In my 22nd installment of “A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer” I sat down with Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Brendt Citta. Great guy and ballplayer.
I had two conversations on Mother’s Day this past Sunday. The one conversation was with Aaron Shackelford, who is a great guy in himself and is another one from California. The Pittsburgh Pirates prospect you are going to see today is another young man from the sunshine state and is the 22nd installment of “A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer” Brendt Citta.
Like I stated above, Citta is a California guy and had a very relaxed tone in his voice. So to give a feel for what kind of guy he is, I asked him what kind of person he was on and off the field.
“I hear from a lot of people I’m a pretty outgoing guy. I like to be a good teammate for all my guys and be there for everyone, and that’s either on or off the field. I’ve always considered myself a leader I like to display good things for my guys on and off the field and have a good presence.”
One of the newer questions I like to ask the guys deals with there life after baseball and the legacy they leave behind. Legacies are always around it’s up to the player, whether it’s a good or bad one. So I asked Mr. Citta what legacy does he want to leave behind.
“I’d want people to know that I was someone who enjoyed the game and had fun. I want them to know that I never left anything on the field, and I went after every rep. I want them to know that I had that mental aggression, and I was tough, but the ultimate thing is having fun and enjoying the game.”
We then laid out his influences both within and outside the game of baseball. We started with who were the driving forces behind him that made him want to play baseball.
“I’d say, my Grandpa and my Dad. My Grandpa was a big baseball Italian guy, and he played at San Jose State, where I went my first year in college. He set a ton of records there, and he went on and got drafted by Boston. In those days, they didn’t get paid much, so he actually didn’t go through with it. He stayed home and helped out around the farm.”
Mr. Citta went on, “My Grandpa was a big influence on my dad, which my dad then turned to me. He coached me all the way into high school. When I was born, he put a mitt around my lap. He was with me all the way. Both of those guys together were big influences for me.”
Citta mentioned how his father coached him until high school, so that got me thinking of what coach in his life played an enormous role with him growing up. So naturally, I asked him.
“I got to stick with my dad on this one. When I was younger, my mom passed away when I was in first grade. I feel like my dad took on a tough role to raise me and sacrifice a lot but still was able to coach me all the way. Just having him there was big for me. He taught me how to be a man and take things on.”
Before we go any further, I’d like to stop here and just give kudos to all the dads out there who are pulling double duty like Brendt Citta’s dad. That takes a ton of courage, mental strength, and will power to trudge on. So that is my virtual tip of the cap gentlemen.
Back to the business at hand, Citta also mentioned his college coach at Kansas. “I’ve always been an underdog, so my coach at Kansas took a big leap to come and snag me. I always appreciated him doing that; it helped my career out as a whole. He’s a phenomenal coach. I’ve looked up to him and appreciated the way he goes about things both as a family man and a coach.”
The conversation then tilted into players Brendt wanted to be growing up. Being from California, there were a ton of influences, but one, in particular, came from “The Bay.” “I grew up a big Giants fan, so my guy was Buster Posey. The way Posey conducts himself was one of the big reasons why. He’s not a big ego guy; he’s very humble. My dad always emphasized to be like him and be a leader. He doesn’t bat flip or anything like that.”
This is the part of the article that is designated for storytime. Today’s story involved Citta’s days at Kansas and why he decided to transfer from San Jose State, to begin with.
“One of the big reasons I went to San Jose State was because my Grandfather went there. It was also close to home; it was about 15 minutes away from my house. It’s a D1 school (San Jose State), but they’re kind of hurting for money even though they’re in Silicon Valley. The school isn’t well known for sports. I joined to go there and bring it back and help them turn it around. I get there, and most of the guys aren’t into it; there’s no comradery.
Mr. Citta continued, “You could tell they were enjoying the game, but they had no concern to turn the team around. I had a bad taste in my mouth when I was there, and I was looking to go to a JUCO or find a school to take a shot on me at a four year. A shortstop I went to high school with went to Kansas, so he told his coaches we have to get this guy. My coach from San Jose State got fired, and he also contacted the guys at Kansas. That was the craziest summer of my life just to get there, but it was the best decision of my life.”
But wait… there’s more, “I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Kansas, but Lawerence is a cool town an obviously really well known for basketball. It’s a good place, and the town is built around the college. The guys there were awesome and welcomed me with open arms. I would do anything for those guys.”
Brendt Citta was a very late round selection in 2018; in fact, it was the 38th round. You all know how much I love the underdog story, which he has been his whole life, it seems. With that underdog status comes a chip on your shoulder. I wanted to know if that late round selection validated that chip on his shoulder even more.
“100%, but I did it in a professional manner though it wasn’t that screw you mentality. I’m grateful for the Pirates, but towards other teams, I go out there with a mindset of look what you missed out on. I had an interview in West Virginia I went 3-3 almost hit for the cycle. The interviewer asked is this what we are supposed to expect from late rounders. I said I’m just trying to impress people and show them who I am.
