I conducted an interview with Diamondback pitching prospect Taylor Widener back in September, but due to an unfortunate series of events that and an another interview are possibly lost forever. I contacted Taylor again a few weeks ago, told him what happened, and he gratefully agreed to conduct another interview with me over the phone.
Below is a transcription, edited for clarity and length, of the interview we conducted on Monday 18th December 2018:
Wesley Baier: What pitches do you throw?
Taylor Widener: I throw a fastball, a slider, and a change-up.
Wesley Baier: What do you do to prepare yourself for a start. What’s a typical game day look like?
Taylor Widener: I try to sleep in as late as I can, and then I’ll usually go try and eat a big lunch since I don’t usually eat right before a start. So, I’ll grab a big meal and then eat a snack like a banana, or a few little snacks like that before I go out there. Probably two, maybe two and half hours before a start, I’ll go into the weight room and foam roll and do all the stretches and exercise for about 45 minutes, then maybe ride a bike and loosen up my legs before I go out and throw.
Wesley Baier: How long before the game do you typically start throwing?
Taylor Widener: Like twenty to twenty-five minutes.
Wesley Baier: That’s really quick.
Taylor Widener: I’ve always warmed up quickly. I was a reliever in college, and when I first got drafted I was a piggy back starter my last year with the Yankees.
Wesley Baier: How is your health right now?
Taylor Widener: My health is good. My body has been feeling really good.
Wesley Baier: What is/are your goal(s) for this upcoming season?
Taylor Widener: My goals are just to perform at the best level I can.
Wesley Baier: You had arguably your best, and one of the best seasons by a Diamondback pitching prospect last season. What do you attribute that success to?
Taylor Widener: I think, all around, everything was just working for me this year. There were games this year were I felt like I had all three pitches, Fastball, slider, changeup, were working for me this year. I felt like I could throw any pitch in any count. I was so much more comfortable out there after really learning how to go out there and really pitch, and not just throw. I felt like I learned after every start this year. The confidence that comes with all of that and comes with that success. I feel like finally learning to trust to throw my change-up, I think that has really really helped me out.
Wesley Baier: So would you say that your change-up is the pitch that has developed the most to your satisfaction this last season?
Taylor Widener: Oh, Absolutely.
Wesley Baier: What do think needs the most work going forward for you to succeed at the Major League level?
Taylor Widener: The consistency on the breaking ball. I feel like I struggled with that this last year, just trying to keep the right shape and a good tight spin on my breaking ball.
Wesley Baier: What’s the biggest difference between the Diamondbacks and Yankees organization in terms of player development philosophy?
Taylor Widener: I feel like all the teams are pretty much the same. Both the Yankees and Diamondback have been been great, especially about getting you motivated, working hard, but not too hard and overworking you. Like there’s days with your body, they tell you that your body knows better than anyone else, and they listen to you. I feel both teams really listened to you and that’s really, really helpful.
Wesley Baier: What do you think is the biggest difference between working as a reliever versus working as a starter?
Taylor Widener: You have to go more for pitching to contact and maintaining as a starter. As a reliever, I’d try to get a strikeout every single time, and that’ll run your pitch count up as a starter. I’m learning now that weak contact is my friend.
Wesley Baier: How do you restore yourself after a disappointing start?
Taylor Widener: I am firm believer in “what’s in the past is in the past” and I don’t really dwell on bad starts. In the grand scheme of things it is still just a game. I don’t see the point in staying upset, or dwelling on things after a bad game. It can happen. It’s a long season. I think some guys who get caught up in a bad start, and then it really affects them coming into the next start. Then they start putting pressure on themselves like I’ve gotta do better or else, but that’s the way it is. It’s a cutthroat game.
Wesley Baier: It definitely is.
Taylor Widener: I feel like they look at that though. They look at how you bounce back from a bad start, how you deal with adversity. They see when people are pressing, or if you’re all pouty after a bad game. That’s just a part of the game though, it’s not an easy sport.
Wesley Baier: How did your time at the University of South Carolina affect the pitcher you are today?
Taylor Widener: Well, I definitely think it taught me to be aggressive, to just trust my stuff, and go right at guys. I was made a closer starting my sophomore year, and that’s when I learned to just be aggressive and trust my stuff over the hitter’s stuff.
Wesley Baier: Baseball is a superstitious sport, so do you have any weird pre-game rituals, weird ticks or habits on the mound or in the batter’s box? Good luck charms?
Taylor Widener: I don’t really have any, other than maybe eating a big lunch. It used to be going to Firehouse Subs before every start.
Wesley Baier: Who was your sports idols growing up? Actually I remember this from the last interview, it was Chipper, wasn’t it?
Taylor Widener: Yep, it was Chipper Jones.
Wesley Baier: What are your hobbies?
Taylor Widener: Hunting, fishing. and I’ve been golfing a lot now.
Wesley Baier: Who would you say has influenced your career as a pitcher the most?
Taylor Widener: I would probably say my dad. My dad pitched in high school, and he had start working when he was younger so he never had the chance to play further in school. I hear he was really a good pitcher though, and we played a lot of catch and stuff when I was growing up, and to this day when I go back home, I’ll go play catch with my dad.
Wesley Baier: In our last, now lost interview, I asked you your offseason plans, and you told me you were planning on getting married in November, how was your wedding?
Taylor Widener: Well, I think out of the hundred people we had there, all hundred people were crying. I don’t think there was a dry eye.
Wesley Baier: Finally, a lot of players have a lot of different charitable causes that are important to them, are there any that are important to you?
Taylor Widener: There’s a charity I told my wife that’d I’d donate a ton to when I got my first big contract, Spikes K9 Fund, that donates bullet proof vests and other stuff to police and military service dogs.
Wesley Baier: Why don’t we help you help them now, by providing a link?
Taylor Widener: That’d be great.
Wesley Baier: Thanks again for doing the interview.
Taylor Widener: It was no problem, glad to do it.
Here’s a link to Spikes K9 Fund if you’d like to donate and help Taylor’s cause out