises focused on the arms and shoulders to strengthen and reduce the chance of injury. There are various exercises to focus on strengthening the rotator cuff and scapular area, in addition to some targeted for our elbow. We have 4 different routines we follow and the routine we do depends on which day it is in the cycle. For instance, the day after we throw is the day with the heaviest arm workout.
Q – How are hosts families chosen, and does every player on the team stay at one?
A – I’m not quite sure how host families are chosen. Obviously, the family would have to approach the team, offering up their house for a player(s) to live in for the summer. I’m not really sure how players are dispersed either. I know we are asked for preferences like animals or none, smoking or non-smoking, etc. so I guess they try to match up as best as possible. For the most part, all the players on the Owlz stay with a host family. It is not mandatory, but our base pay does not quite cover enough for rent, if you get my drift. Also, it is common for multiple players to live together. For example, I live with catcher Anthony Bemboom and fellow pitcher, Austin Adams.
Q – How much do you miss Hoodlands 107, mainly your roommates, and especially DatFischStick? It’s gotta be tough not having such a great guy and positive influence in your life daily. How are you dealing with that?
A – I do miss the Hoodlands 107, and it shall forever be remember as sacred ground. My roommates and I gave it a great run, and two of them are still living the dream there. Adam and I have been replaced, but we know we will never be forgotten! DatFischStick was a great roommate and is an even better friend. I have been impressed with the fact that he has yet to pocket veto me like he does others! I am looking forward to my return to Columbia, yet will unfortunately not be able to live in the Hoodlands 107. Hopefully, Adam and I will be able to find a nice apartment (and one we can afford because checks stop when the season stops) when we return to Cola-town.
Q – Same questions to you that you posed to Ray Tanner: word on the street is that you are using a different shampoo? What kind? Lather and rinse, but do you repeat?
Hey, are you excited to see him in the offseason? #TannerOnTwitter
A – I am a creature of habit, and when I find a product I like, I normally stick with it. I am using Head & Shoulders Classic Clean scent. I always lather and rinse, but repeating is only for special occasions! I am excited to get back to Columbia in the off season. I could only be so lucky as to get a little bit of ATHLETIC DIRECTOR Ray Tanner’s time.
Q – How did you learn to balance studying and playing ball so well?
A – It became a fine-tuned skill. I have always been a person that enjoyed having fun; thus, it was hard for me to pass up a good time. But, I am very blessed to have a brain that retains a lot of information quickly. This helped me reduce studying time so that I could do some other things. Also, I had an innate ability to know how to study to get right above the “A” mark. While this might not be the best thing to admit, I also knew that college was not just about my grades, but about my experiences throughout my four years. Once you learn how much you need to study to make the grade, you can then put your time to other areas. You also have to use your time wisely. I was not always great at this and have completed a few all-nighters in my college career. Basically, my advice is to realize that college is a great experience. For it to live up to its potential, you need to do stupid stuff sometimes. Write your paper the night before it’s due. Stay up all night before a test. Have spontaneous trips to the beach or even just something simple like Waffle House in the very early morning. Sleep through a class (especially when it’s raining). Experiences like this help you learn about yourself. For example, if your paper sucks when you wrote it the night before, you will learn not to procrastinate. College is a lot more than just what you learn in the classroom.
Q – Obviously, you are facing more experienced hitters than you saw most of the time in college, but what works for you and what does not work as well? You were basically a control pitcher rather than a fast-ball pitcher so how do you adjust to older, stronger batters? The stats seem to indicate that you are doing better against lefties than right-handed batters. Why is that and how do the coaches help you to deal with them? Finally, are there significant differences in the way the umpires set the strike zone that make it harder to get calls on either right or left handed batters?
A – Actually, in the level of ball I am in right now, I would say the hitters are not more experienced than SEC hitters. There are some excellent hitters in this league though. As you move up through the ranks, it obviously becomes greater competition. Also, most of the hitters I face now are younger than me! I am old! As far as what works well for me, it is just knowing who I am and pitching like I know how to pitch. The goal for the transition from college ball to pro ball is to not reinvent the wheel. Instead, it’s like buffing up an old paint job. I have my strengths and weaknesses as a pitcher and try to improve on those every day. I would disagree with you that I am not a fastball pitcher because, while breaking pitchers are effective, they are only effective if pitching off of the fastball. Now, I do rely on controlling my fastball, or it will get hit. As far as adjustments, I read the hitters swings off of my pitches. We get scouting reports before the game, and while these are useful, I feel that my own eyes and intuition are even better. If I see a hole in the hitters swing, I try to exploit that to the best of my ability. Why am I tougher on lefties? I’d say it’s mainly b/c statistics show that it is usually harder for hitters to hit off of pitchers of their same hand. I am always trying to improve my pitches to make me effective against any hitter. The umpires are umpires. Some are bad. Some are good. No matter what, you can’t let them affect your results.
Q – How do the minor league stadiums in the west compare to Carolina Stadium?
A – For the most part, the stadiums where we play are nice, but none of the stadiums compare to Carolina Stadium. Carolina Stadium is top-notch.
Q – Now that you’re on other side of country, how does it compare to when you were in Columbia? Like how you really couldn’t go anywhere without the fans recognizing you? Is it nice to be low key like your freshmen year at Carolina?
A – Being on the other side of the country has definitely been a change. Some things are better. Some are worse. Utah is a unique place because I am living in a valley. Left or right, there are mountains on both sides. And the mountains don’t look like the tree-covered Appalachian Mountains either. You can actually see the rocks and terrain of the mountain. So, there is definitely a major geographical change from Columbia. I also don’t sweat immediately after walking outside here so that is nice! I love running into Gamecock fans when I am in Columbia, but it is nice to be able to sort of blend in with the crowd. My Owlz teammates gave me a lot of crap in the first week about the CWS and whatnot. Typical new-guy stuff. But I am looking forward to returning to Columbia in the off-season. Especially excited about catching some football games!
Q – A question for you regarding the bus…is it more “Bull Durham” or “Major League?”
A – Luckily neither! It’s a standard Coach Line bus. Not a great bus, but it could be worse.
Q – Did you have any idea minor league life would be like this? (first road trip)
A – Yes and no. In some areas, I thought it would be worse…like the baseball part. I thought I would hate it because it’s a lot more individually focused. However, I really do enjoy what I am doing. I knew the hotels wouldn’t be great, but we have stayed at a few nice places. I didn’t expect things to be as great as I had it at South Carolina just because that’s the nature of the beast. Division I baseball is the top in its class. Now, I’m back on the bottom and have to work my way to the top!
Q – What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?
A – Nothing. I had a hard enough time hitting college pitching!