Now these are my opinions. For those of you who have just now started to hear about me or notice me...trust me...if it weren’t for these guys and their knowledge and guidance...wow, I dunno really.
The first stop I made was in Idaho Falls, Idaho. It was the rookie ball level of the Padres before they moved to Arizona.
I had Carlos Reyes as my pitching coach, my hitting coach was Benji Ogilve, and my manager was Donnie Warner. I tell you it was a very big change for me – from being asleep in class just a short period of time before I got off the plane in Idaho, or the hallway with wings – I’m telling you that plane ride was so scary, but anyway.
I arrive in Idaho Falls not really knowing what to expect, especially the fact that the season was already like six games in and reading and hearing about all the holdouts and how upsetting and negative the first impression of those who do.
Donnie Warner was amazing and so were the others. Donnie was very laid back and for me I think was the perfect fit as a high school draftee.
Benji was awesome. He was hilarious and had a ton of experience that, even tho’ I am a pitcher, I still took pride in being good in the batters box. Though the there isn’t a DH until Double-A, it was different and exciting to listen and learn about the fundamentals of hitting. Benji is Latin and that was really the first time that I had encountered the Latin side of America’s past time. Benji helped me with the basics of learning espanol – from there, the boys helped me to learn as much as I could, cuz let’s face it, I took French in high school and, yeah, that really helps.
Carlos Reyes was my first pitching coach in professional baseball and I tell you at the time, throwing fastball-curveball was all I knew.
Carlos helped me understand that anyone can time a fastball, eventually, and that I wasn’t the flamethrower that I thought I was. Now, I still went through that full season of being a max-effort guy which was quite the theme for me for the next few seasons and not because I was being defiant or thought that I knew what I was doing, its just that I didn’t quite understand how to relax and realize the less tense I was, the less I muscled up, that there wasn’t much of a difference in velocity. In fact, at times I was throwing a little harder once I relaxed.
The changeup that has developed over the past few years I owe to Carlos. I never had one before I was with him. I mean I threw the vulcan changeup, which is where I put the ball in the middle of my four fingers, hence the name vulcan, but I only threw it to one batter in my entire high school summer and spring seasons. In fact it was the last high school game I pitched and it was to their three-hole hitter.
Anyway, Carlos and I began playing catch with a softball and throwing our changeups from 90 feet.
Now with the size of my hands, being that of an infants, this was quite difficult. As soon as I picked up the baseball and threw it, it helped me immensely. I was still only 19 and I know age is just a number, but at that time I was still struggling with really knowing how to pitch to professional hitters.
That staff I had in Idaho was a perfect building block for me and a great place to have started what will be a long career. I didn’t say what level that long career would be so all of you who think that what I just said was arrogant or cocky, get over it and try to see the big picture of what I’m trying to paint for you...geeeeeeeez. Now on to Eugene, tomorrow…