Pittsburgh Pirates: A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer With Alex Roth
By Cody Potanko
In the 18th installment of ‘A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer’ I spoke with Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Alex Roth. A great guy with a fantastic work ethic.
What do you think when you hear of a late round draft pick? To add on top of that, what do you think when you see a late round draft pick from a division two school? Some may think why even bother with them or flat out ignore them. I tell you what I think I see someone who is willing to do anything and everything to prove themselves and show they belong in this Pittsburgh Pirates prospect.
My next interview deals with that same exact scenario and mentality. Alex Roth is the 18th minor league player I have had the pleasure to talk to, and like the rest, it was an enjoyable and raw experience.
For the people who don’t know who Alex Roth is, he gave us a brief synopsis on himself. “I would describe myself as passionate and determined on the field and off the field.” The vibes that I received through the phone and the tone in his voice just screamed a quiet confidence but yet still very humble.
People have doubters and naysayers throughout their life, regardless of profession or passion in life. We just so happen to see and hear the doubters a bit more when it comes to sports. I wanted to know once Mr. Roth’s playing days were done what he would want the fans to take away from his career. “I would want everybody to take away; I left zero doubt in giving everything I had, and I had no regrets.”
Baseball is a family sport I think when you ask anyone on the street, someone in their family has played the sport at some point. I wanted to know if that was the case for him and were they his influence to play baseball.
“Definitely my dad, I know he played baseball growing up, and he’s someone who got me into it. Another one was my best friend’s dad, who was an All American at U of A and played for several professional teams. We made a little league team together, and I fell in love ever since.”
We then shifted the conversation to coaches, and if there were any that made an impression on his life and continue to do so to this day. “First, I’d have to say all of my college coaches. I didn’t pitch much until college, and so they took a chance and believed in me and gave me the shot I needed to succeed in pitching.”
Alex continued, ” One growing up was a man by the name of Mark Littell who pitched for the Cardinals. He really got me interested in pitching, and he made me see baseball in a different way, not just to view it as a game but view it in the sense of being as competitive as you can. He taught me how to treat the game as serious as possible.”
Being born in Colorado, Mr. Roth was a die-hard Rockies fan growing up (Sorry Pirates fans.) I wanted to know who he idolized, growing up watching his team as a kid. “I always idolized Todd Helton; he was definitely my favorite player. He became my favorite name to say, running around the house. He was the guy every kid in Colorado aspired to be growing up. He was such a solid cornerstone for me during my childhood.”
One of the questions I always love to implement into these conversations is baseball memories. I love to hear a player’s favorite memory; they look back onto even today. So I asked Alex if he had any stored in the noggin of his. He, in fact, had two.
“The first was in my junior year in college when I struck out 15 that day. I realized that it is the school record, and it was a testament to how all my hard work came to fruition. The second would have to be one of my high school’s playoff runs. Getting to have the time of our lives with the guys I grew up with was just a dream come true. However, the memories I will have for life come from just hanging out with my lifelong friends I met through baseball.”
After those pretty cool stories, I wanted to get a gauge on what his college days were like at Western Oregon and what the main things he took away were.
“I would say it was impressive with how much comradery on the team there was, especially with different players cycling out every year. That was the reason I went there; even on my visit, I could tell it felt like a home, and I already fit in. I’m still best friends with the players and all of my roommates I had there. The coaches were awesome, and they gave you every chance to succeed. We had just as many talks about life in general rather than baseball. They taught us how to be men and were role models.”
Mr. Roth was named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference pitcher of the year twice. Once in his sophomore year and the next in his junior. I wanted to hear from the man himself what that felt like for him.
“It was two completely separate viewings. The first time I was a sophomore and you know in my freshman year, I threw around 13 innings, and I knew I had something in me, but then it all just burst on to the scene. It was kind of overwhelming as a sophomore, and it was incredible and exciting to see I was making progress with my pitching since I almost never pitched growing up.
Alex continued, “Then my junior year, I had this confidence in me from last year. I was thinking if I don’t do better than that, then I feel like I was disappointing myself, so I had to one-up myself. I expected it the second time around. I knew I could get that due to the confidence my sophomore year gave me.”
As I mentioned beforehand, Alex Roth was a late-round pick. To be more specific, he was drafted in the 21st round last year. I could imagine a late-round selection would have a chip on his shoulder and a bit of an edge to his demeanor to prove people wrong. I wanted to know if my thoughts were correct.
