Donny Baarns, director of communications down at Visalia with the Rawhide, and a big friend of the 'Pit, sent us a recent interview he did with former #3 overall draft pick, and current member of the Rawhide, Trevor Bauer. You can click on the player below to hear the interview, or follow the jump and read all about the way Trevor's engineering background has affected the way he pitches, why he listens to heavy metal before a game and how he likes his steak cooked. And, of course, what interview here would be complete without a mention of Star Wars?
Donnie Baarns: How has it been for you these last couple of months, has it been a whirlwind for you?
Trevor Bauer: Yeah, parts of it have been - the whole draft process, negotiations, flying to Arizona and back. Especially the last week: going to Arizona to sign, then back home for a day, up here to Visalia, it has been a little bit of a whirlwind. But I've managed to slow it down a bit. I went to Eastern Texas, train at the Texas Baseball Ranch for four weeks. It's pretty relaxing: you just work out, and don't really do much else. It was fun, got a nice little break, got in shape and maintained my arm strength and everything. But it's good to be back playing though.
DB: Now you're a Southern California kid, grew up in North Hollywood originally. Were you a Dodgers fan or an Angels fan?
TB: I was rooting for the Dodgers, just because they were a Southern California team, so you kinda root for your home team. But growing up, I was an A's fan, I've always been a fan of pitching staffs, so I was an A's fan for a while when they had Zito, Hudson and Mulder, and a Braves fan when they had Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz. I was a Red Sox fan for a while, a Diamondbacks fan when they had Schilling and Johnson. So I've jumped around a little bit, I don't have strong allegiances to one team - other than now, obviously, the Diamondbacks.
DB: Can you describe your family for us?
TB: Where to start! Fun-loving - they love to make fun of me, that's for sure! We're really close: they're all really, really good people. My sister's really dry and sarcastic, my Dad's a very hard worker, trained as an engineer, but definitely knows how to have a good time. Kinda always make fun of each other, laugh a lot and have a good time when we're together.
DB: You mention your Dad being an engineer, do you feel that has influenced you and the way you approach the game, and life?
TB: Absolutely, yes. Just growing up in the mind-set of, here's a problem - how am I going to solve it? Because that's what engineers are trained to do, is be problem-solvers and find clever ways to come up with a solution. So in baseball, that's definitely helped. The planning, the analysis that he taught me, has definitely helped my baseball career. I was actually in the middle of an engineering degree at UCLA, so I followed in his foot-steps a little bit. But looking at video, etc. there's always been an emphasis with him on data: get video, get pitch locations, get average movement on the pitches, all that kind of stuff. It's definitely influenced me in a very positive way.
DB: What was the point for you at which baseball became the thing? Was there a moment, was there a day where you remember saying, "Okay, this is what I want to do"?
TB: Well, baseball's always been 'the thing' for me. I don't remember life without baseball, from the time I could walk. My Dad and Mom got me a little plastic Whiffleball bat, we would call it 'fat bat' - we still have it, as a little memento! My Dad would go out in the front yard, and toss me Whiffleballs, and I'd try to him them over the little one-foot wall about 20 feet away. And when I made contact with one, I'd run around the little bases that we had, and he'd chase me around - it was pretty fun.
I've always loved playing. I don't know if there's a time where I haven't played baseball. But when it became a reality, that I might be able to do this for a living, play for a while and maybe make it to the big leagues, was in college at some point. Really, after my sophomore year, I had a good year, went to the College World Series, performed well there. People got started talking, "Could be a supplemental pick, late first, early second-round pick." I figured, well, if everyone else thinks so, then I guess they've been around more so than I have, so I might as well start thinking about it.
DB: You went to school at Hart High in Valencia - excellent baseball program. You've said on record though, that you hated high-school. Why?
TB: I just didn't fit in too well, socially. I looked at things a lot more maturely than a lot of kids in high-school. A lot of people would go out, go to movies with 20 friends, go out for a party. I'd rather stay at home with my dad and watch Friday Night Fights, or go up to the park at 10 o'clock at night and throw or work out, and try ti get better. So I just didn't have a whole lot of friends, socially. Classwise, I was kinda bored in my junior year, it wasn't much of a challenge. There wasn't much about it that I enjoyed. I've always looked forward to going to college and having that experience, so when the chance presented itself to graduate early, I got out of there.
