Results tagged ‘ Relief ’

Q and A With Mark Appel

Mark Appel was drafted out of high school by the Tigers in the 15th round of the 2009 draft. However, due to his commitment to Stanford University, Appel didn’t sign, and instead went to pitch at college.

At Standford, Appel began as a relief pitcher, only receiving three starts his freshman year, where he posted a 5.92 ERA over 38 innings. Once he was made a full time starter again the next season, Appel excelled, lowering his ERA down to 3.02 for the year. In his junior year of college, after he went 10-2 with a 2.56 ERA, Appel was once again drafted, this time by the Pirates as the eighth overall pick. Many felt that Appel would begin his professional baseball career, but he decided to return to college to finish out his baseball career (and degree) at Stanford.

BBM-BeesvQCBandits-Appel-118Despite some flak from people around the baseball world for returning to college, Appel showed just how good of a pitcher he is, improving to have his best season at Stanford; setting the all-time collective strikeout record, in which he went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA. After such a successful final year, Appel was drafted yet again, for the third time, by the Astros as the first overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Beginning his professional baseball career with Low-A Tri-City, Appel made it up to Single-A Quad Cities in 2013, going a combined 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA. Due to the 106 innings Appel had already pitched in 2013 at Stanford, he was shut down after just 38 professional innings pitched, bringing his innings up to roughly 144 for the season.

Appel has an average, to slightly above average, fastball, ranging from the lower to mid nineties, but he can crank it up to upper nineties when needed. He also possesses a good slider and a work in progress changeup that many think will come along.

Heading into his first major league Spring Training, it’s been reported that Appel could, potentially, make the big leagues out of camp “if he is one of the best five pitchers out of Spring Training”. However, as many people feel, it will likely be later in 2014, or early 2015, when Houston — his hometown — gets its first glimpse of Appel. But no matter when that is, with all of the other top prospects in the Astros’ farm system, the future would appear to be bright for them as an organization moving forward, with Appel soon to be leading the way.

Mark Appel — top pitching prospect in the Astros’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I first became interested in baseball when I was very young. For as long as I can remember, I have been playing some version of the sport. Growing up, my parents, as well as certain coaches throughout the years, really influenced me and encouraged me to pursue my dream of playing baseball as a way to educate myself in college and professionally.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

Nolan Ryan was one of the all-time great pitchers and the player I looked up to the most as far as what I wanted to be on the field. He was a fierce competitor who gave his all every single time he got the ball. He competed no matter the score, circumstance, or previous result. Win or lose, you knew he was going to go out and compete again the next time he got the ball.

3.) You were drafted by the Astros in the 1st round of the 2013 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The draft process is very interesting. As someone who has gone through it three different times in three unique situations, I feel like I have seen it all. Someone expected to get drafted goes through “interviews”, both on and off the field. In my situation, I spoke with general managers and scouting directors, as well as the local area scouts. Answering their questions off the field is important for their evaluation process so they can have a good understanding of the type of person you are. But the factor that matters most is the results on the field — how good you are at playing baseball.

The Astros and I had a number of conversations leading up to the draft and on the day of the draft, as well as a few other teams. When the time came for the pick to be made, I felt peace in knowing that I would be exactly where God wanted me to be, whether it was Houston or another team. Bud Selig announced my name and my friends and family who came to visit California (I was preparing for graduation the following week) all celebrated! It was a surreal feeling, knowing that I would be able to have a chance to play in my hometown and the team I grew up rooting for was now the same organization I was a part of. God’s grace is too great.

4.) Before being the number one overall pick in 2013, you were drafted by the Tigers in 2009, and the Pirates, eighth overall, in 2012. What made you decide to attend college instead of going pro out of high school? Why did you decide to return for your senior year at Stanford in 2012 after the Pirates drafted you so high?  

Like I said, I have been drafted three times and each were unique situations.

appelIn high school the Tigers drafted me in the 15th round, even though I told all the area scouts I spoke with that I was planning on attending Stanford. Dreaming about being a pro baseball player, it was fun to entertain the thought of signing as a senior in high school, but I knew that Stanford was where I needed to be for my future, both in baseball and in life. Unsure if I was ready to play minor league baseball, I knew college would allow me to grow up, become a man, and still play baseball at a very high level.

In 2012 the Pirates drafted me with the 8th pick in the draft. The decision to return to school for my senior season was the toughest I have ever had to make. There are a number of factors that go into a decision of that magnitude: baseball development and career, education, regrets (I will explain this one later), desires, and money. Also, as a follower of Jesus, relationships with my coaches, teammates and fans, combined with being a part of what God is doing in this world, is very important to me.

For the baseball development, I did not see an advantage to either signing or returning to school. Development really comes down to how badly you want to get better as a player. I knew that I would be able to improve both at Stanford and in the Pirates’ organization. As far as education went, it was a no-brainer to return to school. Playing my senior year allowed me to finish my degree in Management Science and Engineering. As far as regrets go, when I made my decision, I did not want to have any regrets. I didn’t want to spend my idle time thinking about what it would have been like if I chose the other option. Going back to Stanford meant I would have a chance to play in Omaha (which we didn’t achieve), finish my degree before starting a professional career, and continue to be involved in campus ministries that I had been involved with the past three years.

