In the 24th installment of “A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer” I spoke with Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Brad Case. Very hard working and fun guy to talk to.
Over the past couple of days, I decided to take a little hiatus with the series covering Pittsburgh Pirates minor league players. I know this is a little personal, and I don’t know if you want to read about my life or not, but I had the chance to spend time with my family for the first time in months. I had an incredible time spending time with my loved ones, but I’m not going to lie to you I missed this series. I’m happy to say I’m back with “A Day in the Life of a Minor leaguer.”
We have reached famous Pirate Dick Groat‘s number 24 in the series and who better than Pittsburgh Pirates prospect in Brad Case to discuss life with. Brad is not just a talented pitcher within the Pirates organization, but he is hilarious, and I think you’d enjoy having a beer with him if this quarantine ever ends.
Like I stated earlier, Brad is a funny guy and a blast to talk with, but for the people who didn’t have the luxury to listen to our conversation, he described himself for you.
“On the field during the day of my start, I’m a pretty serious guy. I try to keep everything in order. I have a certain time where I bring my notebook in the dugout and put my glasses in the bullpen and other things like that. I have a pretty rigid schedule to get things done. The rest of the week, I’m laid back, and I focus on stuff like arm care, throwing, running, and whatever I have to do. Off the field, I just lie low and hangout nothing too crazy.”
As you know, if you’ve been following this series, most of the players find alternative things to do outside of baseball to get away and just relax. On the other hand, Mr. Case told me that when he gets home from his game, he would turn on a big league game and watch it. I think it’s safe to say this guy is the epitome of a baseball junkie, and I’m living for it!
Most recently, ESPN came out with a brilliant documentary about Micheal Jordan. Brad and I were talking about that a little, and in the midst, we turned to legacies and what players leave behind when the lights are off. I wanted to know what legacy he wants for himself when his time is up in baseball.
“When M.J first showed up to Chicago, there wasn’t really anything there. Now I don’t think I’m an M.J talent and do something like that. Because in baseball, not one guy can take the ball, and the game is over. When I say I want to do what Jordan did for Chicago, I’m not saying I can’t go out and win the baseball game singlehandedly, but I do think I can help the team culture and focus on winning.”
Mr. Case continued, “Whether I’m here for three years or 15, I want to go there (Pittsburgh) and try my best to change things and make the focus winning. I want to help my teammates make runs at World Series’s because that’s what fans want the most. I want Pittsburgh fans to get back to that level I saw in 2013 when Cueto dropped the ball. I’ve been to Yankee games growing up in New York, and they were at that same level.”
Speaking of excitement, I can say with a bold face that in my 25 years of existence, I have never been this excited about the Pirates minor league system. I expressed that to Brad, and he agreed wholeheartedly.
“I’ve only been in pro ball for a short amount of time, but I look around at these guys, and we can be incredible! Look at our bullpen with John O’Reilly, Joe Jaques, Shea Murray, Nick Mears, and Blake Cederlind. We have guys that throw some NASTY stuff! Then you look at our fielders that are amazing. O’Neil Cruz, Mason Martin, and the list goes on. I think that one day we can be really, really good.”
One of the main things that I heard in his answer was he didn’t include himself. That speaks volumes to me in the best way possible. To have a man on your squad who not only performs above and beyond the call of duty and back his teammates is fantastic. If you have a team full of Brad Case’s, you have one hell of a ball club.
Turning to a more personal level, I felt the need for Brad like I do with others, to find out who was their inspiration to play and pursue baseball.
“My dad has always loved baseball. He’s always helped me work hard at it. I didn’t have a grandpa or an uncle who played in the big leagues or anything like that. From my earliest memories, it’s just my dad in the front yard and me hitting whiffle balls. It’s something I’ve always gravitated towards, and it’s always been a blast.”
Influences are just as they sound, influential. When you look at it beneath the apparent meaning, you find everlasting connections and a true bond that once didn’t exist. For a ballplayer that might be found within a coach, I asked him if anything popped into his head that had that influence on him.
