Casey Weathers' road to becoming the No. 8 overall pick in the 2007 draft had a few more twists and turns than you might think.
Before the Elk Grove, Calif. native was given a $1.8 million bonus by the Colorado Rockies, and before he was closing out games behind David Price at Vanderbilt, Weathers was roaming the outfield at Sacramento City College.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound righty's transition to the hill wasn't an easy one, but it's been worth it. Weathers owns a 27.8% strikeout rate and a 57% groundball rate, holding opponents to a .189 batting average, for the Double-A Tulsa Drillers this season.
I got a chance to speak with Weathers earlier this week, where we discussed everything from learning how to pitch to earning a roster spot for this weekend's XM All-Star Futures Game -- and maybe the Olympics after that.
Adam Loberstein: Some people might not know it, but you actually started your collegiate career as an outfielder at Sacramento City College. How exactly does that prepare a person to pitch at a program like Vanderbilt?
Casey Weathers: Well, I had started pitching just a year before, my sophomore year at Sacramento City. I had my feet wet just a little bit, but when I got to Vanderbilt, I didn’t really have an idea of what was going on.
Luckily, I was fortunate enough to work with Derek Johnson, the pitching coach over there. That was a huge developmental jump for me -- going to Vanderbilt, being on my own, starting a weight training program, starting to eat right. Just learning how to pitch and figure out my mechanics. I was just kind of a guy who threw before that.
AL: Your Vanderbilt career got off to a solid start, as you struck out 38 in 27.0 innings while holding opponents to a .228 batting average as a junior. When the Detroit Tigers selected you in the 25th round following that season, did you even consider signing?
CW: No, not really. When the Tigers did draft me, I didn’t think I was ready. I had seen all the improvement that I had made in a year at Vanderbilt, so I wanted to get a little more time in there.
I really enjoyed being at Vanderbilt, too. I really enjoyed the friends that I had made there, and I thought I wasn’t quite ready to go out and compete in professional baseball. I thought that one more year with the same pitching coach that I saw results from would prepare me even further.
AL: Well, you can't argue with the results. Opponents hit just .154 against you your senior year, and you posted a 3.57 K/BB ratio. What did having a season like that mean for your development?
CW: You gain confidence. That’s a big thing. My junior year I had some success, but my senior season, I was consistent most of the year. I played on a great team with great players against some of the best competition you’ll see in college baseball in the SEC.
AL: The Rockies haven't wasted any time in throwing you out there against high levels of competition, placing you in Double-A to start the season -- your first full season as a professional. How's your time in the Colorado organization been so far?
CW: They’ve given me a lot of good opportunities to perform -- a lot of opportunities to go out there and just compete, which I love to do. Going to big league camp [for spring training] after such a short time in the minors, I got to go up there and compete some more. Then I got to go to Double-A and compete with the older guys. I’ve been fortunate with the position they’ve put me in.
AL: Talk to me about making the U.S. roster for the Futures Game at Yankee Stadium. What would it mean to you to make the Olympic team?
CW: Being able to go to the Futures Game, that’s a huge honor. The Olympics – that’d be an awesome experience to get to do that. I’m not looking too far into it. All I can do is go out there and pitch.
I'm on the 60-man roster, though. I guess they chose 25 off the list of 60 that they have -- actually, I’m kind of confused about how they even pick the team. But if it comes down to it and I get a chance to pitch in the Futures Game, I’m going to go out there and try to show everybody what I can do. If I can turn a head or two, it would be a pretty cool experience.
Adam Loberstein can be reached at email@example.com.