I had a chance to chat recently with 22-year-old Mets minor league pitching prospect, 6’3″ left-hander, Adam Kolarek. Adam pitched nearly all of 2011 with the South Atlantic League Southern Division Champion, Savannah Sand Gnats, helping to anchor their bullpen. It was really nice of Adam to take some time off from holiday shopping to chat with us here at MMO, let’s see what he had to say:
Petey: First of all congratulations Adam on a very successful second pro season! As a hard-throwing left-handed reliever with good command, you were a staple in the Savannah Sand Gnats bullpen all season, going 7-0 with a 2.22 ERA. You also helped the Gnats get to the championship round of the South Atlantic League playoffs. It must have been quite an exciting year for you, I would imagine. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers at MetsMerizedOnline.com. When the Mets drafted you out of the University of Maryland in the 11th round of the 2010 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? What round(s) were you thinking you might be taken in the draft?
Adam: I was listening to the broadcast online with my family when I heard my name called. It was definitely a feeling I will never forget. I was obviously excited but I was also really relieved that the whole process was over with and that I had finally accomplished my goal. I knew that the Mets had some interest in me, but to what extent, I wasn’t sure. I was able to attend their pre-draft workout in New York and all I wanted to do was make a good impression and give them a reason to draft me. To be drafted in the 11th round was great.
Petey: Your father Frank played as a catcher in the Oakland Athletics organization from 1976 to 1982, rising as high as AAA. As a pitcher, I would think it would be very helpful for you having a “catcher” for a dad. How did that help your development? Would you say he was your biggest influence as a player growing up?
Adam: Having a catcher as my father has been a great advantage for me throughout my whole life. From the baseball side of things, we have always talked and dissected my outtings and I continue to call him after every game I pitch with the Mets to go over different hitters or situations I was in that night. He’s always given me great advice from a catchers standpoint and I feel like that’s made me a better pitcher. But he has really prepared me for all the mental parts of baseball that go beyond what happens on the field. He’s always stressed the importance of being professional at all times. My Dad has always been my most important family member, coach, and friend that has inspired me to chase my dream.
Petey: In a report from last year, it said you throw your fastball 90-94, that you possess a very good change-up, and that you throw a developing slider that busts in on the hands of right-handed hitters. Can you add to that assessment? Are you as comfortable throwing the slider as your other pitches?
Adam: I mainly throw a 4-seam fastball but I am really working on my 2-seam this offseason because I really believe that it will help me moving forward. I would say my change-up is my second best pitch because I feel comfortable throwing it in just about any count or any situation. When I throw a real good one it will have some tailing movement into a lefty or away from a righty. Finally, I feel like I made a lot of progress with my slider last year and I want to continue to build off of that. I would mainly use it when I was ahead in the count and was trying to get a strike out or ground ball, but I really want to get to the point this year where I can use my slider when I’m behind in the count in a typical fastball situation.
Petey: You had a very successful season last year at Savannah going 7-0 with a 2.22 ERA. In 52.2 IP’s you struck out 55, walked 19 and gave up 41 hits, with only 1 HR allowed and a WHIP of 1.14. Nice job Adam! As you move up to St. Lucie, and Binghamton, how will you expect the competition will change, and what must you do to have the same sort of success as you move higher.
Adam: I expect that the main difference will be the fact that hitters will not let you get away with many mistakes. As I’ve moved from high school, to college, to now the minors, I’ve seen that at each level that hitters will take advantage of those mistakes and turn them into base hits more often, where as before they might just foul it off. This has taught me the importance of each pitch and that my focus needs to be at its peak at all times, no matter the inning, score, or situation.
Petey: But how will you apply that focus, what specifically do you need to do to get those guys out?
Adam: Like I’ve mentioned before, I know that in order to succeed at higher levels I will need to throw any pitch in any situation. By being able to do this, it keeps hitters off balance and keeps them away from learning your tendancies as a pitcher. Another thing I’m learning, especially from watching big league games on TV, is how important movement is. Not many pitches being thrown in the big leagues are straight. All pitches, including fastballs, have some sort of movement, either cutting or tailing. The elite pitchers in baseball really know how to use their movement to their advantage.
Petey: Do you think you will be given the opportunity to start one day? Or do you see yourself strictly as a relief pitcher, at this point?
Adam: I think at this point in my career I could see it going either way. I am really comfortable coming out of the bullpen because I did it mainly throughout my college career too. I like being able to pitch back to back days and I also like getting to come in when the game is on the line. It’s a whole other side of baseball that not many people understand. I find myself paying closer attention to big league games, especially in the playoffs, when its like the 7th or 8th inning and those relievers start coming in to get their outs. Whether I end up being a starter or not is something I’m not really worried about now. If the opportunity came I would run with it, but for now as long as they are putting me in to pitch, it doesn’t matter to me what my role is.
Petey: What do you like to do for fun over the off-season? When does your workout schedule begin? Can you describe your workout regimen?
Adam: I’m staying pretty busy with a part time job and also doing pitching lessons this off-season. But for fun I like to do a little bit of traveling to see some friends and family. Mainly I like to just be around my hometown and take advantage of my time off to see all the people I miss over the long season. My workout schedule began a few weeks after the conclusion of Instructs. The regimen is a good mix of endurance running, sprints, and agility drills along with the lifting, core and balance strengthening, as well as a lot of workouts for my arm.
Petey: What was your favorite baseball team growing up? Your favorite player? Is there a major league player, past or present, that you think you are similar to in style? Or someone that you can see yourself playing like someday in the majors?
Adam: Growing up in Baltimore, I of course loved the O’s. Cal Ripkin, Jr. was my favorite player. It’s tough to pick a player that I think I’m similar to but I really admire Derek Jeter because of the way he carries himself and always seems to come through in the big situations. I always loved watching Tom Glavine too because first off he is a lefty, but he always had such a quiet demenor on the outside but on the inside he was such a fierce competitor.
Petey: Pick one teammate, position player or pitcher, that really impressed you with his play this year at Savannah, or at St. Lucie, and tell us what it was that made you take notice.
Adam: It’s tough to choose just one, but I was really impressed with Chase Huchingson this year. I got to know Hutch well because we were roommates on the road. He’s one of the hardest workers on our team and has a strong mentality everytime he gets on the mound. I know he’s working hard this offseason too and getting ready to have another strong season.
Petey: Good call Adam, I was following what you guys were doing down in Savannah this year, and I was very impressed with Hutch and the way he pitched all season long. He was very reliable both out of the pen, and as a sometimes starter. And to think, he was an undrafted free-agent, that still boggles my mind. To finish up Adam, just a little personal info, not pertaining to baseball. What is your favorite movie? Favorite musician or band? Favorite food?
Adam: I’d say my favorite movie is Men of Honor, or just about anything De Niro is in. I’m into anything heavy, so my favorite band is Metallica. And I’d have to choose my older sister Kelly’s lasagna as my favorite food.
Petey: Thanks again Adam for taking time out for this interview. The readers and staff at MMO really appreciate it! Have a very happy, and healthy holidays, and enjoy your time off this winter!
Well that does it for our sit-down with Adam Kolarek, he’s a very interesting guy and was quite informative with all his answers. Definitely someone to keep an eye on this season, with his ‘stuff’ and command, there is no reason to think he won’t rise through the top levels of the system pretty smoothly. Let’s hope so cause we would all love to see him pitching at Citi one day soon.
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