The pro life: An interview with Dillon Tate
Hickory Crawdads pitcher Dillon Tate has all the makings of being a star pitcher in the major leagues soon. He begins the next step on the ladder as Tate will start the home opener tonight. First pitch between the Kannapolis Intimidators and Hickory is at 6 p.m.
Here is a write up (click here) I did on Tate, which appeared in the Hickory Daily Record today:
In excerpts from the interview below, Tate talks about the transition of becoming a pro and being shutdown during the first few months of his pro career.
Let me first ask how your spring was and where things are for you at this point at the start of the season.
Tate: I felt like I had a good spring, I felt like I threw the ball fine. I made some adjustments when I needed to make them, but, obviously, I haven’t made all the adjustments that I needed to, because getting better is an ongoing process. But I thought the spring went well and I’m happy to be here. And as far as right now goes, I’m looking forward to starting the season.
From when I talked with you late last year my recollection is that you were sort of in the beginning of working on a changeup, making that more of an effective pitch. If I remember right, you had the fastball, slider, but now adding the changeup. How is that progressing along for you at this point?
Tate: Well I’ve always had a changeup, I just didn’t throw it that much. It’s just in the process with me refining it and being able to throw it more, and showing that as another weapon instead of being a fastball-slider guy with an occasional changeup. So, right now I’m continuing to get more reps with that pitch and I think it’s definitely better than it was last year and that’s a good sign so I’m moving in the right direction with that.
Are you getting to the point where you’re comfortable throwing it any count or that still a work in progress for you?
Tate: In the spring I was throwing it on full counts, so I think that’s a huge step up from where I was in college. Like I said before that’s definitely a good sign that I’m slowly starting to get better at that so it’s exciting to see my progress and having another weapon up there.
Where do you see yourself at this point this year versus last year at this time in early April you’re starting the conference season in the Big West? If I remember right, you’re sort of a first-season starter at Santa Barbara.
Tate: I would say for starters I’m using my fastball more than I was in college. And that’s allowed me to get better at the pitch and command it better than I have a year ago, which is a good sign. I also think I get more reps in between starts now – now that it’s six days instead of seven.
I know you would think that you would get more reps on seven days versus six, but with the amount of throwing that you do in spring training and the off-season, I feel like my reps have accumulated to the point where I’m just getting the necessary time that I need on my fastball to make it a more consistent weapon. I would say just getting more reps has helped my fastball actually throwing it more has been huge. It’s a huge step up from where I was last year.
Were you surprised to come back here (to Hickory)?
Tate: No, not really, I think that the organization is doing the best possible thing for me. So if they say that this is the best possible place, then they’re 100 percent correct. I trust them. They haven’t missed with me by far with anything so they haven’t given me a reason not to trust them.
Do you still think you are a work in progress as a pro or do you feel your getting adjusted to the pro life versus at college where you’re going to class doing all the stuff related to college life?
Tate: I feel like I am adjusted. The only thing that is a bit more of an adjustment is just the amount of rest I get in between. That’s the biggest adjustment. It’s not a big deal for me to play every day – I’ve been striving to do that since I set foot on campus in college. I just need to get accustomed to going out every sixth day and then I need to make another adjustment when I move up, whenever that is, I’m going every fifth day. So all of that will come with time.
What has been the biggest adjustment for you becoming a pro, even something that you didn’t know coming in?
Tate: Well, I haven’t faced one of the biggest adjustments yet – I would say the biggest adjustment that is in front of me that I haven’t faced yet is facing a team more than one time and I will see what that’s like in a couple months.
How cool was it to come in here (to Hickory) and be in the middle of a championship run and you get to be a part of that?
Tate: I had a blast playing with those guys and the atmosphere that those guys created was – it was really special and I had a lot of fun playing with those guys and I wish them the best at the next level up.
How cool was it for you to be – You and Ortiz, I know the Rangers were monitoring innings for both of you but you still got to be in the playoffs? You two got some key innings out of relief during an inning here and there?
Tate: Yeah, yeah, we did and that was pretty cool that the manager let us get that opportunity and have us be submersed in that atmosphere. Like I said before, it was really fun and I’m really excited for this season and looking forward to getting in there again with new group of guys.