Those are some things that I would have wondered about a lot if I had signed. When it came down to it, money out of the question, I wanted to go back to school, not for the lack of things signing professionally had to offer (which wasn’t much), but for the mlb_a_appel_cr_400opportunities I had during my senior year at Stanford.

But, as everyone knows, money was involved. And it was a lot of money. There are two somewhat conflicting things going on with my situation. On one hand, I was offered a lot of money, and I mean a lot. And on the other hand, I wasn’t offered what I believed my value for my talents was in the draft market under the current rules. So do I stick to principle and go back to school, or do I chase the money and sign? It was a tough question to comprehend.

There are financial benefits to both options, as well as financial risks (well, maybe there were only risks for returning to school). If money was the most important thing to me, I would have signed 100 percent. I knew by returning to school, I would give up 3.8 million dollars. I also knew there were a few things that could go wrong: injury and underperformance were the two main risks. I also knew there were benefits: education, relationships, the opportunity to get better, and a potential financial gain. The thing most people don’t realize is that I had zero regrets. No matter the outcome of my senior season and the draft that followed, I would have been extremely happy with the decision.

As confirmation that I was exactly where God wanted me to be, within the first two weeks of being back at school four members from the Stanford baseball team had accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior through the team bible study! It was so cool to be a part of the work of the Holy Spirit!

5.) In your senior year of high school, you were a part time relief pitcher and didn’t become a full time starter again until your sophomore year of college. Having been both a starting and relief pitcher, which did you find more challenging?

Both relieving and starting have their challenges. I have much more experience as a starter, and at higher levels of competition, I have only started. Personally, I think the difference is the mentality and routine. A reliever needs to mentally prepare himself to pitch 1-2 innings every single night, in general. A starter must prepare mentally to pitch five or more innings once every five days. The two are difficult to compare. With that being said, I would say that starting has been more challenging for me, probably due to the difference in talent level between high school and college, but also because there is so much to learn as a starter. I feel like I learn something new every single day.

6.) Talk a little bit about life on the road: What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?

Life on the road can be very difficult. There are many things that, as a Christian, I need to prepare for. Wherever you go, you will have decisions to make from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed that will affect both how you play and how your teammates see you — as a man of integrity or a hypocrite. From how I spend my time in the hotel room to where I go and what I do after the games, there will be temptations of various kinds; whether it is alcohol, drugs, etc. For me, reading is something that I enjoy doing, starting with the Bible, but also books for entertainment purposes. Reading engages the mind to learn and grow, especially when playing baseball every day can get repetitive and mundane at times.

Spending time with teammates is a great way to spend your free time. These are the guys that you hope to win a championship with, and in my opinion, the better the team knows and respects each other off the field the more we will play together as a unit. I also believe that building relationships is the first step to discipleship, what Jesus has called us to do as believers. Coming along side people and meeting them where they are, encouraging them and building them up, investing in their lives speaks a lot louder than just telling them about an alternative lifestyle through knowing Jesus that would be better for them. Actions always speak louder than words.

7.) The Astros haven’t been doing well lately, finishing with over 100 losses the past two seasons, but they have great talent down in their farm system. With players such as yourself, Carlos Correa and George Springer, among others, how do you see the teamMark Appel faring over the next few years?

Being a part of the Astros’ organization is an incredible blessing. Not only are they my hometown team, but I believe they are a team that will be good quickly and good for a long time. Buying in to the system now and getting to know all the players right now will build a foundation for the future of the organization at the big league level.

I believe that the Astros will be the most improved team this year, and will continue to improve year after year. As we develop and add new players to the major league team, the chances we win more and more games only increases.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2013? What are your goals for 2014?

My 2013 pro season was great. I’m not necessarily pleased with the end of year statistics as a whole, but I do believe I continued to improve and to learn about professional baseball and what to expect for my 2014 season.

This season my goals are simply to work as hard as I can every single day and allow God to take care of the rest. I am not going to worry about which level I start out at or when I make it to Houston this year (if at all). The great thing about being a disciple of Jesus is knowing that wherever I am in life, I have purpose and there is work to be done for the kingdom of God. Don’t get me wrong, I am going to work with all that I have in order to reach the big leagues, but while I’m working, I’m not going to worry, and I’ll have some fun!

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

Favorite TV show: Currently, ‘Parks and Recreation’. I can really identify with Ron Swanson. Favorite food: Steak.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

My advice to kids hoping to play pro ball is to work hard in school, first and foremost. Secondly, have fun while you are playing. Don’t let the fun of the game be overshadowed by the worry and fear of not achieving the goals that you have for yourself. Baseball is a fun game, and I have seen too many players in college and pro ball not enjoy it because they want to be the best so badly that their desire for perfection has removed the joy they once had while playing the game. Don’t lose that childlike spirit.

