Former Bulldog pitcher Pat Neshek sits down to answer questions about playing baseball at Butler and life in the Major Leagues.
Dec. 21, 2006
Former Butler right-handed pitcher Pat Neshak, now a member of the Minnesota Twins, took time to answer questions from Bulldogs' head coach Steve Farley about playing college baseball and the transition to the Major Leagues. Neshek's responses will be posted each month for the next three months until the season opener at Morehead State on Feb. 24.
Question 3: What is the biggest difference you had to adjust to from college to professional baseball?
"I think the baseball being played in the lower minors is pretty equivalent to college baseball. Where things get totally different is the grind of the minors. It's a test on you as a person, a player and your family.
"I like to say that baseball is very similar to being a soldier (not that I have ever been a soldier, but I can imagine it's pretty similar.) Each time you leave home to go to spring training you are leaving your family behind for at least six months. Every day you have to play; there are about six or seven off-days each six-month season.
"Just by the fact you are playing everyday means you are going to have major ups and downs during the season in terms of how you are playing. The ones who do the best know how to handle everything: when they are doing great, they stay humble, and when they are doing badly, they understand that it's just bad luck and things will turn around if they continue to work hard and give it everything.
"I have literally seen teammates go nuts, where things are so into their heads they cannot sleep at night. This eventually drove a lot of the teammates I have had out of baseball. Now, couple all of this together with getting paid less than what it costs to live, knowing that any day might be your last and knowing you have to perform and put up numbers, makes the minor leagues tough.
"Even worse is when you put up numbers and have a season where you think you couldn't have done better and seeing other teammates that had worse years move up just by the fact that the organization has more money invested in that player. It's a tough life and the biggest difference is how you handle it mentally.
"At every level, including little league, I have never felt like I had the most skill amongst teammates. I have seen guys with more skills than I could've ever dreamed of go by the wayside because they couldn't deal with the game mentally. This is probably the biggest reason why I made it up to the big leagues.
"Coach Farley did a lot for my game mentally, and I think it is his biggest strength as a coach. He loves to instill confidence in his players. As for me, he taught me a couple new pitches and how to pitch. He didn't do it by saying how it was going to be done. He did it by helping me see what it was going to do, how the ball was going to move across the plate in my head, how I was going to imagine the pitch being low and how I was going to throw at least 60% strikes.
"Another big thing for helping me experience what professional baseball was going to be like was playing summer baseball. I played in the Cape Cod League and also the Northwoods League. The Cape Cod League is a prospect league and the best in the country, but the Northwoods League prepared me for the minors more than anything else could have. My summer in the NWL was a grind and very similar to the minors. I didn't have too much fun because the condition weren't that great but as I look back it was a pretty good taste of what the minors were like.
Question 4: Are there any other amusing stories or recollections from your college days?
"Probably some of the best stories were just hanging out with teammates everyday. To this day, I haven't met a greater bunch of guys than my teammates at Butler.
"We were a pretty close knit team and always stuck up for each other. We loved making each other laugh, and going to the field each day didn't feel like a chore. It got to the point that we liked hanging out so much that most guys would be down at the field an hour early before practice hanging out playing flip or joking around.
"We liked hanging out so much that we redecorated the clubhouse so we didn't have to go home so early. After practice we would eat dinner together, and usually, this would last over an hour every night. Other people at Butler must have hated us because we were one big gang and were so loud.
"When practice was over and it was late at night, we would update our website and update it with funny things that different guys did each day. Parents loved it, and it gave us something to always look back at.
"There were a lot of great stories, too many to mention. I couldn't have had a better college experience."
The third edition of questions and answers with Pat Neshek will be posted in January.