Was it, remind me – Santa Barbara went to the regionals for the first time in a while did they not?
So which was the bigger kick – going to regional or being in a championship run your first season as a pro?
Tate: Probably I would say the biggest one would be being in a championship as a pro.
Does that experience make you hungry for bigger and better things? Does that sort of give you a hunger for more down the road?
Tate: I would say so, yeah. I haven’t really thought about that, but I mean when you get one you definitely want to get another. It’s an addiction that just probably keeps going. It’s not a bad addiction, either, to be a winner. You want to win and help the team; there’s nothing wrong with an addiction like that.
Would have they told you anything as far as the Rangers what they’re looking for as far as the next step in your development here that might result in a promotion sooner than later or what have they told you at this point?
Tate: They haven’t told me anything regarding that. That’s, you know, front office business and I’ll let the front office deal with that and do what they need to do and I’ll do what I need to do and they’ll make decisions accordingly.
What’s a good year look like for you? When you go home in September and pack the bags up and look back say this is a good year – I set to accomplish this and was able to get a, b, c…
Tate: Covering my innings, staying healthy and competing – that’s a good year. I do all those things and everything will take care of itself.
Team wise, you’ve got yourself, Brett Martin, Jonathan Hernandez, Pedro Payano, that’s a pretty decent rotation. What’s the expectation for the 5, 6, 7 of you?
Tate: The expectation is to push one another, that’s the expectation. You got a solid guy taking the ball every single day that we play in so I’m going to learn as much as I can from them and I’m sure we’re all going to feed off each other and we’re just going to push each other to excel.
When you were here last year before Spokane, was there any frustration as far as not being able to throw the innings that maybe you wanted to as a pro and kind of having the reins pulled back a little bit? Was there any frustration with that?
Tate: To be honest, I don’t think that was the best thing for me was to keep throwing. I agreed 100 percent with what the Rangers were doing, and it doesn’t really matter if I agree with it or not. But I feel like I agreed with it because my body was banged up and I was so tired. So when they said that you’re not going to throw so much, I was all in for it and my body didn’t have very much to give at that point, just with what I had already gone through the long season at college and the amount that I had been on. So I was fine with it.
How many innings did you throw last year college & pro?
Have the Rangers given you a figure for where they want you to go this year are they looking to up that?
Tate: More than last year.
Do you feel like the reins are going to be taken off a little bit as far as a pro being able to maybe go 5, 6, 7 innings at this point?
Tate: I don’t think so I think I will start out slow and continue to build myself up like I did in spring training. I’m just going to continue to take that next step forward from where I last was with my last outing in spring training and keep going forward from there there’s no need to take larger leaps right now.
What’s the biggest thing you have, as far as confidence and your abilities for yourself?
Tate: The biggest thing, I’ll probably say, is that I’m just a competitor. I will go out there and just compete as hard as I can for as long as I can and it doesn’t matter if I have my best stuff or not. That’s what I noticed in spring training, and something I learned about myself, is that my stuff isn’t where I’m used to it being at and I’m still able to get outs and attack guys and keep the innings moving. So that was a positive that I learned about myself is that I don’t need that 96, 98 mile an hour fastball all the time. I can do it with a 90-93 and get the same results and I think that’s just the whole thing about being a competitor.
From who have you learned the most from as a pro so far and what have you learned?
Tate: I’m a big visual learner and I really enjoy watching David Price. Marcus Stroman is another one of those guys that I enjoy watching. He’s a big time competitor and I’ve been following him since I was in high school and watching him at Duke. So guys like that are definitely the people you want to be watching, because those guys do it right and they go out there and they have a fire about them and they’re really caught up in the moment. It’s almost like – when you go out there and watch Stroman, it’s almost like he’s got a split personality, like who he is on the field is one person and who his off the field is another person. So I’ve learned a lot .
Do you want that swagger on the mound that Stroman has?
I feel like I carry my own swagger when I’m up on the bump and everything is unique to a certain individual, so the way I carry myself is going to be different than the way he carries himself. But it’s all confidence nonetheless though.