DB: ESPN The Magazine did a big feature on you a couple of months ago, and it you talked about how, in high-school, in the summer, sometimes you'd take a whole bucket of baseballs, and go to the park and just launch baseball - play long-toss with yourself, essentially, because you had no friends at the time. I have to wonder, what was going through your mind as you threw ball after ball?
TB: Probably heavy-metal, because that was probably what was in my earphones! Not really much. My Dad has always taught me, from a really young age, that if I wanted to have pitching lessons, if I wanted to play baseball, that he'd provide for me, but that I needed to go out and do the work - consciously work on what I've been taught. So that it wasn't just a repeat of the same lesson, over and over, there was actually some progress being made, and I was improving. He worked out in New Mexico for my entire childhood: he owned a custom door and furniture manufacturing company with his brother out there. He grew up in New Mexico, he lived with his mom when he was back there, took care of her and ran the business during the week.
So when I was working out during the week, I didn't have anyone to throw with, my dad wasn't around. No-one wanted to play long-toss, no-one was doing the workouts I was doing, so I found a way to get better. That engineering mind-set of, here's a problem, how am I going to solve it. Just got two buckets of balls, from Home Depot or Do It Center, filled them with old baseballs - the seams were cut and they were weighted with water or stuff - and would go up to the park and launch them. I actually ended up getting into quite a bit of trouble for it.
DB: Explain how you got in trouble...
TB: Well, there was a tennis court, and it had a 20-foot high fence, and then there's a big open grass area, where I would launch balls across. I started throwing up there when I was ten, and didn't have any problems until I was 15 or 16. The park employed an instructor to give tennis lessons through Parks and Rec. I think the statement was that the unexpected repetitiveness of the balls hitting the fence was disturbing his tennis classes so then I got suits filed on me for vandalism, disturbing the peace, reckless endangerment - all sorts of fun!
DB: They actually filed lawsuits against you?
TB: I had to talk to some officers a couple of times about some stuff that was filed. Obviously they got dismissed, because there's absolutely no grounds for what he's talking about. But it was just a vendetta against me; there were no signs posted on the fences to say I couldn't throw there. I'd talked to park officials before, they said it was fine if I did throw there. When he started trying to tell me that I couldn't, I said, I'm going to get my work in, I've talked to people, there's no reason that I can't, and he ended up getting mad. It was a battle. I ended up getting cops sent to my high-school, got threatened with being kicked off the team, if I ever did this or that again - all for going up to the park and getting extra work in, which I never really understood.
DB: When did you start developing such a different approach to the game?
TB: I don't know. It was probably back when I was eight, or something like that. My pitching instructor at the time told me that in the Dominicans, people would through coconuts or balls that were soaked in water, and that's why they threw so hard. So my Dad and I got a big bucket of water, put baseballs in it, and used to go out in the back-yard, and throw water-soaked baseballs to each other. I kinda continued on with that when I was ten. I went to a family friend. I still talk to him about pitching - he was my pitching coach all the way through from when I was ten until I went to college - Jim Wagner.
I went to his Throw Zone for the first time when I was ten; I was actually his first client, so that was kind of a fun time, growing up with him, in the pitching instruction area. He introduced me to a guy named Alan Jaeger, who taught me about long-toss and that was different from what a lot of guys were doing at the time. Jim also introduced me to the Texas Baseball Ranch when I was 14, which is where I picked up a lot of my workout, and through that experience I've been introduced to stuff like effective velocity and shoulder care. All the different stuff I use to pitch right now is a joint effort.
DB: Baseball is a sport that's renowned for being somewhat conservative, very traditional. Does that frustrate you sometimes?
