In the latest edition of “A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer” we sat down with Samson Abernathy who is an incredible human being and one hell of a ball player
In the fourth installment of “A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer,” I had the opportunity to sit down with a back end of the bullpen prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system – Samson Abernathy. As no surprise to me or anyone who knows Samson, he had just finished a workout which. According to Samson,he has been working out in a private facility located in his hometown.
Staying with the workout theme, I wanted to know how the man with many locks of hair worked out during these trying times. “My facility has squat racks, barbells, dumbbells, and medicine balls,” he said.
When I talked to some coaches, and, in particular, former Bristol Pirates pitching coach Eric Minshall, he mentioned that staying in shape and working out is a significant priority for Samson.
For those of you who don’t know who Samson Abernathy is or would like a peek behind the curtain, I asked him to describe what he wants the people to know about him.
“I’m a stay in the moment type of guy I focus on what I can control and try to forget about the things I can’t control. By doing this, it gave me peace about life, and I believe it helped me be a leader and be a guy others could look to not necessarily by talking a lot but how I go about things.”
He mentioned how he always loved sports. “I don’t see this as a job, and I still don’t see it as a job now. Getting paid is just a bonus for me. I’d find a way to make ends meet no matter what, if that means I could keep playing. It doesn’t feel like real life even playing pro ball. I always try to go the extra mile and be that calming sense within the room.” For someone who wants to be a leader and already is in my book, that mentality is so desperately needed in today’s game.
Going off of that question, I wanted to know how Samson would describe himself to Pittsburgh Pirates fans using just one word?
“The first thing that popped in my head was resilient. I have had a lot of injuries, and I had kind of a rough path coming into pro ball. Never even thought with everything that has happened over the past six years, I would be in pro ball right now. One thing would lead after another and another, and it’s just like OK, you’re going to end up getting a good career out of school. So yea, I would’ve never thought I’d be here now.”
With every athlete, there is a driving force of support who are just there for them no matter what, and I wanted to know who that driving force was for Samson.
“No one really pushed me into baseball, but my number one support has always been my dad no matter what. I always wanted to play and play hard, and maybe that’s what caused some of my injuries. He was always there when I was feeling down about anything and always gave those few words of encouragement. He gave me the perspective that not everything is about baseball, and it’s helped a lot through the years.”
In my previous piece about Samson, I mentioned how I would love to see him be a coach once his career ends, and I wanted to get a feel for how he felt about that subject.
“I would love to become a baseball coach, just seeing how pro ball is and how you can help guys. I’d love a pro ball job, but I’d also love to coach college ball. Teaching that 18-22-year-old how to handle themselves and be adults and grow into men. I learned a lot in my five years of college being able to mentor those guys and get through tough situations and help push those guys to succeed.”
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Another aspect of life after baseball Samson mentioned was schooling. “I’d love to go back and finish my masters at some point, and if I fall in love with school again. Maybe I could go back and get a P.H.D in some sort of exercise physiology and be involved in mechanical variations or something like that.” See, I told you he is brilliant and well mannered.
For someone who didn’t come with a silver spoon in his mouth, Samson’s dedication to schoolwork and to grind each and every day I mentioned was a refreshing answer. Athleticism goes away at some point I mentioned, but you always have your brain so kudos to you, sir.
Samson said, “It would be a shame if you didn’t take advantage of the help given to you and not preach this same message to others.”
Obviously, there is a bit of a speedup from any level of baseball. Whether it’s high school to the pros or college to the pros. So, naturally, I wanted to get Samson’s take.
“I was in the advanced rookie league, and it was definitely different. Eric Minshall said to me guys try to do too much and not realizing what you have, and the scouts saw you for a reason and what you have works and it’s about trusting your mindset a lot. In pro ball, you have a lot more control over your actions as compared to college ball. It is a little bit faster, but the routine plays are made 100.99% of the time, and as a ground ball pitcher, it’s great.”
Most players stand on the shoulders of giants and try to mold their careers after them. Who did Samson look towards?
“I’m going to give the classic answer and say, Derek Jeter. He was the first baseball player I really knew of. I remember seeing baseball at five years old Derek Jeter hit the go-ahead home run in the ALCS and it was a moment that stuck with me. I followed his career and portrayed myself after him with doing things the right to be the captain type figure and no off the field issues.”
Every pitcher has a fail-safe or a safety blanket pitch they know they can go to when they find themselves in a pickle or require an out. Samson went with the classic answer.
“Slider for sure I almost trust my slider more than my fastball when I’m baring down it’s a pitch I’ve always had a feel for, but it’s developed a lot when I was behind in the count 3-0 or 2-0 I can throw my slider with a ton of confidence. That slider is my bread and butter I love that pitch. I just experimented this summer with thumb placements and throw with different velocities, which created three pitches in one for me.”
Sticking with his tool belt of pitches, I wanted to know if he was developing a pitch now and what it was.
“I’m developing my change up. It’s kind of a split change, so I put it between my ring finger and my middle finger, so it splits, and then I put my thumb underneath it. So it kind of drops as opposed to a fade change up and I’ve also been working on my fastball up in the zone they said my spin rate was good, so they wanted me to work on fastballs up.”
Much like fellow Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Tahnaj Thomas, I wanted to know how pitching coach Eric Minshall was to be around and what exactly he offered to Samson during his time there.
“I enjoyed him a lot because he was just willing to really talk to you and touch base with you on anything and everything. He was always in the outfield every day during BP and talked to all the pitchers, and he would talk to you whether you had a good outing or a bad outing. He would ask what did you see here and what happened here and you’d answer him, and he’d say yes, I agree, or no, I disagree here’s what I saw. The one thing that I appreciated the most was his approach to the mental side where he said ‘Samson, you know your stuff is good and your here for a reason.’ He helped me develop, and it was nice to have someone in your ear to talk to.”
Towards the end of the season, Samson was Bristol’s closer and did a damn good job at it. I wanted to know if that is where he wants to be when it is time to move on up into more advanced leagues.
“I’ve come to really enjoy it. In high school, I was a starter, and in JUCO, I was a starter, and when I transferred, I became more of a reliever because, during summer ball, I became one. I love it; it was a way to get an adrenaline rush, and I felt like I was a crucial part in the game. Just coming in the game knowing your teammates trust you and they got your back, it was awesome, and I’d love to continue doing it.”
Being a 27th round draft pick, I would assume would put a bit of a chip on your shoulder and give you a mindset of wanting to prove people wrong, Samson agreed.
“It was a little bit I’ll be honest just being drafted was a bit of a shock with the type of college numbers I put up it was crazy even to be drafted. Being drafted showed I was meant to be here not so much being drafted in the 27th round but being drafted in general as a fifth-year injury guy and showing I’m here to stay.”
To end things on a light note, I asked him a very serious question, and that was if he was a hot dog or a hamburger guy. Without missing a beat, he said, “hamburger.” This goes to show how fun of an interview Samson was. I’m incredibly excited to see what Samson can do in the future and look forward to covering him for many years.