Folks, meet Travis Ballew. This Texas State alumnus made adjusting to professional baseball look like a cake walk, with a 1.62 ERA in 39 innings for Low-A Tri-City in the NY-Penn League after being drafted in the 23rd round of this year's draft. In this post, I get to know the diminutive righty, including his run-in with Storm Troopers at the park:
Here's the question all players get: when did you know that baseball was what you wanted to do with your life?
I really started to realize that I wanted to play professional baseball probably around my sophomore year of high school. I was starting to get a lot of interest from big colleges and I was also developing pretty well as a pitcher. It was always fun to go out and play on any given day like it still continues to be today.
Having been called beforehand by Tampa, Miami and Philly, were you especially surprised that none of them selected you in the Draft? Did you expect to end up with Houston, or another team altogether?
I had talked to the Astros a little bit before the draft. I had the same expectations from every team on where I would get drafted. I was really just hoping to get an opportunity to play after my Junior year of college.
What was the first thing you did once you heard you were drafted?
It was a pretty exciting time around the house. It was a very exciting day for my family. my best friend Wesley, and my girlfriend Nicki, who were all over at my house the day of the draft. I got a lot of congratulation texts and tweets right after I had been selected. It was a very joyful time in my life. After I had been selected I just kind of relaxed because it had been a stressful 3 days during the draft.
What would you say was the biggest adjustment for you once you reported to the Astros organization?
The biggest adjustment probably has been how much time you spend at the field. You arrive at the field around 2. Practice before and then you have a 2.5 hour to 4 hour game that you may or may not pitch in. It is totally a different schedule that what I was used to coming from college.
Has there been one experience you've had that really made a lasting impression on you, good or bad?
The best experience has been making it to the playoffs in my first professional year. It's fun to go into pro ball and have a winning season your first season. It's a big confidence booster to you as a first year player. It also was fun when we clinched the division and had the "champagne" (fake, obviously) in the bullpen at Brooklyn. I also got to enjoy that after we beat Auburn in the playoffs to advance to the Championship round.
Have you yet had a moment on the mound when you felt you might not be able to make it as a pro?
Up to this point I have not had a moment where I did not feel i could make it (emphasis added by yours truly). I was very happy with my pitching my first year. I had to get used to relieving because my Junior year of college I was a starter. Overall I was very proud of my first season.
Describe your pitching repertoire: What pitch would you say is your "go-to" pitch? Anything specific you may not have a great deal of confidence in (mechanics, pitching from the stretch, inconsistencies in breaking pitches, etc)?
My go-to pitch has always been my breaking ball. I seem to always have pretty good control of it. In the off-season I am going to spend a lot of time working on my fast ball and developing a good third pitch.
What would you say has been the funniest or strangest experience you've had as a pro?
I would have to say one of the funniest is how many people actually participated in Star Wars Promotion Night. I do not think I have ever seen that many Darth Vaders, Yodas, and Stormtroopers at one place at one time. It was pretty cool to see fans that actually participated though.
If you couldn't play professional baseball, what would you most like to do?
Most likely I would probably be teaching somewhere and coaching baseball. That's what I plan on doing if baseball does not work out. Hopefully I won't ever have to do that though haha.