TB: Not really. I try to focus on things that I can handle. My workouts, getting better, how I pitch, executing my pitches, stuff like that. Whether baseball is traditional or non-traditional, likes what I'm doing or doesn't like what I'm doing - I figure if I perform well, they'll leave me alone to do it, so it's not really frustrating. What I find frustrating is when you see kids go in who are really good, and they end up going backwards because people tell them "You have to change this" or "You have to change that." - you see it quite a bit.
It's just frustrating because they didn't have the information to know why they are good, they just happened to be good. Then someone tells them to try to do this, to help make them better. There's no-one bad in baseball, no-one out there saying, "I'm going to try to make this kid worse. I'm going to ruin this kid.":But people miss some times that there's not one thing that's going to help everybody - one thing that helps this person is going to hurt this other person. That's kinda frustrating when you see a kid that was really good going in, then end up trying to get better, using the information that he's given, and ends up regressing. It's sad to see.
DB: As you become a well-known name in baseball circles these last couple of years, has part of you enjoyed being seen as this 'mad baseball genius'?
TB: Part of me has, part of me hasn't. I don't like being known as this out there, weird, quirky guy because I think I'm just pretty normal off the field. I like to have a good time, laugh, smile - I breathe just like everyone else does. But part of me kinda embraces it. I definitely realize that I do things differently than other people. I like to think it's because I do a lot of research and know my body really well, and what works for me, what I'm trying to accomplish. Hopefully, I can be a torch-bearer, a flag-bearer for that thought. that kind of movement towards throwing more and healthier, getting the stuff that I do put into play. I don't mind being on the crest of that wave.
DB: You mentioned how a lot of people think you don't have fun. What are some of the other biggest myths or misconceptions that you've heard about you?
TB: My hat in college was definitely one of them. Everyone said that it smelled real bad, but it didn't - it was just really faded. So that's one of the biggest ones. I don't know. Some people think I'm pretty cocky or arrogant, which is not at all the case. I'm quiet, a lot of times, and people misinterpret that as being better than they are or too good to talk to them. I struggled a lot with that in high-school, where I was a baseball player, and one of the better ones on the team, and I didn't talk to anybody. That was because I just didn't feel comfortable talking to people. I didn't know how to approach people, talk to them - I just wanted someone to come up and talk to me, and it would have worked out fine. But they interpret that as arrogance.
Sometimes I'll make jokes about my performance. I'm a very sarcastic person, so if I say, "Oh, man - I was dominant today," it's a joke. It's just me going off the wall and saying something I don't believe in. I don't really think, "Oh, man - I was dominant, I'm the best." It's just me joking around and trying to have some fun. I think I get a bad rep on that sometimes. Those are kinda the big ones.
DB: Going into the draft in June, there was a lot of speculation that teams might shy away from you because they were afraid of your methods or afraid of the amount of pitches you'd thrown, or your workout routines. Did that concern you, that you were going to slide down the draft because of it?
TB: No. The draft for me was all going to take care of itself, depending on how I pitched. It wasn't about position or money or anything like that. It was about finding a team that I could go to, that believed in me and would try to enhance what I do instead of changing what I do - looking for a fit, a marriage that we could work together and go through the process together. I really found that with the Diamondbacks. Everyone I talked to, it was a very pleasant conversation, very pleasant to deal with - seemed to really embrace what I was doing, seemed to really believe in me. So I was extremely happy that I came off the board to this organization.
DB: Have they talked to you about your pre-game routine? Is anything going to change for you?
TB: No - there haven't been any discussions. They've just told me, go out there and do what you do; if you run into trouble and can't seem to get out of it, then maybe we'll tweak some things and try to help. But until you do, it's all you - go out there and do what you do.
DB: You do have this reputation of being a 24/7 baseball freak, but when you are away from the field, those rare times, what is fun for you to do?
TB: I've gotten really into music: recording songs and writing songs. Kind of a closet poet. I really enjoy writing poems. It's a release for me: anything from a fun experience I had, to a bad day, a tough time emotionally, something like that, it ranges all around. I figured that if I was going to write poetry, I might as well put some music to it, and make songs. That's one of my main hobbies. I enjoy going out, love movies, like to go out with friends, go to dinner and a movie, have some fun that way.
