Thursday, January 28, 2010

10 Minutes With Drew Storen


Our Washington Nationals 2nd Pick in the first round of the 2009 Entry Draft (10th Overall), Drew Storen, is standing beside me at The Unity Health Care Center in SW yesterday during the opening day of the 2010 Winter Caravan. Having never met him before in person--our conversation begins in this manner:

SBF: Stan Kasten told my wife, Sohna, and I a few months back that when it comes to you--there's never been a microphone you didn't like.

Drew Storen: (nodding approving) "I think that perfectly explains me in a nutshell." (laughter all around)

Which all leads to a very good conversation with Drew later in the afternoon after completion of The Hard Times Cafe Event in Arlington, Virginia. Drew Storen sat down with Nats320 to chat about his blossoming professional career. With that, here we go with 10 Minutes With Drew Storen:

I want to start by asking you about your affability. You seem very comfortable around fans? (SBF)

“It’s just kind of the way I try to do things. I kind of go along with the flow and I am really happy with where I am at. So, it’s pretty easy to do it.”

You signed right away after being drafted by The Nationals. Was there a reason for that? (SBF)

“I was really excited. I was really excited for the opportunity. I really wanted to get playing. I felt good with how I finished off my college season. Obviously, as a team (Stanford), we didn’t make the playoffs. But pitching wise, I finished off strong and I wanted to keep that going.”

I was talking with Mark Scialabba (Washington’s Director Of Minor League Operations) after you played your first professional game (for Hagerstown--Single A). He said you threw a fastball on your very first pitch for a strike, then the hitter took your second pitch and slammed it out of the park. What was your reaction to that? (SBF)

“I just thought I was going to throw the ball past him (Travis D’Arnaud). He was involved in that big trade that went down between the Phillies, Mariners & Blue Jays (for Cliff Lee). So, I need to take credit for helping him out. (joking) But it was at 96 (MPH Fastball), I remember. Like wow!! That was my second pitch and I just thought I was going to throw it past him and.....it was kind of one of those welcome to pro ball moments. I looked over at my good buddy, Jack McGeary (Nationals Minor Leaguer--Stanford Roommate), in the stands doing the radar gun just laughing. The ball was hit like 500 feet and it was A BOMB!!”

So it registered right away that you were playing a different game? (SBF)

“Yeah, it was like, OK, well it doesn’t matter how hard I throw anymore, it’s about control.”

You got a crash course in baseball that you never experienced at Stanford? (SBF)

“I learned in pro ball you don’t try to ‘out stuff’ people. Just go out there and pitch. These guys are professional hitters and they don’t care how hard it comes.”

Mike Rizzo has always stated you have to master every step to make it to the majors. You comfortable with that--not being rushed? (SBF)

“Yes. That’s fine with me. I understand it’s a process. People ask me about last September and my goal is not to be a Big Leaguer for one month. I am looking at the big picture, thinking and understanding it’s a process. I need to go through each step.”

You’ve never had a spring training as far as professional baseball is concerned. What are you expecting?

“Trying to make the adjustments like I did all throughout this past summer (at Hagerstown, Potomac & Harrisburg). Hopefully, I am getting ready for it right now. I am going to be keeping my eyes open, head on a swivel and take it all in because, like you said, it’s a new experience for me. And it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

You went from Single A Ball to a little bit of Double A Ball, then you go on to the Arizona Fall League--another big step up. How different was that experience?

(Laughing at first) “Way different. All the number three and four hitters I faced in Double A became every single hitter I faced in the Fall League. Every hitter is a guy, you know, is a top player from some organization. They are on top of their game and I had to be on guard for every single pitch. If you made a mistake, they were going to take advantage of it. (Nodding his head up and down). But that was good, as that became a good prep for me heading to spring training.”

I was watching an interview last night with Bob Feller (Hall Of Famer). He stated he believes pitchers are not prepared as well today as they were during his time. They don’t train enough and they certainly don’t throw enough. Your thoughts on that comment?

“The criticisms from the old school pitchers, always, say today’s pitchers are soft and they don’t throw as much. I think it’s a new wave. For me, I throw a lot. I play long-toss every day and I do a lot more. Now, there are guys that don’t like throwing very much. It’s different for me since I am a reliever as compared to a starter. Pitch counts are a big thing now for a starter because they want to keep guys healthy. And I think all the research and care for arms leads to more guys going shorter (in the game). Which is fine for me, since that gives me a job. (chuckling) A starter giving way gives me a job in the bullpen.”

It’s also been said about you that you don’t walk anybody. In fact, you don’t like to walk anybody. You want to get everybody out in some way. Does that frustrate you when you then walk someone? (SBF)

“Oh yeah!! That really frustrates me because I feel I am giving in. I don’t like giving in to a hitter. I understand when there are opportunities where you need to do that and you need to pitch a certain way at a certain time. But if a guy is going to beat me, I would rather he hit a missile line drive for a base hit than me walking him because I feel that is a mental lapse on my part--if I am walking a guy.”