The conversation continued, “A lot of people come up and ask for the autographs of the top rounders. I’m the guy who gives out some autographs, but I’m usually never the first choice. So being that guy and having people ask what the hell is this 38th rounder doing by succeeding is awesome. I enjoy shocking people and showing them what they miss out on.”
The draft day experience for Brendt Citta was a thrill to listen to. He mentioned he was a redshirt sophomore at Kansas, and he could’ve gone back if he wanted to. He was fearful of going back because of his age and his window potentially closing.
“We were hoping for teen rounds in the 10-20 range. Those rounds go by, and I’m thinking well this isn’t looking good. My agent texted me and said this might not be the year you might want to go back and have a good year at Kansas. I talked to my coach and said this is what we’re looking at I might be coming back. He was excited, and then the 37th round comes in, and my agent texts me oh, boy. I guess a few teams were negotiating and trying to low ball us. The Pirates came back with our number and low and behold the draft me in the 38th round.”
The first year in pro ball is a mixed bag of emotions. You could be feeling happy, sad, afraid, confident, or a combination of the four. The one constant is you learn at least one thing that sticks with you the rest of your life. I wanted to know what that one thing was for Mr. Citta.
“The main thing was having to adjust to everything. A lot of people look at whatever round you were taken in, and that’s how it’s perceived on the outside on the inside; it’s not like that. Everyone’s got their opportunity, and if you take that and do the most with that, you are going to do well. Pro ball as a whole is a big transition even from college. Playing every day and the buses and eating PB&J’s is a big adjustment. This has been a great experience overall and something I can tell my kids.”
Citta had mentioned to me that if baseball didn’t work out or when his career is done, he’d love to go into some coaching. College coaching is something he’d love to do and have that team aspect still. Another thing he also mentioned is sales. Now that was interesting to me and I just pictured him trying to sell me a car and to be honest with the way he talked I’d buy the car on the spot.
Back to the baseball topic, I wanted to get a gauge on his relationship with his coaches in Bristol and what kind of dynamic they had in 2018.
“In Bristol, my manager was Miguel Perez. We had a great relationship and was probably one of the best managers I’ve had. He’s a good guy and lets you be yourself. When he has to, he will get on you and tell you you’re doing something bad or being a bad person. He’s put a ton of time into baseball and has had success as well, and he understands and relates to us. Having him as my first pro ball manager was great. It was also unique entering pro ball with a coach where English isn’t his first language. It was unique hearing his native tongue and learning Spanish.
Last year was also a unique experience with Brendt Citta tearing his quad. He had to rehab for two-three months. They had to send him back to Bristol to get in some at-bats. He then went to West Virginia, where he put up some good numbers. I wanted to know who or what he could attest to that success.
“The manager that was in Bristol Kieran Mattison and the hitting coach Johnny Tucker in West Virginia were very supportive of me. I was going through a serious injury for the first time. They were there for me, and I was able to lean on them and talk to them. They got my confidence back up. I was expecting to go to West Virginia out of the gate, and Mattison sat me down and said we’re keeping you in Bristol. That, for me, was a gutshot, and this wasn’t a good sign.
Mr. Citta continued, “When I got started in Bristol, I started hitting great, and Kieran built me up. Then in West Virginia, Tuck (John Tucker) built me up as well. I’m thankful for those guys because that helped me a lot.”
Citta mentioned how that injury made him feel extremely down. I asked him how much of that mental aspect of the game did he pay attention to. He talked about he put a good amount in without going overboard. He said you see a ton of guys overthink, and he didn’t want to get caught up in that but stressed that it is a super important aspect to the game.
Going into this offseason, I wanted to know if there was a specific thing he was working on to improve like his swing or something to that nature.
“Once I joined the Pirates, they completely changed my swing baseball is definitely changing to be more of a home run league. So they changed my swing to benefit my power. During this time, I think it’s good to see my family as much as I can and focusing on times with my loved one’s bit I’m working on some stuff as well.”
We then delved into the technological side of baseball with different machines that tell you exit velocities and launch angles. I also wanted to know if he paid attention to that kind of stuff.
“Yea, we do that a lot and focus on those kinds of things. It’s crazy home much technology we use; there are lasers and dials on everything now. A lot if it was hard to comprehend, but we definitely pay attention to things of that nature. If you ever go to a minor league game, you will see sensors at the end of our bats and to track the exit velo and launch angles. It’s good to use, but right now I don’t have that technology. So right now, I’m focusing on throwing, lifting, and keep moving.”
If you’re hungry, then this is your time, folks. You guessed it; it’s time for the food question. Being in two separate locations during his college years in Lawrence Kansas and California, I wanted to know some good local spots to hit up. One was in downtown Lawrence called “Burger Stand,” and according to Mr. Citta, the Avocado they put on the burger is life-changing. The one in California is in San Francisco called “Tony’s pizza.” They fly in dough from Italy for the Margarita pizza.
Other than the amazing food choices, I have to say the way Brendt Citta conducted himself during the interview and in life is amazing. As a fellow only child, I could relate to him. I hope when the season gets underway, he can play the sport he loves ever so much!