BP - To start off, just curious how are things right now? Are you enjoying your time in A ball with the Riverdogs?
BH - I am enjoying the opportunity to play everyday. Charleston is a great town with a great baseball atmosphere.
BP - What did you do on Draft Day before and after you were selected?
BH - Coach Noble scheduled a practice that day, and every so often I would go into the locker room to check and see if anyone had called my phone. I was called around 4pm by Jonathan Bonifay, the Devil Rays scout to tell me I had been drafted first pick of the 7th round. Practice had already ended, and I was getting some extra work in. I decided to bring my phone out with me, and when I got the call I was relieved, even though I had a pretty good idea when I was going to be drafted. One thing I wasn't prepared for that day was the reactions of all my teammates and coaches when they heard the news and came to congratulate me. To see the expressions of happiness and excitement on my teammates made the moment sink in a little more for me.
BP - How is it being so far away from home and your family? Your parents are wonderful people, so surely you miss them!
BH - I miss home and all of my family, of course. I am adjusting very well, though; my teammates have been great in getting me acclimated to the area and to the daily routine of being a professional.
BP - You've worked really hard to get to where you are today...tell us a little about what it takes to achieve your goals and dreams like you are
BH - Everyday I find one or two things to do that maybe is a little bit more than what is expected. For instance, at UH, I would stay after practice for 15 to 30 minutes after practice working on my skills, just for that extra little refinement of my pitches, or my pickoff move, or fielding ground balls, etc. Or at home I might work on visualizing myself making the pitch in a pressure situation. All of these little things each day add up to a lot over the course of a month or a year or a couple of years.
BP - How is your arm holding up after a long college season and then heading straight into pro ball?
BH - It's holding up better than expected. The velocity is maintaining, my pitches and command are fairly sharp, and I haven't had any unusual or prolonged soreness. I have been blessed to have not experienced any serious injuries in my career.
BP - What is the biggest difference in college baseball and pro baseball that you've experienced thus far?
BH - Aside from the wooden bats, playing everyday is something to get adjusted to. Knowing how to conserve your energy and your arm so that you are able to last until September is something I need to adjust to.
BP - Did/do you have a role model or someone who has inspired you to get where you are today? If so, who and why?
BH - The late Dr. Bragg Stockton is a big reason why I am here. He provided me with so much instruction and guidance, not just physically with my pitching, but mentally and spiritually as well. The quality of Coach Stockton that was so amazing was his willingness to give of himself. His time, his vast knowledge was there for anyone who asked for it. I still can hear and remember his voice and instruction today. When he died, it was such a loss for everyone in the baseball community. I pray for him, thanking him for his coaching before every single game. I also wear a black armband with his #30 underneath my jersey sleeve.
BP - Ok, now on to some questions about your career at the University of Houston and the Houston Cougar Baseball team.
BH - What is your most memorable moment as a member of the Houston Cougar Baseball Team?
Winning the College Station regional this year.
BP - Did you have a favorite outing as a Cougar? Was there 1 game that stands out that you just felt like you'd never felt before?
BH - Personally, I had a game against Fresno State my sophomore year where I pitched only 1 inning. We had about six pitchers used that game and we were about to get a shutout. I go out there and the first two guys get on with soft liners and jam shot singles. It looked like I was going to be the guy to give up a run and ruin the shutout. I ended up with bases loaded and two out, and no one had scored yet. The last guy I faced was a first rounder that year, their catcher. He worked it to a full count and I make this great pitch on the inside corner with a cutter and he popped it up to end the inning. Coach Stockton and I had been working on that pitch all week, so to be able to throw it successfully there was a great personal victory.
But obviously, no victory was better than the four we got to win the college station regional. The mixture of exhaustion, exultation and overwhelming emotion late that Sunday night was the best feeling I've ever felt in a baseball uniform. It was absolutely unbelievable that we won those games.
BP - You came a long way since your freshman season to get to where you are now...what helped you to get to where you were for the 2003 season?
BH - My coaches instruction and my hard work. There wasn't any magic tricks or shortcuts. Just consistent hard work, every day. Also, believing in myself and my ability. That is half of the battle. Believing that you can achieve whatever you want.
BP - What advice would you give to a freshman or sophomore pitcher who is in the hunt for a trip to the big leagues some day that might help them develop the way you have?
BH - Don't just do what is expected. Challenge yourself to do that little extra everyday, whether with your studies or your baseball skills. Oh, and don't forget to enjoy yourself and stop to take in the moments, because your three or four years at UH will be over before you know it.
BP - Who do you see as the Houston Cougars most dominant pitchers for the 2004 season judging by what you've seen out of them this past season?
BH - All of the returning pitchers have so much potential; we have a chance again to have one of the best staffs in the country. I think Mock will be able to put it all together this year. Justin Vaclavik will be great if he believes in his stuff. Kevin Roberts will be a great short reliver. Look for Taylor Gartz, Travis Mays and Brian Martin to become great, polished leftys. Matt Farrington can get it done on the mound and with the bat, so its really up to him. Gene Flores, if he stays healthy, will be a workhorse weekend starter.
BP - Tell us a little about Coach Noble's style of coaching and training and how he helped to develop you into what you have become.
BH - Coach Noble is big on mental toughness. I think that combined with his unbelievable passion for winning and being the best have rubbed off on me.
BP - Do you still sport your Cougar gear every once-in-a-while?
BH - Of course, I am very proud of my time at UH and I miss all of the experiences I've had. My time there has gone by too fast.
BP - Any chance we'll see you in the stands at a Cougar Baseball game in 2004?
BH - Absolutely.
BP - Any final words for the people of CoogFans.com?
BH - Thanks for all the great support. The players, past and current, appreciate it more than you know.
Brian - Congratulations once again on the fantastic college career at the University of Houston. Best of luck to you in the big leagues, and we'll be keeping track of your progress all the way. Thanks once again for taking the time for this interview, and be sure to look for it on the CoogFans.com home page coming up later this summer.
Good luck Brian!
Photo courtesy of Dennis Henderson