Mets pitching prospect Collin McHugh was kind enough to take some time out and answer a few questions for me for our MMO community. Collin is coming off a solid season that culminated with an impressive performance for Double-A Binghamton where he went 8-2 with a 2.89 ERA in 16 starts. The young right-hander is out in Arizona where he is presently playing for the Peoria Javelinas, along with seven other Mets farmhands, in the Arizona Fall League. Collin provided many fascinating thoughts and responses to my questions. Here’s how the interview went:
Petey: When the Mets drafted you out of Berry College (GA), in the 18th round of the 2008 MLB Player Draft, how did you first hear about it, and what was that feeling like? Did you know the Mets were interested in drafting you?
Collin: My parents and I were sitting around the family room on day 2 of the draft. I was listening to it on the radio while my dad was following it on the computer. I was had just exclaimed that I was bored, to turn the radio off and watch the Braves game. My dad called me over to the computer subtly and showed me my name next to the Mets logo. 18th round. It was pretty surreal! My mom looked over at us and started crying. I guess she saw it all over my face. I knew the Mets scout who drafted me pretty well, so I wasn’t too shocked that they were the ones who pulled the trigger on me.
Petey: Is there one person, a coach, a friend or family member, or even another player, who you have learned the most from, or who inspired you to chase your dream of one day becoming a major league baseball player?
Collin: I’ve always had very supportive family and friends. My wife, Ashley, has been a huge blessing and encouragement the entire way. As far as the baseball goes, I’d have to say my high school & college coaches shaped the way I play the game the most. Adam Cantrell, my coach at Providence Christian Academy, is a great baseball man. He taught me about how to play the game the right way; Work hard, stay focused, respect yourself and your opponents. My pitching coach at Berry College, Josh Hopper, was a former Mets farmhand and the best pitching guy I’ve ever run across. More than mechanics and PFP’s, Hop showed me what it means to compete. He is a fiery guy, and I like to think it rubbed off on me in a good way. Head coach at Berry and former MLB scout, David Beasley, was (and still is) a great resource for all issues on the field.
Petey: Tell us a little bit about your arsenal. What pitches you throw, at what speeds, and are you working on any new pitches moving forward?
Collin: I’m a 4 pitch guy. Fastball (2 seam and 4 seam), changeup, curveball, and a cutter. They pretty much cover the entire spectrum from the low 90’s to low 70’s. The cutter has been a great pitch for me this season. I started working on it late last year and got more confident with it as this season progressed. It gives me a nice change of pace, especially to lefties. All of us (pitchers, I mean) are working on fastball command at all times. Without it, your ceiling comes crashing down quickly. I feel like that has been a huge key for me, getting ahead with my fastball and working from there.
Petey: Presently you are playing ball, against many of the nation’s top prospects, for the Peoria Javelinas of the Arizona Fall League. How do you like the experience of playing in the AFL? What have you gotten out of it so far?
Collin: I’m loving it out here in the desert! You can follow me and many other prospects’ journeys at http://aflprospects.mlblogs.com. I think playing against great talent day in and day out makes you focus a little bit harder. You can’t afford to take one pitch off. Similar to what I imagine the Bigs are like. That being said, the game is still played the same way. 3 strikes. 3 outs. 9 innings. If you do what got you out here consistently enough, you will be successful. That’s what i’m working on…and my tan!
Petey: I meant to tell you, your tan looks great. What are your plans after the AFL season ends? What kind of things will you do to stay in shape over the winter? Can you describe your regimen?
Collin: As soon as we’re done here, my plan is to head back home to Atlanta with Ashley. Visit family and friends, go to our favorite restaurants, and enjoy the holidays. My offseason workouts will start around the holidays and throwing will follow around the new year. I like to lift, swim, bike, etc. Really anything except distance running. That’s not exactly my cup of tea, although I do it on an “as needed” basis. I lift weights too, but they are very pitching-specific workouts. No bench press for me.
Petey: This past season, you made what is considered by many, to be the biggest jump in the minors, going from high A St. Lucie, to AA Binghamton. What’s more is you hit the ground running at AA, and put up some of the best numbers of your pro career, while competing at the highest level thus far. What adjustments did you make in order to have such a good season at Bingo?
Collin: Honestly, I decided to have more fun. The past couple seasons have seen some good moments and some bad ones. But nothing consistent enough to garner any momentum for my career. When I got the call up to Bingo it wasn’t supposed to be a long term thing. Maybe a start or two then some long relief time in the pen. Looking at the facts, my career was not moving in a direction that gave me a bunch of confidence. Ashley and I had to look at the facts and say “if this is my last season, let’s have as much fun as possible. Let’s sell out, drink the punch, enjoy what we have in front of us.” From that point on, whether through coincidence or not, I began to throw with a lot more consistency. I was having fun, playing well, and things kinda snowballed. In a good way. I’m just trying to keep that mindset out here and enjoy what I’ve been blessed with.
Petey: Collin, you really saved your best for last this past season when you pitched your final regular season game against Erie on September 1st. You threw the only complete game by a BMet this year, going the full 9 IP, while only surrendering 1 run, 5 hits, 2 walks, and 11 strikeouts! Wow! That was a great way to cap off the season, what was it that made you so dominant in that game?
Collin: I don’t know. I threw strikes early. Kept the ball down. They were aggressive. Everything just kind of fell into place that day, and my pitch count stayed relatively low. I think earlier in the season I probably would’ve been pulled before the last inning, but since it was the last game of my season, Wally told me it was my game to finish if I wanted it. I wanted it more than anything in that moment. It was a real high point in the season.
Petey: You are running your own blog site on the web for about three years now, I believe? “A day older, A day wiser” it’s called. I have read your stuff, and it’s a fascinating insight into the life of a professional baseball player. How did you get started doing that? Where do you see it going in the future? Do you plan on writing a book someday to chronicle your pathway and experiences leading to the Major Leagues?
Collin: Thanks a lot! A Day Older, A Day Wiser started out as an outlet for me to get some thoughts out. Baseball can get pretty taxing mentally at times. It was good to have some place to vent or “type” out loud. It kind of grew from there, realizing that people might actually be interested in the kind of stuff we (minor leaguers) go through on a day to day basis. I plan on keeping it up, keeping it current, and hopefully shedding some more light on how our lives look beyond the white lines. As for a book, I guess we’ll see. I’ve read a few of the baseball classics; Bouton’s “Ball Four” and I plan on reading “The Bullpen Gospels” soon. It seems like a possibility, but I think making it to the Bigs would be a prerequisite for a more interesting story.
Petey: What was your favorite baseball team growing up? Your favorite player?
Collin: Atlanta Braves. Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine. All tied for my favorite. I’m an Atlanta boy. What can I say? I grew up thinking that my team was supposed to win every year. It was a great adolescence…or naiveté. We’re hoping to give a new generation of Mets fans that same luxury.
Petey: And to finish up Collin, just a little personal info, not pertaining to baseball. What is your favorite movie? Favorite musician or band? Favorite food?
Collin: Good Will Hunting. I’m a sucker for any movie based in Boston. Not sure why. My brother, Evan McHugh, is a singer songwriter out of Nashville, TN. He’s my favorite artist, and although I’m biased, I take pride in my music taste. Favorite food? Pretty much whatever Ashley puts on the table. She’s a killer chef! Tonight? Chicken sausage tacos with a cilantro yogurt sauce paired with an Argentinian Malbec. Yum!
I want to thank Collin for a fascinating Q&A that was a lot of fun to do. You can follow him on his blog entitled “A Day Older, A Day Wiser” where he writes about life as a minor leaguer and the road to the majors. He’s a great guy – go check it out.