Brent Allar was the Orioles 14th round draft pick in 2006 out of Texas Christian University. He spent the 2009 pitching for the Delmarva Shorebirds.
I caught up with Brent over the phone during the 2010 off season.
JT: What is your favorite thing to do outside of baseball?
BA: Being from Texas I’m a little bit of an outdoorsman. I love fishing, camping and stuff like that. It’s my passion outside of baseball.
JT: You worked mostly as a reliever in 2009 but started 3 games as well. There is always talk saying that if you move a guy to the bullpen he can add more to his fastball, but if he starts he will have less velocity than if he is in the bullpen. You have a big heater, so how much of a difference is there on your fastball when you are starting vs when you are relieving?
BA: One of the big things I’ve worked on since I came to pro ball is not trying to overthrow. This year I really worked hard on my mechanics and delivering every ball the same. It is different because when you are relieving you come into different situations. In my 3 starts my velocity was the same but that could be because my starts were no more than 3 IP. If your mechanics are good than you should be able to maintain velocity. A lot of relievers may try to overthrow because they figure they are only in for about one innings. Starters may try to take a little off to throw a strike but relievers may overthrow a lot.
JT: What is your current pitch repertoire and how do you feel about each pitch?
BA: I am a fastball/slider/changeup guy. I used to throw a big curve in high school but not anymore. I mainly throw a four-seamer but Ill throw a two-seamer if I want to throw inside on a righty because it runs inside on them. If a righty is sitting on my fastball I’ll throw it inside to try to back him off a bit. My slider is still a work in progress and 2009 was the first year I could throw it for strikes. It’s become a really good pitch for me. My changeup is my second best pitch, it’s very important in baseball because I believe it’s better than any good breaking ball if you can fool the batter into thinking it’s a fastball. It’s a straight change that has a lot of torque and spin. My dad taught me at a young age to play catch with it whenever I played with my brother or father.
JT: What do you feel your strengths and weaknesses are as a pitcher?
BA: Strengths- Intimidation. Most guys in the league will know that I throw hard. A lot of guys don’t like that. Its good because they know they have to gear up for my fastball. Another strength is my experience. I’ve been through a few season and I’ve become a student of the game. I’ve learned how to go at hitters and see how the game goes, especially making in-game adjustments.
Weaknesses- I get emotional sometimes, I need to keep better control of my emotions. Whether you throw by the guy or down the middle you need to keep your cool and react the same way. No matter if its a HR or a wild pitch.
JT: Was there anything specific you tried to improve on in 2009?
BA: Last year I basically wanted to get through a whole season healthy. I had shoulder surgery in 2007, so 2008 I was rehabbing and getting back in shape. In 2009 I proved that I could stay healthy and that I was ready to go. It was the most innings I ever threw in one year. When you go through a surgery you need to get your mechanics back. I had to eliminate the bad mechanics and keep the good.
JT: Who is your favorite MLB player (past or present)?
BA: I’m from Texas so I like the Texas guys I grew up watching. I was around when Nolan Ryan was there so he is a big one for me. Roger Clemens as well. They were my biggest inspirations.
JT: During the offseason, do you have baseball related activities or do you just rest up and stay in shape for the next season?
BA: It changes from person to person. I went to instructional league which ended in October. After that I took a few weeks off, ran a little bit. I work on my mechanics a lot. Whether its getting in front of a mirror or just practicing the motions, you dont even need to throw. You’re not supposed to throw until January 1st. Staying in shape is important, lifting, but it all depends person to person. For me cardio is important, it’s not about bulkiness for a pitcher. It’s about how much stamina I have, not how big and buff I am.
JT: You see 18 year olds in NHL/NBA jump right to the “Bigs,”. Do you ever wonder why it takes longer for a baseball player to develop?
BA: It’s a big question that everyone asks me. It happens rarely in baseball, and the guys that it does happen to, are very good. Baseball is 90% mental and 10% physical. Being such a mental game you need to gain experience. A lot of players may be physically ready but their minds aren’t. So they need the innings, the at-bats and the reps. You are always learning when you play baseball. My dad told me to play the game until you are not getting any better. You can ask anyone in the big leagues and they will say they learn every day. I have all these guys that have been there, done that, and those are the guys you have to be around and soak it all in. As long as I can keep learning I am going to play the games as long as I can.
JT: How is the transportation in the minors when you travel to play other teams?
BA: Pretty good, I just spent this past year in the Sally league. It is actually known for being the worst traveling league in minor league baseball based on distances. We actually have a sleeper bus that has beds and couches. Some guys like to sleep, some like to sit. It’s pretty nice. It is better than if we were in a regular bus. It’s tough to travel though, because you play just about every night. Say you are in Georgia and you have to get back to Delmarva there is a lot of over-night travel like that. They put us in some pretty nice hotels that are close to the ball park.
JT: Do you have any special routine that you do before each game?
BA: There are probably a lot of things I do that I don’t even notice. There are a lot of small things that I do that if you video-taped me you would notice. A lot of pitchers are superstitious like they can’t touch this line or they need to wear this under my jersey. Everyone has a routine but mine is not necessarily about a superstition.
JT: What universal principles are being taught throughout the organization?
BA: One of the big things at the beginning of spring training is that they say, “This is anyone’s year. Someone in the room is going to the majors.” We have a great staff and group that is on the way to the majors leagues. We do the same practices in the minors that the MLB guys do. One of the biggest philosophies is playing the game hard and doing it the right way. From a pitching standpoint, it is being aggressive. Bring it at them. For me its with my fastball. But they want us to pitch to contact and blow up the strike zone.
JT: Do you have a goal for 2010?
BA: This is a big year for me. Every year is a big year. My goal is to pitch successfully and get better. I still need to learn and move up. You want to be successful at every level but it’s always best if you compete at the higher levels. My goal is to not finish the season where I start.