Dan Meyer Interview

The Braves traded minor league pitching prospect Dan Meyer last Thursday to the Oakland A's as the centerpiece of the deal that acquired right-hander Tim Hudson. Back in Spring Training, BravesCenter's Bill Shanks sat down and talked more with Meyer as he prepared for the 2004 season.

SHANKS: Tell me about growing up and playing baseball.
MEYER: I grew up in little league. I was typical in that my father coached the little league team. I enjoyed it. I loved showing up at the ballpark everyday. That's when I got to play two positions I pitched and played the outfield and got to swing a little bit. I just loved the whole game as a child. As I got older I tried to develop a little bit. It was fun just like every kid enjoys during the summer time and stuff.

SHANKS: When did pitching become important?
MEYER: I would say later in high school. I did both in high school but I wasn't a very good hitter. Actually I started pitching and started playing for summer teams and some select teams and actually showed I could pitch a little bit. I guess I really focused on pitching from there.

SHANKS: Were you drafted out of highs school?
MEYER: No I was not.

SHANKS: When you got to James Madison what kind of pitcher were you?
MEYER: When I first got there I wasn't much of a pitcher. I was 80-83 miles an hour, a real tall, skinny left-hander - not much meat on me. I had to work for it you know. I just went out there – my freshman year I maybe got ten innings. Nothing special. I wasn't going to pitch because I couldn't get anybody out. It was one of those things where I had to work at it.

SHANKS: Junior season. What was it like knowing this year could get you into pro ball?
MEYER: You it was pretty good pressure. You show up to games and there are 10, 15, 20 guys behind home plate. I had a little pressure, and I can only imagine what it would be like for a big time high school kid. But you know the way I saw it was this is my junior year and if I'm you know going to make something here it's got to be now because if you go to a senior sign, you're not going to get nearly as much money and they control you because you've got nothing to do out of college. But I just went out there and tried to play the game; play the game the way I knew best.

SHANKS: They really push makeup in selecting potential draftees. Did you feel that was what they were trying to do?
MEYER: Yea of course makeup is big nowadays. Any baseball team is not going to put a lot of money into a kid who is off his rocker. So they want to make sure the kid is going to be solid, and make sure the kid is going to take care of his business when he's got to.

SHANKS: Going into the draft what were you thinking?
MEYER: I was just thinking, "Let's get drafted." I'm still a kid where this was my dream. Even though I was told what was going to happen, I was hoping it would happen. I was hoping everything would work out for me and I could enjoy playing baseball.

SHANKS: What were they telling you as far as potential rounds?
MEYER: Yea it was all over the place. Going before the regionals in college my junior year I had heard second to fourth round, anywhere between second and fourth. My last two or three outings in college I threw the ball pretty well. I showed some stamina and endurance. That kind of helped me out and bumped me up a little bit. Going to regionals against some top teams I threw the ball well. I guess that really helped me out.

SHANKS: Were there other teams calling you just as much?
MEYER: Yea there were other teams calling me just as much. Some I didn't hope I was going to, but you still got to be nice and genuine about it. I was hoping for the Braves to be honest with you. I know everybody says that, but as a pitcher I knew if I was going to make it to the big leagues I wanted to make it with the Braves because they get it done. They get it done on the hill. But there was a lot of people calling me, some more than others.

SHANKS: So on draft day, what were you thinking?
MEYER: I had no clue to be honest with you. I had zero idea. I was hoping it would be a good team, a team that was going to take care of me. I was kind of hoping it wouldn't be too far away from home up there in New Jersey. Luckily the Braves are on the east coast because I'd like to be close to hope with my family, my girlfriend, and all that.

SHANKS: One of the reasons they stay away from college pitchers is that so many college pitchers have to be deconstructed and then reconstructed. So when you got down here, what did they do to you? Did they have to do a lot of that?
MEYER: Yea they deconstructed me a good amount you know. I was trying to get out here as early as possible, doing extra work. I knew I didn't have as much time as some of these young guys do. These young guys have got a lot of time. I'm 3, 4 years older than some of these guys so I've got to get it done quicker than others. I'm not saying I've got a week or two weeks, but I got to start showing some improvement quick. I knew I had to get it done, and I came out here and I knew I had to start all over, and that's what I had to do. It worked out well because I trusted what they told me and they knew what they were teaching me. It's actually worked out real, real well for me.