I like to shoot pool. I love spas - so when I end up getting my own place, that's going to be one of the first things I put in. Just sit in a spa, listen to some music and enjoy life. I'm a low-key guy, I don't go out and do a bunch of extravagant stuff like sky-diving or rock-climbing or anything like that. I enjoy the beach sometimes. Just low-key, have some fun with close friends.
DB: I've heard you love to blast heavy metal before each of your starts, is that right?
DB: Favorite bands?
TB: Oh, let's see here... I'll name the ones on my pre-game list. Amon Amarth, which is probably my favorite band, them or Disturbed, those are my two favorites. But I have Haste the Day, Killswitch Engage, Lamb of God... Parkway Drive, In Flames, Dark Tranqulity. A wide genre of metal, from hard rock, to the really heavy death metal music.
DB: Besides the obvious, what about heavy metal gets you fired up before a game? What about it speaks to you?
TB: One of the things I learned when I was trying to change my mechanics around and make that improvement from 78 mph up to 94, is that you have to find your internal rhythm, and you have to pitch based on how you are innately wired. So one of the exercises that they told me to was, put on my favorite song and pitch with it in my earphones. At the time, I was just getting into music, and I was listening to a lot of Lamb of God. One of my buddies back in high-school had gotten into it - his dad was a metalhead, so he'd gotten into it and had got me into it. So that's what I was listening to at the time, and that's how I linked heavy metal to pitching, because that's what I listened to when I was trying to rework my delivery.
I think it's the aggressive nature. I trained myself to be really aggressive on the mound, go at people, attack them, high energy, in your face mentality, which is completely opposite of how I am off the field, but on the field that's how I've been trained to pitch and that's how I like to pitch. And that identifies with the fast-paced drums, the riffs, in metal.
DB: When you signed with the Diamondbacks, you said about the only thing you were going to splurge on was about a week's worth of steak and sushi. How do you like your steak?
TB: Medium, sometimes medium-well. I tell friends that make fun of me for that, that I like to eat steak, not cow! I like it cooked a little bit, pink in the middle, some salt on it. Not a big fan of steak sauce. But steak and a potato - I'm set.
DB: How about sushi. Favorite kind of sushi?
TB: I don't know... I like sashimi, salmon, tuna - stuff like that. I think I had a spicy New York crab-roll this summer that was really, really good. California rolls. I like to try new stuff, so I'll look down the menu, see what they have, that looks pretty good,. I'll try that. I don't go out for it a whole lot, didn't have a whole lot of money growing up, so not much to spend on sushi. But I guess that's one of the reasons I'm going to go out and spend a week getting it. I do really enjoy it, and now I do have a little bit of money to have it.
DB: Since you are so oriented around baseball in your life, if you had to do something out of the game, what would it be?
TB: If I couldn't play baseball, I'd like to work in baseball. But if it wasn't baseball, it'd probably be something engineering-wise. I really enjoy mechanics, and how things work. I guess as a child, I always dreamed of having an X-wing from Star Wars, and being able to fly around in it. I thought being a fighter pilot would be pretty fun, just because of the way those things are put together and the way they work. That gets me going, why they fly, why they stay afloat.
I read an article online - I think it was in Discover magazine, or maybe Scientific American - about a guy called Subrata Roy, down at the University of Florida, who's developing a little flying-saucer thing that runs on a battery. It has a whole bunch of metal plates around the outside of it, and depending on where it sends the electric charge, it creates a plasma there, and that creates propulsion. That's how the thing stays afloat. Just something like that. I was really interested in nanotechnology for a long time, quantum mechanics, so probably something in that field.
DB: And finally, Trevor, as you embark on your professional career, what would make a successful career for you when you look back it, regardless of how many games you win?
TB: I think when I'm done, I want to look back and say, I did everything I could to be the best I could. If that turns out to be zero major-league wins or 300, or however many, I think I can be happy with looking back and saying, "I worked as hard as I could. I went out and tried to find new ways to get better." I can be happy with that.
[Many thanks to Trevor for his time, and Donnie for forwarding us the interview.]