But you have got to let it go? (SBF)

“Yes, there are certain situations were it’s 2nd and 3rd--the big hitter at the plate--you pitch around that guy. But leadoff walks and two out walks really frustrate me more than anything. If I go out and get hit around--I am frustrated--but at the same time I can sit back and say: ‘here’s what happened’. I get really frustrated if I go out and make some walks, and make bad pitches--that’s really when I get mad at myself.”

But does that getting mad at yourself over boil and make things even worse? (SBF)

(Chuckling between us)

“No, it’s all good. I keep it in. I don’t let it affect me when I am on the mound. I kind of keep it to myself--that is what I try to do.”

You said earlier, you didn’t really want to be a Major Leaguer for one month this past September. If Rizzo decides that he wants you down in the minors to learn even more this season and he doesn’t bring you up--for whatever reason. Would that bother you? (SBF)

“Ah, no. Like I said, it’s a part of the process. It’s the big picture thing and it’s the one thing you have to do. I look at this as if I am still ahead of the curve as compared to a lot of the guys from this past year’s draft (2009). And the fact that I got to play in Double A and The Arizona Fall League in my first season and I got to come here, go to the Rookie Meetings and I am going be in Big League Spring Training next month--that whole package of things puts me ahead of the curve. I am so very happy with where I am at.”

Have you talked with Jordan Zimmermann? (SBF)

“I have met him when he came down for a rehab start (in Florida) and that’s about it.”

I ask that only because some would say he was rushed to the Majors and developed a serious problem in his throwing arm, hopefully corrected now by surgery. But something no one wants to see from you? (SBF)

“Well, I hope not. Arm care is huge for me. In fact, I am sort of paranoid when it comes to that.”

And that is why you do long toss every day? (SBF)

“I am a big believer in that. I want to throw more. Even in high school, I would pitch and then go play third (base) the next day. And I really started to throw a lot when I went to The Cape (Cape Cod Wood Bat League). A throwing program, which was something I needed to do every day to get stronger. I was throwing as hard as I did all year at the end the Fall League and that is a good sign.”

The Cape Cod League is popular as a development tool for college players moving from aluminum to wood bats. How different was that experience for you as a pitcher? (SBF)

“It was a little bit different. But in all honesty, people say it must have been easier to pitch against wood bats. I always tell people the hitters were so much better (there) that it compensated for the change in bats. It was tough as there were better hitters there, but I learned a lot. You learn a lot about playing baseball today, concentrating on baseball every single day for the first time in your life. That’s what I took from it.”

You are being groomed as a closer so you have to be fearless in many respects. I take it you are not afraid to back someone off the plate no matter the situation? (SBF)

“Yeah. That is one thing I like to be able to do--minimizing the game. I LIKE throwing under pressure. (chuckling) I don’t know, I guess I am a junkie. (laughing now) Really, I am!! I love it!! I would much rather go into any game--like I always say: ‘I want to be The Hero or The Zero’. It’s a cliche’, but I love it. I don’t want anybody else out there with the game on the line because I want it to be my fault. That’s just the way I am. I got a taste of that in college and became a junkie for it.”

I remember reading somewhere, when at Stanford, you gave up the game winning home run and it really didn’t bother you? (SBF)

“It is going to happen. I would really rather give up a home run than walk. I understand there are bad situations where that happens, but I made a mistake and a guy made me pay for it. I did that a lot in college. And the ability to come out the next day--even if you give up the worst home run and lose a night game in college. I want to come out the very next day and get the ball in the very same situation because I’ve forgotten about it. You’ve got to move on. You’ve got to move on when you do bad. You’ve just got to stay even keel. That’s the beautiful thing about baseball, you are going to have a game tomorrow and you are going to have a game the next day. So regardless of how you are doing, you can turn it around real quick, or you can stay down in the dumps too long. By staying on the even keel and not having the emotional roller coaster ride over that long season--you can really go a long way.”

Final question: How much has your life changed in the past seven months? (SBF)

(Big Sigh, Big Breath) “A lot. That was the cool thing about the off-season. I got to look back on things. Wow, this is pretty unbelievable. It really hasn’t yet sunk in. Like being here (at The Winter Caravan) and doing this type of stuff--pretty unbelievable. Still seeing this jersey with my name on the back--very cool!! Seeing the (Nationals) highlight reel and I am on it--Wait!! Hold On!! Really? Very Different.”

It has got to be strange. There you were in college, most likely in a dorm with your friends, playing baseball a couple days per week. Now, you are here and seeing these fans all wanting to meet you. (SBF)

“And yet the biggest eye opener was during draft day on ESPN. On the bottom line (the ticker) on SportsCenter--I saw my name. That’s was kind of cool too!! (Laughing) It’s those little things like that which make this whole experience go a long, long way.”

With that final answer, Nats320's 10 Minutes With Drew Storen concluded. Without a doubt, an extremely enjoyable and personable young man to hold a conversation. Storen has his head screwed on right and is clearly moving in the right direction.

Drew Storen Photo Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

2 comments:

cass said...

Nice interview. Good work.

whollefnshow said...

SBF-

Great interview and great meeting you yesterday and getting to spend some time catching up on the metro. Please keep up the good work!