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Big thanks to Mark Appel for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @MAppel26

Q and A With Steve Cishek

Steve Cishek was drafted by the Marlins in the 5th round of the 2007 draft. Since the draft, Cishek has had a good deal of success, hi-res-149450835_display_imageposting stellar numbers over the past four years, finishing each of his big league seasons with an ERA below three.

Cishek made his major league debut in 2010, and began serving as the on and off closer for the Marlins in 2012, before becoming the full time closer for the 2013 season. Despite a rough start, Cishek finished 2013 with a 2.33 ERA over 69.2 innings pitched, striking out 74 while tallying up 34 saves.

With his consistency, Cishek should continue to serve as an effective closer for the Marlins for years to come. Regardless of his unconventional sidearm delivery, he has deceptive stuff that should lead him to more of the same success down the road.

Steve Cishek — closer for the Marlins — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

My Dad would always tell me that when I was a kid I always wanted him, or anyone capable of throwing a round object, to pitch to me. That’s all I would say — “Pitch to me.” So I have loved baseball as long as I can remember. I also really enjoyed watching the Red Sox, especially when Mo Vaughn was hitting. And then when Nomar became popular he was my favorite to watch.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

My favorite player growing up was definitely Nomar Garciaparra. He was the best on the team, and it was like a rivalry with Yankees fans and Jeter. So I had to cheer extra hard when Nomar was playing the Yanks.

3.) You were drafted by the Marlins in the 5th round of the 2007 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The process was exciting/nerve wracking. I filled out a lot of player profiles for almost every team; it was like extra homework. But when it came to draft day, I was pretty nervous. When my name popped up on the draft board we all freaked out. We had dial-up internet then, so the draft board was loading sooo slow. I was losing my mind. But my name popped up, and I got a phone call soon after from the Marlins’ scout, and I realized I had a new and unique journey that was about to unfold.

4.) Why did you decide to pitch with a sidearm delivery versus a traditional delivery? When did you first begin using it?

I didn’t realize I threw from my arm slot until I got to college. Even today I feel like I throw over hand. But back in high school and college I was a low 3/4 slot, and I think when I got to pro ball and the big leagues my arm slot got lower because I was throwing a lot more often.

5.) You took part in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. What was the overall experience like? What did you take away from it?

The WBC was the best baseball experience I have ever had. It was so humbling to look around the locker room and see the caliber of players in there. I never imagined I would be wearing the same jersey as any of these guys, let alone be wearing a USA jersey. And the games — I hadn’t been that nervous in a game probably ever. There was nothing like playing against another country while representing your country (from a sporting standpoint). I got to pitch in high pressure situations, so I learned a lot about taking a step back and relaxing/calming my nerves. So I felt that it prepared me for high pressure situations during the season.

6.) As the Marlins’ closer, how do you prepare yourself mentally to come into the game in the ninth inning, knowing it’s your job to hold down the lead for the team win?

I prepare to close a game the same way I would prepare for any other situation. I go through my routine and after the 6th inning I like to stand for the rest of the game so I don’t get lazy. I get pretty fired up when my name is called to go in but what makes my job more stress free than the other person is that I am playing for Him, and not to please people. I pull a card that reads Colossians 3:23  ["Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."] out of my back pocket to remember that before every outing. And no matter what, if I do well or poorly, I know God still loves me and I am satisfied with that.

7.) Despite a rough start to the year, you pulled things together to have the best statistical season of your career thus far. What changed that enabled you to have success in the remainder of the season?

Baseball is so mental, and I went through a period where I was playing scared. We were not winning many games and when I went in it was only when we were winning. So I put a lot of pressure on myself to get the job done and that resulted in me playing scared. My coaches worked with me a lot, but ultimately it took two Christian brothers, Juan Pierre and Chris Coghlan, to come confront me and basically tell me I need to let it go and leave it in God’s hands. I asked God for forgiveness for playing to please man and I accepted His will.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2013? What are your goals for 2014?

I felt like the team showed flashes of being a great team. From late May to early July, we had the 2nd best record in the NL. We have great young talent that is so close to being ready for the big leagues; I can’t wait to see what we are capable of in the future. Our goals are obviously to win a championship, but I feel it is much more important to have smaller goals that lead up to that big goal. My goal is just to get better everyday and to try and be a light as much as possible on and off the field.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

My wife and I are really into a lot of TV shows. We enjoy suspenseful shows and ’24’ is on that list. When we have down time, especially after a long day, we may come home and watch an episode, just to relax and enjoy each other. My favorite food is definitely chicken parm. Anytime I go to a new restaurant, I have to try it if they have it on the menu.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

I would tell them to leave the video games alone until night time and enjoy playing outside. When I was growing up we played every sport and we competed every day in our neighborhood. I am so thankful for the neighborhood we grew up in because we were always playing outside. You name the sport, we played it. So make sure you stay active and play other sports too. You don’t want to get burnt out playing baseball all the time. And when you are old enough to concentrate on one sport: (1) Play for His glory (2) Work as hard as you can at it (Col. 3:23), because someone else is probably working harder than you.

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Big thanks to Steve Cishek for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @srSHREK31

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