Sunday, July 30, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Reading pitcher Cole Irvin

Cole Irvin, image- Jay Floyd
Starting pitcher Cole Irvin has had a swift rise thus far in his pro career.  A 5th round selection last year, the 23-year-old lefty is the first player from that Phillies draft class to reach the Double-A level.

Irvin opened his 2017 campaign with Class A Advanced Clearwater.  In 12 outings there, the California native posted a 4-6 record with a 2.55 ERA and a .265 batting average against.  In June, he was promoted to Reading, where he has tallied a 4-1 record with a 2.70 ERA and a .244 batting average against.

Earlier this month, I sat down with Cole to chat about his success as a pro, which players (including a Phillie) he looked up to as a child, social media and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview...

-It's been a swift rise through the minors.  Just a short year after making your pro debut, you're at the Double-A level and you're pitching with success.  Can you offer some thoughts on this quick pace ?

It's been kind of crazy.  It's been kind of nuts.  I didn't expect myself to be here this quickly, more or less this soon.  You always have expectations of yourself and what you want to do, and what your goals are for the year, but for myself, I'm happy that I've kind of got to my goals as quickly as I have.  I wasn't expecting to be in Double-A till August/September time, when guys start moving around.  But now I'm here, made my Double-A debut about a week before I made my professional debut a year before that.  It's been kind of a whirlwind of crazy things going on, but it's kind of funny- I was talking to my dad and I said, "I made my professional debut and July 4th and I got my first professional hit July 3rd."  It's kind of cool that things revolved around July 4th for me, because it's my favorite holiday.  So, I love playing baseball on July 4th.  Nothing better than beers and hot dogs and watching some fireworks, you know?

-You mention your dad and I imagine you've got a lot of support from your whole family?

Yeah, absolutely.  You know, I keep my family really close to me and the people that know what's going on in my everyday life will know what's going on and it's a big deal, especially when I told my dad that my Double-A debut was going to be with me batting 9th, so he got super happy.  My best friends were hazing me a little bit.  "Don't strike out!" kind of stuff and I'm glad in my debut that I didn't.  But it's been fun and, like I said, my family's real close to me and they've been behind everything.  They haven't seen me throw for an affiliate till I reached Double-A, so they can see me on TV, so they can see my starts now and, eventually, they'll make it out to the east coast to see me (in person).  We'll see when that happens.  

-You're a Cali guy.  What is hometown for you?

Home town is Anaheim.  Yorba Linda to be exact.  Um, I grew up in Anaheim, went to high school in Anaheim and then I went to the University of Oregon.

-Is there anyone from your youth, maybe an Angels player, that really made some memorable impressions for the game of baseball with you?

I was a big, big Jim Edmonds fan as a kid.  So, watching him play, the way he played the game and then realizing when you're older the two knee surgeries that he's gone through, you know, he wasn't your stereotypical center fielder.  You look at him and he could barely move out there and he's out there making arguably, to me, the greatest catch in major league history, diving backwards, Willie Mays catch.  It was just insane.

I actually had a chance when I was a kid to interact with him, because he was with the Angels and we had a family friend that had a Christmas party and- What do you know?- They were friends with the Edmonds.  So, I got to experience being around him and I don't really remember the interaction.  

I think I was like four or five (years old).  My dad and my mom always told me that I practically fainted, I was so excited.  I was so in awe.  I couldn't talk to anyone else.  It was a cool memory, growing up loving baseball.  Baseball's always been my driving force.  I could never get tired of it.  I want to stay in the game as long as I can.  It's been fun. 

-What's it like on this team with you, Zach Coppola and some other guys moving up from the Threshers to this team with Reading?

I think there's a lot of camaraderie.  A lot of guys know each other, believe in each other and knows what the others can do, so when things aren't going right, you know how to talk to your teammate.  And that's a thing that's important and losing stinks.  So, the importance is just being able to back your teammate the best way you can so, if you're not playing and he's having a bad day you should be able to interact with your teammate and say, "Hey, we got you right here.  We're going to back you up.  We're going to pull for you and everything's going to turn around for you.  You're going to get one more (at bat).  You're going to get one more pitch.  You're to come out of the situation on top.  Just don't worry about it."  The biggest deal is trying to understand your teammates.  So, having guys from Clearwater and now interacting with some of the guys here, the camaraderie is awesome.  The guys are all best friend with each other and it's really cool.

