With my household being utterly turn upside-down since the arrival of my second child a month ago, I have been slacking with Red Sox prospect information and for that I apologize.
Thankfully our friend and blogger-in-arms Brian Moynahan of MiLB.com and Bus Leagues Baseball was kind enough to toss us a bone by providing me with a word-for-word transcript to a recent interview he conducted with Lowell Spinners pitcher Pat Light...and if you've caught on by now, Light is more than ready to sling some words around.
We have Futures at Fenway this coming Saturday and a possible live chat with Mr. Light himself at some point during this week. We will keep you updated on both, but in the meantime, please enjoy this interview and I will do my best to crank out some more quality work when the sanity of the household is restored for a long enough period of time.
Brian Moynahan: I read in an interview youíd done before about going to Monmouth, and how it kind of helped you develop a little different because you got to fight through some of the struggles and stuff. Are you surprised that more talented guys out of high school donít go that route instead of going to Vanderbilt or the baseball factories?
Pat Light: Iím not surprised. I mean, you can see the teams on TV, just like in pro ball. Mainly you see the Yankees on TV any state you go, you see the Red Sox anywhere you go, and you want to go play for those teams. As a kid growing you see South Carolina, who doesnít want to go to South Carolina? They just went to the College World Series three years in a row. So Iím not surprised, but for those guys that do end up going to the little bit smaller schools to make sure they play at the beginning, Iíd say it can turn out a lot better for them just because they have that opportunity to grow at a very young age.
As a freshman, I was thrown into the fire. My second start was against ECU, who I think was a Top 15 team in the country at the time. My first start was against San Diego, who was Top 25. And I did awesome against San Diego and got DESTROYED against ECU. I got a standing ovation coming out of the game at ECU because I was giving up so many runs. So it was one of those things where I was thrown right into the fire, and like Iíve told people before, my freshman year was my worst year of baseball and it was the most rewarding because I was able to learn so much from it.
I got so much I learned from that year. Most people would say they wish that first year would go away; I love having it there because itís something I can look back on and say, ďThis is what I was doing wrong at this point. Iím doing it again. This is how I fixed it.Ē So itís something that is easy to learn from.
BM: When did you realize that? Was it as you were going through it or was it where you had to kinda look back after and say, ďYou know what? There was good to this.Ē?
PL: It was afterwards. I mean, going through that, let me tell you man. I went 20-0 in high school, and that wasnít easy either. My freshman year, my coaches didnít think very highly of me. My sophomore year I was still fighting for stuff. And then finally junior year, I was the fifth pitcher on the roster, four of the pitchers ahead of me all got hurt. And they ended up giving me the start on Opening Day and I just went from there.
So that was tough, and then I [went to college] and I was like, ďI got it all figured out. Iím good, Iím going to Monmouth. Itís not South Carolina. Iím good to go.Ē And I just got smacked around. It was soÖit was heartbreaking. It was tough to go through that year. And then the beginning of my sophomore year I did the same thing, and I had a breaking point my sophomore year. You can go ask my coach. At Wagner, I came out and we ended up winning the game, but I gave up like six runs in three innings and I was thought I had had it. I thought that I had no more left of baseball. I thought I couldnít do it anymore. I was just at my point.
And then from there on out, me and my coaches got together and we sat down, we started talking, and from there on out I was good. I pitched well. I donít know how it happened, but looking back on it, it was the most beneficial year and a half Iíve ever had. But when I went through it, it was the toughest year and a half Iíve ever been through.
BM: After the Draft, you signed quickly. Did that have anything to do with the new CBA that was in place or do you think that no matter what year you were drafted you wouldíve wanted to get right into it?
PL: I wanted to sign early. You always hear those Ė and I love Deven [Marrero] and I love Brian Johnson; they signed a little bit later than I did and they do whatever they think is best for them Ė I didnít want to be seen as something where I was a first round guy, you know, ďHeís asking for way more money, hasnít even pitched anything yet.Ē I thought it was a good idea just to kind of sign quick, come out and play, make sure everyone knows that Iím still playing baseball. Thatís my main focus. Itís not the money. It worked out great for me. Three years at Monmouth, thatís my plan going the whole way, was to sign early and get out and play. So Iím happy with what I did.
BM: It was a month between the time you signed and the time you actually debuted. What was that month spent doing?
