And there's not a lot the world doesn't know about fellow tweet-freak, Ryan Tatusko.
When I first started this prospects blog I tried to start following some minor league guys, which lead me to my previous interviews which were really nice. I actually became fast friends with Ryan despite there being no interview involved. We bonded over our Catholic religion, interesting stories, my wanting to live vicariously through him while he was in Spring Training and I was enjoying a 6-inch snow during the middle of March, and jeering back and forth over his love for the Cubs, and mine for the Sox.
So we finally toyed around with the idea of actually doing an interview together. This is the first time I've ever actually interviewed a friend- and I have to tell you, it's a lot harder than interviewing a stranger. I already knew a lot about him so it was kinda pick and choose what my readers would want to have him share. Ryan's an out going kid so getting a face paced (and by that I mean.. this kid really talks VERY FAST) interview out of him wasn't hard. Keeping up with him was, and usually is, the opposite.
Me: You're a level headed guy, and a huge Cub fan. Big Z is known for his emotional outbursts on the mound. Have you ever had any Big Z moments?
Ryan: Uhm I've had a couple really emotion moments. I try not to get too emotional. That's none thing I was instilled at a very young age. All my coaches told me that with a good pitcher you should never know if he's up by 10, or down by 10 on the mound, but sometimes it's really hard to not have those emotional moments.
Ryan: It helped immensely. When I went back and reviewed I noticed I had mechanical faults that were causing me to rush and I was losing all power in my legs. I realized I needed to stand on my back side a whole lot more. So that's all I focused on all off season. I really focused on standing up on my back side and getting the drive out of my legs that I needed.
Me: You've been reading Mind Gym. How is that affecting your pitching approach this season?
Ryan: I'm really not too much into the book right now buts it's all about learning how to control the stuff you can't control which is very hard. As a pitcher by nature you wanna be a micro-manager. You have to focus on just controlling the things that you can control. When you're in a game and things don't start going your way... that's really the thing you need to focus on. Keeping a level head on the mound and trying to get out of the situation with minimal infliction. It's really gonna help me a lot as I get further into the book.
Me: I know you have a little good luck charm you keep during a game- tell me about it.
Ryan: The medal in my pocket,It's Saint Rita, the Patron Saint of Impossible Hopes and Dreams. It's actually really weird because I carried the medal in my back pocket before the movie The Rookie even came out and in the movie he gets the medal and its hanging on his rear view mirror. I was given it as a gift from my grandparents before the movie but people think I copied but actually I had it first.
Me: You know that movie was a book before it was a movie
Ryan: Yes I read it
Me: I'm gonna leave that statement alone, haha. What else did you do during Spring Training this year to kind of pass the time away?
Ryan: Most of what we did.. we got up early during the day especially when games started so all we really wanted to do was hang out. We had a hot tub and we utilized that a lot. Especially for soar muscles and aches and pains. Billy butler lives right downstairs and he'd come up and hang out and play MLB The Show. It was fun to play a video game with the guy actually sitting right next to you. Mostly a lot of video games and relaxed. We knew we had to get up early the next morning.
Me: And I know you're a big music fan as well as video games. What are your top 5 "pump me up" songs on your iPod?
1- Linkin Park- Bleed it Out,
1- Linkin Park- Bleed it Out,
2- Metallica with the SF Orchestra- Wherever I May Roam
3- Metallica with... wait, what's the name of the song?
Me: This is your story.
Ryan: It's Mariano Rivera's player intro song.
Me: I have no idea...
Ryan: You're this baseball nut and you don't know??
Me: Do you want me to google it?
Ryan: Enter Sandman!
Me: Light bulb! Okay.. keep going.....
4- Skillet- Monster
5- Skillet- Rebirthing
Me: Okay okay... serious question. Tell me about Pitcher's Power Drive.
Ryan: It's a device that my pitching coach back home introduced to me. We realized that I had some problems staying back in pitching but he was never really a gimmick guy. Drew Storen and I were playing catch together during the off season and Jay Lehr introduced us to this and said that it was something he really believed in. Drew and I started messing around and tinkering with it. It really helped us find our mechanical flaws. We probably worked on it 20-30 minutes on it every day. It's really really helped me. Ive picked up about 3-4 MPH
on my fastball just from last year.
Me: So do you sponsor it?
Ryan: I have some comments on the website and he's put me on the website and sent me a few things. I introduced our pitching coordinator with the Rangers to it , and some other teammates I've introduced to it. I really think it will help other people as well.
