I can’t recommend highly enough the piece Mark Fiensand penned yesterday on Yankee prospect Andrew Brackman. Mark sat down with Andrew and interviewed him at length on a range of topics related to his development as a pitcher. It takes you through the transition he made from being a basketball player to a baseball player. The issues he had coming back from Tommy John surgery, the struggles with his confidence during that brutal 2009 season and beyond. It gives you an in-depth look at a highly touted prospects road to the show, with all the bumps along the way. He writes:
On the transition from Basketball to Baseball:
But getting past a hoopsters’ way of thinking was tougher than Brackman thought, especially during his forgettable 2009 season – his first full year in the minors.
“I’d have a bad game in Charleston and I’d say, ‘I need to do something to get better,’ then I’d go to the weight room,” Brackman said. “That was probably the worst thing I could have done for myself. That was a basketball mentality.
“It doesn’t really matter how much I weigh as long as I can throw the ball. It’s been ingrained in my head for the past 10 years, ‘Gain weight, get stronger and get bigger.’ I can’t do that any more, so I’ve backed off and tried to condition my body to be a baseball player instead of a basketball player. I think it’s helped a lot already.”
On his struggles returning from Tommy John:
That season in Charleston, the Yankees’ Low-A affiliate, Brackman went 2-12 with a 5.91 ERA, issuing an alarming 76 walks while hitting 26 batters in 106.2 innings.
“I was just gripping the hell out of the ball and trying to throw it as hard as I could,” Brackman said. “Coming back from surgery, I just felt like I needed to speed it up. I wanted to get my arm back, wanted to keep throwing as hard as I did, and I wanted to get my stuff right. Trying to speed that all up probably hampered the situation.”
On the pressure he put on himself:
Brackman felt he struggled to earn the respect of his teammates during his dismal 2009, sending him into solitude for much of the year. He lived alone, rarely spoke with teammates about the game and was generally miserable.
“The guys around you don’t know what you can do, so you aren’t given that respect on the field,” Brackman said. “When you throw a good game, guys see that you’re competing, they think, ‘I can play behind this guy.’ It didn’t feel that way. You come out there, you’re throwing balls, you’re not in the game and the pace is terrible, your teammates are behind you thinking, ‘We’re here to play the game and we know how to play.’”
He discusses his mindset moving from High-A Tampa to AA Trenton:
“I was really nervous going up to Trenton; the level of play between High-A and Double-A is significant,” Brackman said. “I would get nervous before starts. I still had the Charleston mentality, where I would go out there thinking, ‘Man, I hope I don’t walk the world,’ instead of thinking, ‘I have to go out there and get people out.’ I was out there hoping something bad didn’t happen. My mind-set wasn’t right.”
On how he took that next step as a pitcher:
Brackman worked with the organization’s mental conditioning staff, trying to figure out how to relax and make the game fun again. By early-August, Brackman looked like a different pitcher, brimming with a confidence that became more evident with each start.
“He turned into a competitor,” catcher Austin Romine said. “I saw it in his eyes. He started believing in what he had; his stuff, his command, all of it. He started to show everybody what he can do. When he’s around the zone, he’s pretty unhittable.”
When Yankee VP of Player Development Mark Newman was recently interviewed in Baseball America on Brackman, he made it clear the Yankees have no intention to rush him, citing the way his struggles affected him. For the first time, Mark Feinsand has taken us inside the big righties road to the big leagues. When it comes to interviews of Yankee farmhands, its the best thing I’ve read in ages. I didn’t give you all of it, so be sure to click that link and read the full article.
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