Thursday, February 26, 2009
A Few Minutes With Collin Balester
For his first starting assignment of Spring 2009--Collin Balester pitched an excellent two innings today against The Detroit Tigers. No hits, one walk and one strikeout facing just seven hitters. His chance to get his feet wet to begin his sophomore season of Major League Baseball. Last year, Balester was handed the opportunity to pitch at The Big League Level for the first time in his young career. Like many rookies--that adjustment can be difficult and he finished 2008 with a 3-7 Won/Loss Record and 5.51 ERA. Over 80 innings pitched--he allowed 12 home runs.
Collin Balester understood he needed to get better. So, this 22 Year Old spent much of his time this off-season working on improving his performances on the pitching mound. That and writing his increasingly popular Bally's Blog.
Collin and I talked two days ago after practice in Viera, Florida. Here is that brief chat:
Your blog is very entertaining to read. (SBF)
“I try. I try, but so is yours.”
We have a lot of fun and you seem to be having fun also. (SBF)
“It is fun, very fun.”
You’ve come a long way since last year. You now have half a season of Major League Baseball under your belt and you are considered to be in line for a starting rotation position? (SBF)
“Well despite all of that, I still have to work hard. Nothing is guaranteed. I am having fun with all the competition going on. And this is nice; it’s a new feel this camp. There is a better attitude. Everyone is forgetting about last year and hopefully moving on and up.”
But despite the team’s record, were you happy with your rookie campaign in The Majors? (SBF)
“It was awesome. It was great to get up here, pitch here in that type of atmosphere. I had never pitch there before. To get up here and get my name thrown around—get my feet wet—was a wonderful experience—and I learned a lot from it.”
And you were happy with how it all turned out—looking back? (SBF)
“Yes, definitely. When I first got called up I really didn’t know how I was going to relax. I needed to feel comfortable—trying to do my best to give them—every five days a quality start. And I thought I did pretty well. Now, after looking at tape, I know I needed to work on a lot of things this off-season and this spring moving forward.”
Isn’t it amazing how as you are growing up—at most every juncture you feel like you know it all—but you really are just beginning to learn? (SBF)
“That is so very true. No matter what level you go to, there is a change, a big step up. There are so many things you have to learn along the way. And in The Big Leagues you need to change again, adapt. I learned a lot last year and I need to use that to my advantage this year.”
Give me some specifics please? (SBF)
“This off-season I worked on my change up. A thousand times I day—it felt like (Laughing). That’s just a huge pitch for me to learn so I can set up the hitters better. And I worked on my two seamer (fastball) a little bit just in trying to get my command better in the zone. Also, my workouts this off-season were a lot better—knowing what’s ahead for me. I feel like I am a lot stronger now and ready to go.”
I remember your first game down here in Miami at Dolphin Stadium and seeing your Dad so excited over seeing you pitch that day. I thought that was great seeing him excited enough to tell others—‘That’s My Son!! That’s My Son!!’ (SBF)
“Oh I know. He was having a great time. (laughing) He was having a terrific time and he had a blast being there. It was nice to be able to do that with my parents there enjoying every moment. They have done so much for me. And I would love to keep doing this for 15 to 20 more years.”
As for the 2009 Team—your thoughts? (SBF)
“I think we have some power now. There is a completely different feel right now. We brought in some top guys like Olsen and Cabrera and Dunn—obviously—and Willingham. They all have good clubhouse presence. They are leaders and it’s a lot of fun to be around these guys. In fact, I am learning a lot from these guys. They are out to help teach you. So, I am trying to feed off those guys and learn whatever I can from them.”
With that A Few Minutes With Collin Balester ended. What is really striking about Balester is how he has grown up. I am not talking physically, but how he handles himself now--more assured, confident. He's not the shy Southern California teenager Sohna and I first met in Viera, Florida two years ago. Collin Balester is maturing well.