“Yea, I mean coming out of a small division two school you already have that chip on your shoulder. The first time you start facing SEC, ACC, and PAC12 guys, you already have to prove you belong. It’s a hard hurdle to overcome. You hear you might be a second or third-day selection and then round 20 hits, and you wonder what’s going on?! It’s something I will always hold onto and embrace and be proud of having that chip on my shoulder because I’d rather have that than face someone who has that.”
Anyone who has read my articles before knows how much I admire former Bristol pitching coach Eric Minshall. Minshall was one of the coaches who helped mold Alex into the pitcher he is today. I asked Alex what kind of coach Minshall was to him and what did he try and teach him last year.
“He was definitely different than all of my other college coaches. College coaches give you all of the fundamentals of pitching basically. Minshall would teach you how to be a PROFESSIONAL pitcher. He would provide you with all the heat maps and tools to beat your opponent, and he gave you what you needed to succeed and let you run with it and see what you can do. He would make things and exciting, and he was fun to be around.”
If you have followed Alex Roth’s career to this point, most of you know he was a starter at Western Oregon. When he went to Bristol for his first year at pro ball, he was moved to the bullpen. I wanted to know what he had to do to switch up his mindset and how tough it was to do.
The first couple of times, it was tough. I tried to think back to my freshman year when I was relieving, and it was tough. I had gotten very into my routine out of everybody on the team; I had the most specific routine. I listened to the same songs and would do things in a certain order before a game. Now I couldn’t do that because I didn’t know what game or inning I was pitching in.”
Mr. Roth continued, “I learned to embrace it and was able to relax for the first however many innings. If you’re trying to stay locked in for every pitch of every game, your mind gets overwhelmed and tired. Being able to relax for six-plus innings and then after that, you can lock-in. Learning how to develop a new routine and flipping a switch. You could be telling a story in the dugout, and then all a sudden it’s game mode. Once I learned how to do that, things became a lot easier in the bullpen.”
Now is the time for my favorite part of the interview with a pitcher, and that is what is his go-to pitch and the one he knows he can get an out on.
“If you asked me in college, I’d say changeup 100%. Now a lot of the hitters we were facing are a lot more susceptible to breaking balls, and we went with a lot more of that last summer. I know if I’m in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, bases loaded, in a full count, and a one-run lead, I’m going fastball I’m seeing if you can beat me.”
We then started to talk about his arsenal of pitches a bit more, and it begged the question if he was trying out anything new during this extended offseason.
“In the offseason, I actually started to throw a splitter because I was throwing with a pitcher from the Reds minor league system just joking around. He told me wow, that was really good; you should work on that. I got down to spring training and hadn’t worked on it enough, and I talked to them about it. They said really hone in on what you have now and make them as good as you can and then in the next offseason work on developing a fourth pitch.”
I started my little monologue about how I see guys struggling on social media to find a consistent and good regimen as far as workouts go. I asked him if he got his bob the builder hat on and made a makeshift gym like so many others.
“I had a job in the offseason coaching youth baseball, and they had an indoor facility in Colorado that has batting cages, pitching mounds, and weightlifting equipment. I was allowed to go in there and workout, which was handy. It was still a scramble with all the laws changing, so then I shifted to garage workouts. My agent had me buy this Body Boss workout, and it works really well. I’ve been bored, so I got my bob the builder on and used some cinder blocks in the backyard because you can only do so many sit-ups and push-ups. Staying in shape is a very important thing.”
We dove into the unseen aspect of the game, and that is right between the ears. Some players put a whole lot of stock into the mental aspect, and some don’t, so I wanted to know where Alex stood on the subject.
“I put a lot more into the mental side than 99.9% of the guys that play baseball. With that chip on my shoulder, I felt like I needed to find some sort of edge. I’m working on throwing 100MPH, but I know I’m going to face guys that do, and I have to beat them somehow. I’ve been working with this guy who helps develop cognitive functioning, and he’s given me ways to improve my mental side. I’ve read several books and have done different tasks to help you work on strategizing and spacial reasoning. Anything that will give me an edge, I’m willing to do it.”
The last question is usually a funny one or just something to keep it light before we part ways. But my Fiance and I are trying to make a road trip to some excellent down-home cooking places across the U.S. So I asked Alex where I could find some great food joints near him. “Beau-Jo’s pizza in Colorado” was one, and the other was “any Mexican restaurant in Arizona.” Yes, I made sure their chicken was spicy to the point of burning my esophagus, which is how I like it.
Where ever Alex Roth ends up on his journey to “The Show,” he has a fan in me for life. Just to see the struggle to get to where he’s at and do a hell of a job so far, how can you not love a guy like that.