-What is the pitch menu for you right now and is any of the offerings a go-to pitch for you?

Four-seam, two-seam, one-seam- I haven't been throwing that here yet, because it's so unpredictable- but, change up, slider and curve ball.  My out pitch is my change up.  I can throw it in any count.  All my pitches I can throw in any count, but change up, slider, curve ball, those are my out pitches and every once in a while if I know a guy is a free swinger, I'll throw a fastball up 'cause he's gonna be able to swing at it.  You just gotta understand the situation in terms of kind of what's going to be an out pitch, especially at this level.  Guy are going to start being patient.  There is a difference between High A and here with patient hitters, guys not exactly jumping out at the first pitch they see.  You know they understand that the might get one more decent pitch to swing at.  So, the biggest thing for me is to minimize how many decent pitches they see.  (Laughs)

-I know mental coaching and guidance on the mental side of the game is something that has helped some of the pitchers on this club.  Roy Halladay is down in Florida, helping a lot of the guys with that.  Did you take advantage of anything like that?

I only met with him once.  It was really just a get-to-know-me meeting.  It wasn't really baseball related or anything like that.  I never had a chance to pick his brain.  As a pitcher coming up in the high school ranks, Cole Hamels is a pitcher that I watched.  I was very much compared to him.  So him being a Phillie and playing with Roy Halladay was something of a- kind of a big deal for me.  Especially, when he became our mental skills coach, down in Clearwater.  I didn't get to meet with him as much, but I've met with so many mental strength coaches, I don't know if I was going to talk to him about anything mental.  I think I wanted to talk to him what Cole Hamels is like and everything he was and what that rotation was like. 

Things were going well and when things are going well, you tend not to think about, "How do I handle the bad?" You don't think about the bad because things are going well.  

He's an awesome guy and I know a lot of guys have talked with them and it's helped them along the way.  It's awesome to have him, an unbelievable big leaguer in your corner and be able to talk to him and have him as a mentor.  Austin Davis and a couple other guys in the organization will stay in contact with him.  For me, I got his number and I texted him about when we were meeting and the next thing I know on my Snapchat, Roy Halladay can be an option for a friend.  And I didn't hit add friend, as much as I wanted to.  But it's kind of cool to think, "Do I hit Add Friend for Roy Halladay?"  

But it's kind of fun and cool and kind of humbling to have a guy like him in your corner. 

-Is it crazy to think that this elite level Cy Young Award winner messes around on the same stupid applications that every young person does?

I don't think so.  'Cause I feel like parents have to be involved with what their kids do.  So, him being a father, I'm sure he's trying to stay on top of the social media and understand what's going on, so his kids can't spook him.  I don't know what his deal with it is, but it's cool because also through the years of playing I also met Bret Saberhagen and I'm a huge baseball buff, so I got to play golf with him when I was younger.  And a guy, he played at Richmond, he's in the Giants organization, Tyler Beede, he and I were buddies and we got the pleasure to work with Bret Saberhagen for a little while in our younger high school years.  And seeing him, he's on social media, Twitter and stuff.  Big Royals guy, obviously.  But you see these professional athletes, especially the older athletes like Halladay and Saberhagen, to be able to use social media in a positive direction.  They're promoting their teams, their clubs.  They're also giving it a positive outlook, so that's something that I kind of like to see myself as, is more as a positive light on other people in my social media instead of, "Hey, here's me!"  Every once in a while, you're going to have those things...

-Right.  "Look at me!",  "Look at my watch!",  "Look where I am!"

(Laughs) Right.  As much as you don't want it to be like that, every now and again it's going to be, but you want to limit those things and you want to shed light to people like, I'm a good person too and I just want to make sure everyone else's day is better.

-I've had a great time chatting.  One last thing before I let you go, you talked about being a big baseball buff.  Are you keeping a lot of mementos like that first hit ball as you move forward in your career?

I've got 'em all.  I've got the first pitch in Double-A.  I've got the first professional debut.  I've got the first double- first hit technically, but I like saying first double!  (Laughs)  I have them all, so hopefully, when that first home run I'm going to be able to get that back.  But, who knows when that'll happen.  It's not up to me.  But for anyone out there, please give me that home run ball back.  I'll pay for it!  (Laughs)  I want that ball!
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