Jeremy Rhoades had been in California for less than 48 hours before he took the mound for the Inland Empire 66ers for the first time. He had yet to make a run to In-N-Out, or make a quick morning road trip to the beach, but he did get to take in one of his favorite hobbies with some old pals.
"I like to golf when I'm not around baseball," said Rhoades. "I don't really do too much, just try to stay out of trouble. I'll try to read here and there. I guess that's about it, pretty boring when it comes to time away from baseball (laughs)."
Luckily for Rhoades, the transition to California came fairly easy, because - he got to golf. In a grouping with teammates Kody Eaves, Jordan Kipper, and Michael Strentz, Rhoades put in some time at the links in the 66ers 13th annual charity golf tournament.
Between reading and golf, the 22-year-old Los Angeles Angels' prospect has become a pretty fantastic pitcher in his spare time. Rhoades took the mound Wednesday night, and worked magic for six and one/third innings, allowing just two runs on one hit and two walks, while striking out six.
"I competed really hard. Not the greatest execution of pitches, but mixed it well and kept guys off balance. I'm happy with it. It's a good first outing to get out of the way and build on from here."
Rhoades wasn't the only person happy with his first performance in the California League, as the skipper was pleased with his first outing.
"Nice first impression," said 66ers skipper, Denny Hocking. "I joked around with him before the game and said 'whatever your best is, we'll take it' and I told him after if that's going to be his best, we'll take it every time."
Rhoades did find some personal flaws in his Cal League debut, that he'd like to fine tune.
"I was rushing and leaving my fastball up. I wasn't moving it in and out like I usually do. It got a little better towards the end of the game. That's the one pitch I need to focus on commanding, because if you can command a fastball you can pitch anywhere."
Rhoades comes equipped with a low to mid 80's changeup and mid 80's slider to mix with his low 90's fastball. His changeup has been a key point to his development, and ability to remain a starter, but it's still something relatively new to Rhoades entirely.
"It's come a long way from last year. I didn't really have a changeup. It was just kind of a 'show me' kind of pitch and I'm really starting to learn how to throw it now."
Opposite of his changeup, Rhoades has a wipe out slider. The slider not only impressed us, but also his current pitching coach, and former Major Leaguer, Matt Wise.
"It's a good slider when he throws it on that fastball line," said Wise. "He had 11 swing and misses at his slider, that's a good slider. I like it. It's late and it's hard. 83-86, so it has plenty of velocity on it. He can go to it at will. He threw 31 of them 24 for strikes, that's a quality pitch."
Since becoming a professional pitcher, Jeremy Rhoades has had some ups and downs, but the biggest up came in the form of his first two months with the Angels Low-A affiliate, Burlington Bees. Rhoades boasted a 2.69 ERA and 1.080 WHIP, which helped him be voted a Midwest League All-Star by the league's coaches, media and general managers. Rhoades reflected on his time in the Midwest League with optimism and a look towards the future.
"I thought I did pretty well. There's some pitches you wish you could have back and outings you wish you didn't have, but I felt really comfortable and learned a lot about myself as a pitcher and what I can and can't do."
There's been much more to becoming a professional when it comes to Jeremy Rhoades. The mental game of baseball may be the hardest. Even Yogi Berra knew all about the mental game being "90%, half mental." Knowing who you are as a player or pitcher is a large part of creating success in the minors, and leading your way into becoming a future Major Leaguer. Rhoades has come to realize a lot of things during his time as a professional, such as the mental side of the game.
"Just staying within yourself and knowing what you can and can't do. Just knowing your stuff and always going out there and out competing the other team. Not trying to do more than your capable of."
Jeremy Rhoades is coming into his own as one of the elite prospects in the Angels farm system, and for good reason. The arsenal is beginning to match the numbers, and heads are turning in the direction of Rhoades and when he's starting, where's he starting, and how can you see him. Right now, it's the California League every fifth day. It could easily change in years to come, and you may be watching Jeremy Rhoades every fifth day on your television set or when you take a trip to Angel Stadium, as he's on the right path to becoming a talented pitcher at the highest level.
Taylor Blake Ward is a Senior Publisher for Scout.com, and can be found on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard.