Monday, February 28, 2005
OTHER RANDOM THOUGHTS
Q&A with Pat Neshek
Good Monday morning to everyone! I hope that everyone had a great weekend! The Wolves lost again. The Gophers men's team won again! The NFL Combine's took place. Last night, the Oscars were on. I will talk about a number of random topics at the end of today's posting, so be sure to check those out.
Today, I am excited to bring you a fun Q&A with another Twins prospect. As you all know, I am a huge fan of the Twins minor league system. When I discussed my Top 25 Twins prospects in September, I also mentioned that the Twins system is so deep that there are literally 30 or 40 players in the system that will either play with the Twins or another big league club at some time in the future.
About a month ago, I got an e-mail from Pat Neshek. Of course, I thought that was cool! I'm always excited to get e-mail responses from people associated with the Twins. Since that time, I have perused his incredible website and we have exchanged a few e-mails. I asked him if he would consider doing a Q&A for my site, and he said he wouldn't mind that at all.
I started thinking of questions, hoping I could come up with 10-12 good questions. Well, as you will see below, I asked a LOT of questions and Pat was gracious enough to answer each of them. We discuss growing up and playing ball in high school, the recruiting and signing processes, the Cape Cod League, his minor league career, his website, autographs, and much more. I really think that you will enjoy it. If you have any questions for me or Pat, please e-mail me. So, here you go. Enjoy!
SethSpeaks: First, thank you again, very much, for taking the time to answer these questions. I'm sure you're plenty busy getting ready for spring training. Thanks!
SethSpeaks: You grew up in Minnesota, which in itself causes a few questions. First, who were your favorite players growing up? Did you go to many Twins games at the Dome?
Neshek: First off, thanks for having me on SethSpeaks, I love the site.
Yep I grew up in Brooklyn Park and attended Park Center. My house is about 10-15 minutes from the Dome so it was a short drive away. We went to many games growing up. My dad would always come home with the $1 Upper Deck GA tickets and tell us to invite as many neighborhood friends as we could and go to the game. We probably went to a game every two weeks with about 8-10 neighbor kids packed into an ugly Mitsubishi Van/Bus. As we got older and in High school the Twins had the $60 season tickets so we had to get two sets of those and had those until I went away to school. I loved going to the games because that is the time when the Twins were in last place, and you could walk down and sit in the lower level and have about ten rows to yourself...You would get a foul ball almost every night haha. But it was great seeing the other teams come in and watching how the players went about their business. Some of my favorite players back then were Kirby because he lived in Brooklyn Park, guys like (Tim McIntosh, Tim Laudner all BP natives) and the entire Oakland A's team, they were stacked (every baseball kid between the ages of 7-11 during the late 80's had a favorite A's player, I guarantee it!).
SethSpeaks: Second, I remember playing high school ball in the spring in Minnesota. For those that don't know what that means, it means, practicing inside for a month before your first scheduled game, which, of course, gets postponed because of snow. What were your memories of high school baseball in Minnesota? Were you able to do anything throughout the winter to stay sharp?
Neshek: Yeah, you got that exactly right. I played Hockey/Basketball until my sophomore year and then went with baseball full time. Every second of that year baseball was on my mind. Yep, a month before the first game would be the first indoor practice. We practiced on the basketball court in PC and the balls would fly 120mph at you when taking infield. You could only long toss about 90 feet and the lighting was terrible. Jeff Stoll is the PC head coach and coached me at PC, I remember one time during my senior year in in-door practice he wanted us to throw live to batters in the in-door cage that had the worst lighting ever. The first pitcher Brandon Broxey got on the mound and threw a pitch that almost hit one of the hitters in the face. The hitter didn't ever see the ball and refused to get back into the box. Stoll then told the pitchers to slow it down and work on mechanics when we threw. That's how winter ball was you worked out to try and get in some kind of playing form even though it wasn't that good. In BP they have a place called Line Drive and they had a deal something like $100 bucks for unlimited hitting from October to March, this definitely beat live pitching inside PC.
SethSpeaks: I understand you played in some winter league games as well?
Neshek: Yep you are right I did play in a winter league in St. Paul. Back in 1996 Dave Winfield's brother Steve opened up an indoor doom called the Rice/Arlington Sports dome. It was perfect for baseball and other sports like soccer and football. I have so many funny memories of that place. The field was about 250 down the lines and 310 to center, the mound was a plastic roll out mound, the league was wood bat only and the balls were made of about 50% rubber, the dugouts were about 10 feet away from the plate with a little plastic fence to protect guys from fall balls and the ceiling could easily be hit if you threw a ball into the air as far as you could. It didn't matter to me...It was baseball. In 1997 my dad asked me if I would like to get a bunch of BP guys together to form a team at the sports dome because they were trying to get a winter league team together. It was great, the games were all scheduled to start between 10-1 at night...I'm not lying. It was so cool to come in at 1 in the morning with a snowstorm outside and play a game. After about the first months kids started to not show up and we would have to play with 5 guys on each team, if less than that would show up we would have a home run derby and the paid umpire on hand would have to stay and judge the game. It was a blast and I did that from my freshman year to my senior year. So that's where most of my high school weekends were spent! Sadly enough I heard that the dome was taken down a couple years ago due to money issues.
SethSpeaks: The Twins drafted you out of high school, yet you chose to go to Butler. First, how hard was it to turn down the chance to play in the Twins Organization? Second, what was that process like after the draft? What were the factors you used to decide to go to college? Third, was that in any way different (aside from the obvious monetary differences) than the recruitment process? What made you decide to go to Butler?
Neshek: Well it was really unexpected for me to get taken by the Twins because I never talked to them I just filled out a Questionnaire and never heard back from them. I talked to a couple other teams during the summer before my senior year...Reds, Pirate and White Sox and they said high things about me. I was picked in the 45th round so it wasn't that hard to turn down. Yeah it was the hometown team but I knew in college I would turn into a better pitcher + I could get my degree. The recruiting process was a different story. My whole objective was to find a school where I could walk in and be a starter my freshman year. I basically thought to myself I have three years to get ready for the draft why would I want to waste it at a big school and be a reliever or worst be red-shirted. I probably would've pitched a bunch at other schools but I couldn't take the chance on being left in the dust. I got letters from all the top schools but two stuck out to me in my head, Butler and Creighton. They were both perfect matches for me Div 1 schools, I had a heck of a time picking out the right school. But in the end it came down to who I trusted the most and that was Steve Farley @ Butler, I wouldn't have changed a thing.
SethSpeaks: You had a successful career at Butler. You got to play in the Cape Cod League one summer. What was that experience like? Is the movie Summer Catch at all accurate? Who did you get to pitch with and against? Any PG-level stories of the Cape life?
Neshek: I couldn't have done it without the guys on the team @ Butler, they were the best, in fact we have page dedicated to those years, www.eteamz.com/butlerbaseball
The thing about Cape Cod that was crazy is that it almost never happened. Coach Farley at Butler begged the Gateman GM John Wylde to put me on the team. After about 2 months Mr. Wylde agreed to make me a temp player for the first two weeks. During those two weeks I was 3-0 with 2 saves...I got a full contract after the two weeks were up! It was probably the best experience of my life. You always hear about the Cape League when you grow up or if you know anything about baseball. You always hear stories like 1 in 4 guys makes it to the big leagues. Going into it I knew this was the place to either make or break what I wanted. They put me in the closer role and I ran with it, I gave up only 1 run the entire summer. The best memory I have was all the guys on the team and how well we got together. If I were a GM I would've drafted that entire team and kept us all together. We ended up winning the league championship and everyone but 1 guy on the team was drafted. Stories, there were a lot of them...the mom in the movie wasn't something that was made up according to guys I know that played in Chatham, there weren't any parties or at least anything I was aware of. Summer Catch portrayed it okay, that movie came out the same time I was there and we got to go to a private screening. Everyone liked the movie until the end, guys were booing the movie and some even left 5 mins before the thing ended.
SethSpeaks: In 2002, the Twins took you with their 6th round pick. Was the process to sign you any different at that point?
Neshek: Very different. Like I said before going to Butler I had three years to prepare for the draft. During that time most of my life was focused on getting better. I would sit in class and think about what I need to do to get better, write goals down stuff like that. After my summer in the Cape League I talked to all but two teams for the draft. Every day a new questionnaire would arrive or a scout would be in town and want to have a meeting. It was crazy but I liked the attention and it made me more focused on baseball. I told every scout I talked to that I was signing that year (junior year) and I was ready to begin playing professionally.
SethSpeaks: After signing, you pretty much dominated the Rookie League. 2003 was an excellent year for you, pitching well at three minor league levels. Describe yourself as a pitcher. I know you're a side-winder (and you've explained why very well on your site), but what pitches do you throw? What would you consider your out pitch?
Neshek: Yeah that year was crazy; I was moving up every month and never really got a chance to breathe. After the season I got invited to play in the Arizona Fall League and lived in AZ for two months. At the end of the season I took a week off and slept, the time off was priceless. I guess if I were to describe myself I would say that I'm a guy looking to come at you, compete, throw in the zone and not let up looking to strike the batter out. Yeah it's a different arm angle from most guys. I throw a four seam/two seem fastball, slider, change up from a little above sidearm and a sinker that I throw submarine. My fastball is usually my out pitch but if my slider is on I go with that.
SethSpeaks: John Manuel of Baseball America was asked in a chat session this winter about who he would consider some 'sleeper prospects' in the Twins organization. In his response, he wrote, "Pat Neshek struggled this year, but he's funky enough to be an effective middle reliever down the line."
I look at your 2004 numbers and they are solid, but how would you describe your 2004 season?
Neshek: The weirdest season of my life. I never really understood what happened. On my website I updated it every day of the season until August, you can kind of get a sense of what happened. But even I am kind of puzzled. I thought I would be closing to start the season because of my success in my previous 2 years, but the first game I was setting up. It didn't bother me that much but it had me a little puzzled. The season went along and slowly by slowly I was pitching in different situations, tie games, down by a run. I would sit in the bullpen for weeks at a time before I would pitch again then I would get hot for three straight days and pitch 3 straight days, it never made that much sense to me but that's how baseball is sometimes...A lot of inconsistencies. It got to the point where Twins officials saw I wasn't being used that much (35ings in July) and they sent me back to Ft Myers to pitch everyday. I wasn't happy about my era but it was still a point under the Eastern League average. I was really mad about going back to Ft Myers but I knew I would pitch more. In about a month in Ft Myers I had 2o innings pitched in one month, then the hurricanes and rain came, that was a crazy time.
SethSpeaks: As a middle reliever in the Twins organization and looking up at the likes of Joe Nathan, Juan Rincon, Grant Balfour and Jesse Crain, what do you think? Is it exciting to be a key cog in a very deep and strong minor league system, knowing that when you reach The Show, it will be earned? Is it frustrating?
Neshek: Yeah it's pretty exciting especially playing in the Twins org and being from Brooklyn Park. The guys the Twins have turned out over the years is impressive they have to lead the Bigs in major leaguers produced. Oh yeah if you make it up with the Twins it is well earned. Sometimes it can be frustrating seeing other guys that I have played with make it to the bigs and knowing that if they played for a different team they would probably be at a lower level. In the end though if it's meant to be, it's meant to be. Things work in weird ways.
SethSpeaks: The minor league season ended in September. What is your off-season schedule and routine? I know you moved down to Florida to be able to work out more. What types of things do you do to get ready for the next season?
Neshek: September I took off and relaxed in Minnesota. I started weight lifting and running back in October. I started throwing in January, with bullpens starting in February.
SethSpeaks: When does minor league camp start?
Neshek: March 10th we report.
SethSpeaks: Do you have any set goals for the 2005 campaign? Where do you see yourself pitching this year? What does the organization tell you at the end of a season, or before spring camp to let you know what you need to do?
Neshek: Goals are to compete and dominate and to stick to my lifting routine. If this can be done I will have a successful year. I'll most likely start the season New Britain. I am not on the 40 man roster so there's a little roadblock in getting to Minnesota but I'll be giving it my all and not let up. They don't tell you much at the end of the season; they give you your ticket or driving money to get home and that is that. Around December they send you a packet with a questionnaire asking question like who do you want your roommate to be and if you'll be driving or flying. In February you get a letter that states the reporting times and where to show up. That's about it, you decide if you want to get better or not.
SethSpeaks: You also have your own website www.patneshek.com Obviously, as a baseball fan, I enjoy reading your thoughts on the games throughout the season, and including your opinions. There are a lot of us that can only wish to be in that situation, so it's fun to read.
Neshek: Thanks a lot, that's the whole point of me running the site.
SethSpeaks: How long have you been running the site?
Neshek: I started it the first week of March 2004.
SethSpeaks: What made you decide to start it?
Neshek: My roommate sy Butler Paul Beck & I thought it would be awesome if I would make a site about only autographs and tell stories of what I encountered, we both read the CJ Nitkowski site back in the day and were kind of inspired by that and I signed up for wireless internet and would have the ability to be on the internet while on the bus after a game. We figured no player has ever done that before and we ran with the idea.
SethSpeaks: Your site is a little different in that you also write a lot about autographs. From reading it, obviously you are an autograph collector yourself. Who are some of your prized autographs?
Neshek: Yeah I love the autograph scene. During my freshman year Paul got me to go graphing with him. After about two trips I was hooked. Instead of partying on the weekends during college we would go after autographs, NBA teams, NFL, NHL and NCAA College & Football and Musicians. At first I didn't care about autographs and sold a lot of what I got on eBay to have money for pizza every weekend and to buy minor league cards. When the minor league season came around we hit up Indy in force and had some great times. It's not so much the autograph that I like but more so every autograph trip has a story, something you'll never forgot. That's what I love about auto's. There are a lot of favorites; I love the NHL the most followed by minor league baseball & heavy metal bands.
SethSpeaks: What does it feel now when you have someone come up to you and ask for your autograph?
Neshek: I love it but more so I like hearing from the people getting the autographs and the stories they have, they have the best information in the world.
SethSpeaks: Do you have any advice or tips for autograph collectors that you could share?
Neshek: Get guys to sign when they are young because they can get impossible the closer they are to the big leagues.
Tips from me, don't ask me to get other guys to sign your items, getting guys before/after the game in the parking lot is the best place to get players.
SethSpeaks: As a card collector myself, what is it like to have real baseball cards of yourself?
Neshek: Again I love and truly appreciate having cards, it's something you dream about when you are a kid. I just wish I could get in a set like Bowman, Topps or even a Just Minors set:) It seems they make cards for the same 100 prospects; graphers want to see different names and would pay good money if they would bring in other players to the set.
SethSpeaks: And finally, just a rapid-fire, word association about some of your current or former teammates (10 words or less - if possible, of course):
Scott Baker - Quiet, Top Five Hardest Workers In System
Boof Bonser - Determined, Competes
Rob Bowen - Reminds me of a Big League Vet with 20yrs of MLB Service
Travis Bowyer - Machine, Horse, Crazy Stength, Same as G Jones but a pitcher
Jesse Crain - Nice Guy, Focused, Good Friend
JD Durbin - Cocky, Loud, Funny, Hard To Not Like
Garrett Jones - Mirror Image Of Bowyer But A Hitter
Beau Kemp - Warrior, You can tell he'll get to the bigs in some way, I love how he goes about things, work ethic
Bobby Korecky - Sly, Funny, Smart, Cleaver, Uses head to outsmart hitters
Jason Kubel - Shy, Quiet, Driven, 10 years ahead of players his age
Francisco Liriano - Fastest Lefty I have seen in awhile, throws gas, nice guy
Kevin Cameron - Throws Gas, Funny, Vital To The Bullpen
Jake Mauer - Funny, Friendly, Business Smarts, Smart, Excellent Work Ethic
Joe Mauer - Loves Baseball, Nice, Hard Worker
Luis Maza - Underrated, Could play in the bigs right now and do well, Big League Fielder
Trent Oeltjen - Always Makes Contact, Plays the game hard
Alex Romero - Underrated, Great Hitter, Great Outfielder, Nice Guy
Scott Tyler - Big Ox, Funny, Crazy, Young
Kevin West - Determined, Clutch, Big Game Player, Team Player, The Man
SethSpeaks: And one last two-part question, what are the best and worst parts of minor league life?
