From Velocity to Stirrups: Why you should know Matt Ball

Here at FutureSox, one of our biggest ways of bringing content to our readership is interviewing and profiling the Minor League players of the White Sox organization. In some cases, we are the only outlet providing any information for individual players. While that is to be expected for some of the players, I was a bit confused as to why that was the case with 2013 11th round draft pick Matt Ball.

Ball is a high school draftee out of Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista, California. The lengthy righty dominated a hot bed for high school baseball to the tune of a 0.86 ERA and 119 strikeouts over 73 innings pitched in his senior campaign. Fully aware of his lack of attention, he told me, “The beginning of my senior year I was sitting around 86 MPH and I wasn’t getting the same coverage as other guys. Then that last month my velo jumped up to 92 MPH for no particular reason. I can’t explain it, it just did.”

Fast forward to 2015, and Ball is now pitching for the Great Falls Voyagers, one of the White Sox rookie ball affiliates. The 20-year-old righty has made three starts, two of the quality variety, and turned a 4.60 ERA over 15 and 2/3 innings. Ball’s peripherals are especially strong in the early going as he has struck 14 and only walked 3 in the hitters’ haven that is the Pioneer League. Another reason the arrow is pointing up for Ball is he has seen another inexplicable jump in his velocity this year and is now toting a 94 MPH with his 6’5” 200lb pitcher’s frame.

The following are some of the highlights from my interview with Matt.

Going into draft day, where was your head at? Did you know the White Sox were going to draft you?

Yeah, they called me on day two to draft me in round seven or eight and I was pretty clear that I wanted $150,000. They told me if they have the money they would sign me. Prior to day three, we had agreed on $150,000. I had to turn down multiple teams in front of the Sox because I was committed.

So you were pretty clear on what it was going to take lure you away from Long Beach St.?

I think so. I wanted to put all my eggs into one basket. I was super dedicated all offseason to baseball. I wanted to work at it everyday and my high school or a college couldn’t really facilitate it like they can professionally.

How much does the typical 18-year-old MLB hopeful understand about the MLB’s Collective Bargaining Agreement?

Every scout explained it to me pretty well. My family and I had a strong understanding going into the draft.

Recently there have been a lot of talks about the meager wages in minor league baseball and the horrible times at Extended Spring Training, is it as tough as they make it out to be?

It’s not as bad. There’s not money for food so that’s tough but if you have the right attitude you make the most of it. The trouble I had was I thought I could pitch up to par with the guys in Kannapolis, but it kept me motivated to get better.

What did you know about Great Falls and the Pioneer League and is it tough going there as a pitcher?

I took it with a grain of salt. If I could pitch well here I could really do it elsewhere too. Our park is actually the only pitchers’ park [in the Pioneer] so I really have to make sure I compete on the road.

Away from your fastball, which pitches make up the rest of your arsenal?

My slider and change up mostly. I feel like they’re improving every time out. I am getting a lot more confident with each one thrown. My slider has become my out pitch. I have 14 strikeouts and half of them have come on the slider.

What are the principal goals for your 2015 season?

1-1 pitches definitely. Getting my off-speed stuff over for called strikes too.

Which MLB pitcher do you like to compare yourself to?

It’s tough to compare myself to one of those guys but I like Matt Harvey… the way he commands the game. It’s not like Kershaw where he can miss his spot and the ball moves a foot so he doesn’t even have to spot it. Harvey controls the game with each and every pitch.

Lastly, you rock the stirrups, what do they add to your game?

I always wore them in High School. I even had my grandma sew them so I could wear them as high they could go. My dad has always called me an old school pitcher and I embrace that. The guys on the other teams definitely remember me because of the stirrups and I don’t mind that.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_Ball333 and Matt’s career at @FutureSox and of course FutureSox.com. Thanks to Matt, and Rob Low at Great Falls, for making this work.

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