One-on-One With Kendall Graveman

Former Mississippi State baseball pitcher Kendall Graveman was on the MSU campus this past weekend and spoke one-on-one with Gene's Page about this past season, a season that saw him start out in Class A of the Minor Leagues and end up pitching in the Major Leagues for the Toronto Blue Jays.

You had a very unique season, pitching in every full season classification and ending the season in the Major Leagues. Explain what that was like?
"I started out in Lansing, Michigan in Low A. I played there for about a month, then moved to High A."

Did you realize that you would move up that quick?
"I didn't. I threw well the first month and felt like I would move up sometime. My goal for the end of the year was to end in Double A.

"They called me in the office and told me that I was moving up to High A in Dunedin, Florida with (former MSU teammate) Chad Girodo.

"I played there for two months and got called in the office a couple of months before the end of the season and they told me that I was going to Double A. It was on a Saturday. I pitched Saturday night. They told me that I was leaving on Sunday at lunch. I was packing my stuff about two hours before the flight. But the wife of one of the other guys in our starting rotation was sick, so he had to leave. So, they told me that I wasn't going to Double A. I had already call my parents, my friends, everybody. So, I had to tell them that I wasn't going.

"I pitched another month in A ball and they called me in the office again. They said this time you are going to Double A.

"I then went to Double A and stayed for four days. I had one start and had moved into an apartment. As soon as I moved in that morning, they called me back and told me that I am leaving at 6 o'clock. And this was at 4 o'clock. They said I had a flight out going to Buffalo. I packed my apartment real quick, then had to find a ride. I didn't have a car at the time. While I was doing all that I was trying to tell my parents and friends that I was going to Triple A.

"At the end of that month was September call-ups (to the Major League). And I was kind of anticipating (being called up). And they put me on the 40-man roster and I was blessed to play the last month in the bullpen in Toronto and pitch some innings up there."

Were you nervous once you made it to the Major Leagues?
"I was actually the most nervous when I got my first promotion from Michigan to Florida. We played the Tampa Yankees and I felt like I had to proved myself. Since all of those guys hadn't seen me pitch, I felt like I needed to do something extra. I tried to do too much and didn't have a good game. But from that point on, I made my goal to just pitch my game no matter where I was. When I did that it relaxed me for every promotion that I had. Even when I was in Fenway for my debut I felt pretty relaxed and confident."

How were you able to relax when you pitched for the first time as a Major Leaguer?
"I took a couple of deep breaths and did a couple of things that I learned at Mississippi State from Coach (Butch) Thompson. I had been in some big situations at Mississippi State that helped prepare me. If I hadn't come to Mississippi State I wouldn't have been prepared. I had pitched in front of thousands of people in Omaha (at the College World Series). I pitched in front of thousands in a regional and a super regional. That gave me a confident feeling. When I was out there I knew that I had pitched in front of thousands of people before."

The difference is the guys on the Major League level are the best hitters in the world.
"The best! I faced (Yoenis) Cespedes in Boston. When we went to Baltimore, I had a runner on third with one out and had to face two all-stars, Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz. I ended up getting two outs. And those two outs built a lot of confidence in me because of who those two guys were. At that point, the entire stadium was full. That was the night that they clinched.

"To have someone like Mark Buehrle came up to you and tell you good job and have someone like Colby Rasmus give me the balls that I got my first out and strikeout with is special. Having Then coming off the mound in Fenway and the people honoring me because they knew it was my debut. Having someone like David Ortiz saying congrats to me. Those are things that I will never forget.

"It was a blessing to be up there for a month. Now that I am in the Oakland organization I am excited about the future and to see what it holds for me."

You have been through a lot this season, including being traded.
"I have been through a lot the past two seasons. I played in a college world series, then I was drafted, then I went through all the minor league levels. I made my debut in the major league, then I was traded for a big league all-star. Those are things that I never would have thought would happen to me. If you had told me that would happen to me I would have looked at you and laughed.

"The hard work and the weight program that I had at Mississippi State, and the offseason work that I put in, I feel like that is what propelled me into the next level."

How excited was Coach Thompson for you?
"He was excited. All of (the coaches) have been behind me. But Butch Thompson has been like a second dad to me. You know that. And Greg Drye has been one of those guys who had been a rock for me. He has always believed in me and helped to build trust in me. Greg Drye has been there for me through the tough times and been there through the good times. He is somebody that I could always lean on."

What were you told when you were traded to Oakland? Did Oakland call and tell you why they wanted you?
"They haven't said much. They are going through the Winter Meetings right now. The assistant GM for the Blue Jays called me and said they are trading me. And the assistant GM for Oakland called and told me that they picked me up in a trade. That is what it has been the past couple of weeks. I'll find out more in the coming weeks."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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