Neshek: Worst is being away from family, moving and being subject to what the Twins want to do with you, best is the ability to play baseball everyday.
SethSpeaks: And on that note, thank you very much again for taking some of your valuable time to answer a bunch of questions! I certainly wish you an excellent spring and a great 2005 season!
I hope you enjoyed the Q&A. Be sure to stop by Pat's website and check it out. If you have any comments or suggestions would be welcomed! E-mail me.
Over the weekend, there were a number of articles in the Star-Tribune, the Pioneer Press and on the Twins official website. Here are some of them:
Mike Sheldon wrote a great article on the Michael Restovich. He has no more options, so he either makes the team out of springs, or he has to clear waivers, and that won't happen. Another team would sign him up or trade for him instantly. As Gardy is quoted, Resto "hits the ball 408,000 miles."
Gordon Wittenmeyer discusses that this is a big year for the Twins Top 3 picks from the 1997 draft. First round pick Michael Cuddyer goes in as the team's 3B. Matthew LeCroy was a Supplemental pick. Restovich was the team's 2nd round pick.
He also wrote an article on Juan Rincon. Seriously... Is anyone else sick of people talking about his one bad outing last year???
Speaking of... Another article on the shortstop situation!!! It's an easy decision for me, but then again, my opinion matters, well, not at all! Ha!
Jim Souhan wrote an article on how the Twins optimism is warranted.
A day earlier, he wrote about how a character such as Randy Moss would not make it in the Twins clubhouse thanks to the leadership of Torii Hunter.
A Lavelle E. Neal article from this weekend has the title "A Pivotal Year for Rivas." Do you think? I don't even know how he warranted this year!
Gordon Wittenmeyer writes about Matthew LeCroy and his role as pinch hitter/backup 1B/#3 catcher.
Sunday he wrote an interesting article on the superstitions that players have to their uniform numbers.
You will definitely want to check out the Stick and Ball Guy site today! He was able to get a first-hand update of what happened this weekend at training camp in Ft. Myers from Ft. Myers Miracle Gal, Dianna. It is really interesting and makes me want to be there!
Of course, you can check out the Dickie Thon Twins Fan Forum where you will find more Twins talk than you'll know what to do with.
OTHER RANDOM THOUGHTS
On Wednesday, I will post my Fantasy Perspective posting previewing the AL Central pitchers. If you've missed the first six pieces to this project, all hitters, check them out here:
Part 5 - National League East Hitters
Part 6 - National League West Hitters
I kind of watched the Academy Awards last night. I enjoy watching them and finding out which movies I should really be watching. I have seen some of the nominated movies, but not a high percentage. The one thought I had to point out is this. Was anyone else as excited as me to see Morgan Freeman win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor? The thing was, was anyone else shocked that he had never won one before? His career resume is incredible. He should be up for a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Here is a Live Blog of the Oscars. It's fun, and often funny!
I meant to post this last week. I have mentioned many times on this site that Barry Larkin has been one of my favorite players since his days at Michigan. Aaron Gleeman wrote a great article discussing his Hall of Fame candidacy!
I have to keep it somewhat local here, right? I"m from Perham, MN. Over the weekend, the Perham high school gymnastics team won the state tournament with a record point total. The school also placed three gymnasts in the Top 5 finishers in the all-around, including the all around champion, Ashley Brasel.
The Baseball Analysts, Rich Lederer and Bryan Smith enlisted the help of Aaron Gleeman and Brian Borawski, to present an excellent discussion of the American League Central.
New Blog worth checking out - Twins fans, it's good to see/read what's going on with the competition. There is a new White Sox blog out there called Black Sox Blog. Check it out and bookmark it!
And on that note, I wish you a wonderful Monday and hope you have a great week. If you have any questions or comments on anything you have read above, please e-mail me.
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