Me: Jay sounds like a pretty important guy to you. I know you're really close with both your dad and your step-dad. Who else has helped you shape yourself and your career?
Ryan: Yeah absolutely Jay Lehre, our pitching coach from Indianapolis. He's really the last 3-4 years helped shape my mechanics and fine tune things and has helped me become the pitcher that I am. Especially flip flopping between the bullpen and starting and getting ready for both.
Me: You've been starting primarily and this year you're starting out the season in AA as a bullpen pitcher. How are you going to approach your role in the pen this year?
Ryan: I don't think its gonna be much of a change because I'm going to be the long relief guy and I'm throwing multiple innings. I'm really gonna try to keep my routine... I'm gonna have to expedite my warm up routine. I have to realize that the game for me starts the inning I go out there. Obviously with long relief guys they try and get you in there with a fresh inning and if I'm afforded that opportunity I'm gonna try and approach it as a starter and keep the most familiar routine that I can even though ill be in the bullpen.
Me: I was asking you earlier what jersey number you got this year- you told me 40. I know you have a thing with the number 40. Is it just a superstition?
Ryan: Yeah its mostly a superstition. I was 40 in my final year of HS and I had an ok year besides having Tommy John. I was 40 my three years at Indiana State. It was always something I carried over. I was 40 in Low-A. In High-A I settled for number 20. It's just a number I'm comfortable with and I'm used to seeing myself in. Just another one of those baseball superstitions. Everyone has the number they feel comfortable in. It's a little bit of a motivational factor. If you go back and look at great players who have worn numbers there's not a lot that have 40-- so in my mind set its kinda motivational that I can go out there and do something great in the number.
Me: Tommy John surgery your senior year of HS. Walk me through that.
Ryan: My ligament blew completely. I went in a regular season game against a rival HS in our conference. I still remember the pitch. It was a 6th inning fastball and it just went off on me. I got multiple diagnosis that all said tendinitis. Even though I'd never had anything major, the swelling wouldn't go away. Finally after I went and saw an elbow specialist they diagnosed it as an ulnar collateral ligament injury and I wound up having surgery a week later.I missed the rest of my senior year due to surgery. I also missed my entire true freshman year of college due to rehab.
The hardest part about having the injury was the mental aspect. You're stuck for 3-4 months not allowed to move your arm past 90 degrees. To really think you have to throw a ballgame when you cant move your arm is hard. 6 months into the 18 month rehab is learning to get a full range of motion back in your elbow. Afterwards you start tossing with tennis balls up to 90 feet. 30 feet with baseballs, flat ground, then to the mound, working on your pitches. Your minds playing tricks on you with aches and pains and you're thinking "am I doing enough?" "am I doing too much?" "Am i doing everything correctly?" You really can't get a good grip on whats going on. The hardest part is getting on the mound day in and day out. It's a scary thing to do and you get back on the mound there's a huge sense of accomplishment. Nothing can parallel it. That's nothing I've ever felt in my entire career.
Me: You're a mature kid. Is that where you get all your focus from? Because seriously Ryan. You're focused to the point where it's annoying- but in a good way!
Ryan: Yeah it almost gets to feel like that you have a second opportunity at baseball and when you're given that opportunity when you think everything taken away from you you cherish being at the ballpark and being a the field. The greatest thing you can realize is the game can be taken away from you tomorrow. I don't wanna look back at my career and think "what if," I wanna look back and think "I gave it my all." I wanna look back with satisfaction and know I gave it my all.
Me: You have a great opportunity in Frisco this year. From what I've heard the stadium is gorgeous. How excited are you to be playing there?
Ryan: Being inside that stadium that's that amazing brings out the little kid in you. You get there and look around and look at the scenery and realize you're fortunate enough to play in one of the best minor league stadiums in the nation. You get giddy to come to the ball park. Tomorrow's Opening Day and we're sold out with it holding over 10,000 people. You get excited to see how the games gonna be and the reactions of the fans. It creates an electric atmosphere. You have something to be excited about every day.
Me: Alright Ryan you knew this was coming: Favorite ballplayer of all time.
Ryan: Nolan Ryan. I love the way he attacks hitters. he was a fierce athlete throwing mid-90s in his 40s. The way he goes after batters is the way I try and model my game. He was aggressive and had total conviction. No matter what he threw whether it was a strike, ball, home run, hit, knew it was the right pitch. I try and have the certain conviction that he had. Not only that but the work he did to lead up to a start was unmatched.