“Absolutely there’s a coach at my high school named Bob Caputo. He’s the greatest guy ever, and he’s way overqualified to be a freshman high school coach. He engrains into the kids if you’re going to be there; you’re going to work hard and get better. He was on top of me every step of the way, and it changed not just who I am as a baseball player but who I am as a person. I owe a lot to him, and he’s the best.
I’m sure he saw players who played a big role in who he wanted to be as a player while growing up literally minutes from where the Brox Bombers play. I might as well call this the Derek Jeter segment because that was an obvious one for Brad, but there were others as well.
“I love Mariano Rivera, and I actually went to high school with his son, which was kind of cool. I loved Pettitte, Mussina, and all of those guys. I was a huge Yankees fan growing up.” Even though I hate those damn Yankees, I forgave Brad for such a poor choice in a team. (Just kidding, I understand.)
After his high school days at Iona Prep, Mr. Case went on to play college ball at Rollins University in Orlando, Florida. Everyone’s experience in college is unique, so I wanted to know what his experience was like during his time at Rollins.
“I had a couple offers coming out of high school. I could’ve gone to Hartford in Connecticut, Canisius College, St. Johns, University of South Alabama, and then Rollins. When I was making my decision in high school of where I should go, I had just finished my junior year in high school. I was thinking about it, and I thought I’d never play professional ball, and I should just go to a good school with academics and get a good degree like everyone else.”
Mr. Case continued, “Then I don’t know what happened. I just showed up to Rollins, and I started throwing harder and getting better. I thought holy crap I got a legitimate chance at this. It’s really nice down there, and it’s a beautiful town. There was a guy two years ahead of me named Chris Corbett. He played for the Giants for a little while, but he lifted everyone up with the way he worked and everything like that.”
Sticking within the Rollins theme, I wanted to know what he learned during his college days and if any coaches gave him some pointers during his stay in beautiful Orlando.
My pitching coach Pat Szczerba who got there my sophomore year, hammered into me that I needed a routine. He said you have to do something that gives you a set list of things to do. At first, I really didn’t take it too much to heart. Now, most of my week is filled with me doing whatever I need to do to get myself ready.”
Leaving the college atmosphere’s confines and cramming for tests came the next big test, and that is pro ball. Before pro ball can happen, you have to get drafted or at least brought on by a team. In Brad’s case, he was drafted by the Pirates in the 17th round in 2018. I wanted to know what that experience was like and what he was feeling that day.
“I didn’t sleep at all. I was super nervous, although I felt like I was going to get drafted, but you never know what’s going to happen. We turn the draft on, and we’re watching along. I knew it was either going to be the Blue Jays, the Pirates, or the Mets. When the 13th round hit, I turned it off because I had to do something to keep my mind active. I didn’t want people to be over waiting for me to get drafted, but they all wanted to be there for the moment.”
Brad continued, “a little bit of time goes by, and my agent calls me and says this team just offered you this much, and I didn’t want that at all, and I’m thinking like HOLY COW WHAT DID I JUST DO! Then he calls me and says the Pirates are taking you with their next pick. My parents didn’t know, and I turn the draft back on my computer. My little brother is close by, and I call him over and say hey Will the Pirates are going to take me with their next pick.”
(Billy Mays voice) but wait, there’s more! “My brother stuck a camera where my parents couldn’t see it so he could film the reaction. I’m waiting for what felt like hours, and then I go, hey mom, and I pointed at the screen as soon as my name pops up. She just starts screaming and yelling, and my dad was too; it was just a really happy moment for me.”
Being drafted in the later rounds can be a blessing in disguise for some players. With being doubted or pushed aside, it gives you a “me against the world” mentality. Although Brad was picked in the middle rounds technically, I would imagine he had that feeling somewhat.
“I know it’s considered the top half of picks, and I do feel silly sometimes thinking that me against the world mentality. I do, however, think that’s the best way to think. You have guys like Cody Bolton and Aaron Shortridge, who are going to be the franchise faces, I think, and I have to remind myself I’m not going to be as good as this guy, so I have to work even harder to keep up. Being drafted in the 17th round made me think I have to put in a lot of time and effort to be big league worthy, and I’m willing to do all of that, and it motivates me.”