PL: You have to ask Abby [pitching coach Paul Abbott] a little bit more than me, but it was working as if I was starting, I just wasnít starting. The workload was the same, everything was the same. I just wasnít pitching in a game, which as a competitor is tough to do. We were going through a 10 or 11 game losing streak at the time, and itís tough. You want to help the team any way you can and the best thing I could do was say, ďGood job,Ē you know? Itís tough. But I worked as hard as I could in the month of time and tried to keep myself in game shape and keep my arm in game shape and get ready for that one time I get back into the starting rotation, which I have been now. So far itís been pretty good.
BM: Right here, weíre sitting at sort of the entry level to professional baseball, long way from the major leaguesÖbut was it still cool to make your home debut against the [Staten Island] Yankees?
PL: Yes. Yes, for sure. I mean, I donít know if you have a Twitter or anything, but I tweeted Ė I actually put it on my Facebook too Ė that, ďhome start, versus the Yankees, canít wait, extremely excited.Ē I grew up in Jersey. I grew up in the heart of Yankee Nation. Itís Yankees-Red Sox constantly. Whenever the Yankees play the Red Sox, everything else stops. So I grew up on the other end of the rivalry, I grew up on the Yankee end, but going against these guys, itís awesome. I had so many people text me thinking I was pitching against the actual Yankees, which obviously Iím not, but I mean, I couldnít have asked for a better team to pitch against. Home debut, in a Boston Red Sox uniform, pitching against the Yankees. Itís awesome. Itís a dream come true.
BM: You talked about what you did leading up to your actual debut. At this point, what are you trying to do when youíre out there on the mound? What are you focusing on from game to game?
PL: Just getting better. When Iím out there I try to focus on the stuff I focused on in college. Iíve given people too much credit when Iíve gone from level to level. I pitched at Monmouth, who like weíve said like three times already in the interview, theyíre not South Carolina. Itís not those big schools. Then come up here and [Iím] facing guys that got drafted after me that went to big schools, Iíve seen on TV, Iíve seen them do well in college, and I give them too much credit. I think that because I went to a smaller school, I might [have to] be too good, I might have to be too fine. Thatís the thing I focus on the most. I did it in my first start and it didnít go well. I gave up five hits, two runs, a walk, and a strikeout. And the walk was the first batter. I walked him on four straight pitches. Thatís something Iíve never done in my life.
So that is one thing that I focus on when Iím out there, is stay simple. You know, youíve got the stuff, obviously the front office of Boston thought I had the stuff. People have confidence in me, so I have confidence in myself in going there out there, focusing one pitch at a time, and getting those guys out. Thatís what I did against the Yankees, and I may have given up a run, but I thought I attacked every hitter and it was a huge confidence boost for me.
BM: So itís more of getting past the mental side of it.
PL: Yeah, itís huge. Iíve got the stuff. I have the physical stuff. I have a great fastball. I have good stuff, thereís no question about it, but the mental side is the hardest thing. You ask any baseball player in the world, itís the mental side of the game thatíll get you. Because at this level thereís a difference in talent, but every level you go up it gets shorter and shorter and the difference between the best players in the world and some of just the good players in the world is the mental side of the game, and thatís what Iíve been trying to focus on.
BM: You mentioned your fastball. Where do you hope to see your secondary stuff by the end of the season?
PL: Just more consistent. Coming from college with a bigger seamed ball, they have bigger seams on the ball, my sliderís been a little bit off, so Iíve basically messed with some new grips. I found one that works well for me. Itís a little bit harder, little bit sharper. So just more consistency. My changeupís good. Sometimes I baby it, but overall, when throwing them my best, theyíre great pitches. Theyíre awesome.
The difference between me and some of the better pitchers in the organization is consistency. Theyíre able to do it day in and day out, pitch in and pitch out, and right now Iím just not able to do that. Thatís my thing. Itís just consistency, being able to throw my slider great every time instead of just one out of three or one out of four. At the end of the season I wonít be Josh Beckett or any of those guys that can do it every time, but I just hope to see a little more consistency out of them.
BM: I talked to one guy last year, and he was the same kind of guy, threw in the mid-90s. He said the changeup was really hard for him because it was the mental side of it was youíre throwing a pitch up there going slow. Do you kinda understand where heís coming from?
