Monday, August 06, 2007

A Few Minutes With "Our Starter In Training"

Last Monday evening, when I headed down to Woodbridge, Virginia to see Our Washington Nationals Shawn Hill pitch his first Re-Hab start for The Potomac Nationals, unforseen opportunity came my way when Washington Pitchers Matt Chico and Tim Redding showed up to support their friend and teammate.

Our Number 47 is familar with me, as Sohna and I have met him a few times now. We chatted briefly and I asked him whether he might have a few moments to speak with me for The Nats320 Blog. Kind as always, "Our Starter In Training" said, "Yeah, No Problem." Expecting to leave with Hill and Redding for their trip back home--at any moment--he agreed to speak with me until Shawn finished signing autographs for fans.

So, here we go:

What have you learned so far this year? (SBF)

“Alot. Patience, Confidence--Trusting your teammates ability. As a pitcher, I can’t do it all. I have come a long way, though. Now, I definitely want to finish the year strong. My goal is the keep my ERA down and get quality starts.”

What has been most difficult for you to adjust to in The Major Leagues? (SBF)

“There is SO MUCH DIFFERENT HERE, than The Minor Leagues. The Hitters, The Strike Zone, The Entire Atmosphere, everything is completely different and I have had to adjust to that fact. But, that challenge has made the entire time here a more fun process.”

Then, what has it been like for you in The Major Leagues, so far? (SBF)

“It’s a dream come true. It’s something I have strived for all my life. And to be able to compete at this level is a dream come true. To be able to pitch to a professional hitter like Ken Griffey, Jr--is a great challenge. Not often do you get to do that. I love that challenge. I enjoy the opportunity given to beat them. Really, it's fun.”

What have you learned since your first game of this season, until know? (SBF)

“Well, my first game wasn’t too good, you saw that, Right? (Both of us Busting Out Laughing). You can only go up from there (still laughing at himself—a really good chuckle)!! From there, I think I have learned a lot. Brian Schneider has helped me out a ton, both on and off the field. He is great in helping me decide what pitches to throw and in what situations.”

Brian Schneider’s help is a recurring theme to most any Nationals Pitcher I speak with, including you. (SBF)

“Oh, really tons. I don’t think I could ever underestimate his importance. Honestly, I have no idea where I would be without him. He is a smart as they come as a catcher. Definitely, one of the best catchers I have ever thrown to in my life.”

So, what does he specifically do to help you? (SBF)

“He’s the guy that keeps me calm. No matter what’s going on, on the field, or even off the field—he’s there for you, as well. Brian takes a game into his own hands and basically says let me (Schneider) worry about the problems; I just worry about my pitches. Being a Rookie, he is so important. A lifesaver, really.”

How about Randy St. Claire (Pitching Coach)? (SBF)

“He’s great. I have had trouble with my mechanics. He is always there to help me fix them. If I have any questions, he’s there for me. He always is helping to get me where I want to be (successful) on The Major League Level—in my comfort zone”

What are those mechanics that you both agree need to be worked on? (SBF)

“My stride is a problem. I throw too far across my body. We need to work on that. He knows I am not too comfortable throwing my curveball. He has been really supportive of me with that pitch all year long.”

So, with those issue when you are out there on the mound, are you confident? (SBF)

“Yes, really confident. I trust my abilities. I just need to be more consistent. The experience, which I am gaining this year is invaluable.”

With that, Shawn Hill was finished signing autographs. Shawn Hill and Tim Redding were waiting to head back up I-95 to Washington for the evening. Matt Chico is one of the most relaxed players I have ever met. When Sohna and I first met him in Viera, this past February—he was exactly the same. Nice, easy going—yet confident. A nature not usually seen in a 23 year old. Yes, he has struggled at time throughout the 2007. Yet, he has taken the baseball from Our Manager Manny Acta every fifth day, without fail. "Our Starter In Training" may have a long way to go, but you can't his willingness to compete.

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