When you look at Brad Case on your typical stats site, you will notice he played in three different teams for the Pirates minor league system. It’s happened before, but it’s shocking to see that, especially in a player’s first year at the professional level. I wanted to know what that was like experiencing different coaches and teammates.
“It was interesting for sure. The first two months, I was in the GCL. The GCL is brutal, and you’re up every day at 6:30 practicing before the game and then playing in 100 degrees in Florida at noon every day. Then the season was over, and they said hey Brad good job you’re going to Bristol.”
Brad talked about Bristol here, “My first game with Bristol we were in Burlington North Carolina. Being under the lights again, I felt like it was the coolest place ever. I did really well the first start there, and then I left in between starts because my grandmother passed away. Then I came back after the funeral and pitched. My coach afterwards wanted to talk, and I thought this can’t be good because I didn’t do great. My mind was still focused on my grandma, and I tried my best to get my throwing in, and it wasn’t what it could be. Then my coach says pack you’re bags you’re going to West Virginia.”
Brad continued to talk about his epic journey, “I was shocked, and at that point, I pitched around 160 innings, which is the most I’ve ever thrown in a year. My arm was shot, but I was excited to move up. I headed up there and did well on my last. I was super happy because I felt like I had competed, worked, reached, and caught up with the guys that were in the upper rounds. It was a lot of moving around, but I felt really good.”
With having three different sets of coaches, I’m sure there were different teaching points. I wanted to know if there were specific teaching points they hammered home.
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“In the GCL, I was struggling with throwing my breaking ball. I don’t know what happened. I used to have a really good one, and then I got to my junior year in college, and it faded away from me. I had to adjust and find new ways to keep hitters off balance. But I tried developing a better breaking ball and changeup to keep guys off my fastball. In the GCL, it’s a fastball league. Stan Kyles and I worked on reading hitters better as well.”
Mr. Case continued, “Something I take a lot of pride in is my scouting reports. I take my notebook and have everyone’s name down, and I’ll write what I see about their swing, take pitches, and their overall at-bat. Later on in the year, I wasn’t throwing hard I was throwing 88-89 trying to hit spots. My pitching coach Drew Benes said you now have to throw as hard as you can. The first team we did it against was against the Florida Fire Frogs.
This man has a way of telling a story because there is more! “I get to the park, and I see their lineup, and I see Ender Inciarte and Kevin Gausman are playing in a rehab start. I’ve been working all week on a new thing, and now I got to face a big leaguer. I went out there, and I was sitting 94MPH. I was happy that the adjustments worked because I’m throwing harder now.”
Here comes my second favorite part of this article, and that is the scenario question. If the bases loaded, two outs, and a full count, what would be his go-to out pitch. Needless to say, it was a shocking answer to me.
“If you’re asking me right now, I’d go with my changeup. I think that’s my best pitch right now. I feel like I’ve always had a decent one. The one thing though is it depends who’s up at the plate. If it’s someone who’s able to sit back or someone you’re willing to go after, I’d say fastball, but I have no problem throwing a 3-2 changeup.”
Brad mentioned to me that he seemed to have lost his cutter at some point earlier, and he was trying to work on it to get it back. I wanted to know if that was the pitch he was working on now or if there was a new one he’s trying out.
“I’ve been working on the cutter mostly. It really was the pitch I used to throw in a 3-1 count and get a ground ball out or something positive. If you look at my walk numbers in low-A, I only had three. It was just a cutter every other pitch, and it got outs. Something happened to it. I’m not sure what, so I work on it every day to work through it.”
Now is the time for diners, drive-ins, and dives with Guy Fieri (just kidding.) You know it’s time for Brad’s recommendation for a place to eat where he grew up. “There is a pizza place right around the corner I absolutely love. It’s called four corners pizza. If you get a chicken slice and a Sicilian slice, you’ll be happy.”
See, I told you Brad was a great guy and incredible to listen to. I’m not sure about the Pirates plan with Mr. Case, but this guy has all the talent in the world to become one of the team leaders soon. After reading this, how can you not think the same way!