PL: Yeah, sure. You can ask my dad, I would never throw a changeup my entire high school career, all the way up until college, because it was like, ďWhy am I throwing a changeup? Throwing hard, why am I gonna throw it soft up there?Ē Iím gonna throw hard Ė let them catch up to that! But itís such an effective pitch. Iíve found a changeup thatís not really a changeup, itís not a true changeup. Itís a split-change, and it just dives off the plate. Itís a lot more movement to it. And I love that changeup because itís slower but it also breaks a lot. So whoever that was, I can understand where heís coming from, believe me.
It took me a while, but itís such an effective pitch. You talk to anyone, you talk to Abbie, you talk to any big league pitcher, thatís the thing thatíll get you from here to the big leagues, is that changeup. The changeup is so effective because it brings so many guys off your fastball. So if I throw my changeup, now my fastball went from 93 to looking like 98. So itís such an effective pitch, but I can understand where the guyís coming from about how itís slower and why would you ever do that. It makes sense.
BM: We always hear that guys from the Northeast Ė like you said, youíre from New Jersey Ė we always hear about how theyíre at a disadvantage when it comes to professional baseball. In the perception, at least, and also not being able to play year-round, stuff like that. Are there any advantages to playing up in this area as an amateur?
PL: I think the biggest advantage for a pitcher is that we donít throw as much. People told me coming into the year, coming into pro ball as a raw talent, that I donít throw year-round. I donít throw like those guys in Florida who can throw year-round, so my armís a lot more fresh. Itís not something I do often. I throw inside in a gym until like the middle of April, really, and then end of April Iím able to throw outside. Itís such a different thing, so I think thatís the biggest advantage to being in the Northeast, is that even though itís cold out, it helps your arm rest more because Iím not going out there in fifteen degree weather and throwing, Iíll tell you that right now.
So I think weíre just more fresh, we havenít thrown as many pitches, and those people that believe the whole, ďyou only have so many pitches in your arm,Ē I would be a lot farther behind than those other guys. Some of those Southern guys, theyíve thrown way more pitches than I have. Itís all based on how you look at it. I think Iím more fresh but some other people might think Iím not. Who knows? I just think weíre all in pro ball now, and if Iím in the same spot as someone else and theyíve thrown more than me, I think itís an advantage.
BM: Another thing that you hear about a lot is guys struggling to adapt to the pro lifestyle and the pro game. You were talking about how going from high school to college, you had that time where it was like, ďI canít do this.Ē Do you feel like thatís helped you coming in here to have gone through something like that already?
PL: Yeah, again, if you ask anyone thatís talked to me, itís one of those things where I feel like that was the biggest advantage Iíve ever gained out of college. And it wasnít making my fastball go from 89 to 99. It wasnít my slider being sharper or learning my split-change. It was just the mental side, of learning how to fail. That was my biggest thing because again, technically, in high school I didnít experience failure at all. I didnít lose. We lost one game that I pitched and it was to the number one team in the country, Don Bosco, who hadnít lost all year. They ended up going 33- or 34-0. And even then, I came out of the game we were tied. I had a no-decision.
But it was that whole 2-6 my freshman year, then 4-5 my sophomore year. I think I was like 1-4 going into the second half of the season. It was learning how to fail because I didnít know how to. Everyone thinks they know how to, but when you go out there and you experience so much failure in such a short period of time, you just donít know what to do with yourself. I didnít even throw any of the same pitches I threw anymore.
Everything was changed about me and thatís exactly what you donít want to do. So I think it was such a huge advantage coming in here because you experience failure all the time in pro ball. I experienced it the first time I pitched. Itís just something you do and if you learn how to deal with it and you learn not to change your whole thing, your whole repertoire like I did in college, it helps a lot.
I couldnít be happier about going to college. I wasnít ready mentally, I wasnít ready physically, and college got me ready for pro ball for sure.
You can read more of Brian Moynahanís work at MiLB.com where he cover the New York-Penn League and at Bus Leagues Baseball where he covers it all. He has also co-authored two books, The Bus Leagues Experience: Minor League Baseball Through The Eyes Of Those Who Live It and The Bus Leagues Experience: Volume 2, both of which can be purchased on Amazon.com. You can follow Brian on Twitter @OMDQ and he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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