SHANKS: Is it easy to look at all the high school kids who are so raw and so talented and believe you've got to get up there quicker?
MEYER: It's not too much pressure. I don't feel pressure like, "Oh I got to make it before these people." I really feel that if I'm good enough to make it to the big leagues, I think I will at some time. If I wasn't, then fine. I'm not going to root against other guys. I want everybody to do well. If you make it before I do, you were a better ballplayer than me. It's amazing looking at some of these kids and some of the talent is ridiculous. It's just unbelievable. Jeff (Francoeur) is a great example. That kid has a body of a 25-year-old. He's just out there having fun, and I'll be honest with you I love Jeff to death. He's one of the most talented 19-year old kids I've ever seen in my life. Some of those pitchers out there can really throw the ball for their age. It's amazing. Hopefully, some of these other guys are going to have the desire. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don't have the heart…

SHANKS: Does the competition around here between pitchers help? Is it easy to want to stand out so the Braves will keep you?
MEYER: Competitiveness is good. I think it's good as long as it's good competitiveness. It makes you a better player, a better athlete, a harder worker. As long as it's harnessed, you know you can't let it get out of control. Honestly, I really don't worry about too many guys because it's comes down to me and my desire. If I work hard and I get it done then you know the only person holding me back is myself. That's what my father always brought me up to be. The only person that's going to hold you back is yourself. You can't worry about what other people do.

SHANKS: Was your father a big influence on you?
MEYER: My father was one of my biggest influences. He's a great guy. He gets a little tense. It's tough watching him while I'm pitching. He can't sit still. He's proud of me and he wants me to do well for my sake. Him and my mother have done so much for me in my lifetime. There's no way I could repay him. So I think this is kind of a way that gives him a little ease.

SHANKS: What was 2003 like for you?
MEYER: Last year was an up and down year. Some highs and some lows. It was a great year. I struggled in the beginning a little bit in Rome and actually working with Kent got me focused, got me mechanically sound. Based on what I did I was good enough to move up and I went up to DC. DC…He took care of the mental part of me. You know DC…him and Kent are probably the two best things that happened to me so far last year. Those two guys were the sole two reasons I was successful last year. Those two guys are unbelievable. They know exactly what the heck they're talking about. It's awesome. I ended up throwing the ball pretty well. I had a great year. The only thing I was upset about was I couldn't be there in Rome when they won it. The guys in Rome last year were some of my best friends.

SHANKS: A special group wasn't it?
MEYER: Yea great chemistry from Brian, to Jeff, to John to Mike Mueller. Those guys we spent every minute of the day together both on and off the field. I was upset I wasn't there but I was just happy as hell for them.

SHANKS: What did Kent do with you mechanically?
MEYER: Kent really broke me down and built me back up. They both know what they're talking about. DC he didn't toy too much with my mechanics. I would love just sitting there talking with DC and picking his brain all day. He's been in the big league for what 14 years or something like that. He played the game and he knows the game. I think mentally he helped me the best. Mechanics-wise they both helped me, but DC helped me the best mentally. I think just sitting there and learning about hitters and talking to him and learning how to play the game. You can always learn something. So I would just go out there and talk to DC and try to get stuff out of him. I wouldn't know it if he knew it or not, but I'd just try to pick his brain.

SHANKS: Headed to AA now. What are your expectations?
MEYER: I just want to go out there…you know right now I'm still working on stuff in spring training. I want to get better and get out there and become a more productive pitcher and go out to AA and just have a solid year.

SHANKS: What are you working on?
MEYER: My delivery to the plate. I need to be more straight to the plate with my direction. I'm kind of across my body. Instead of being east to west kind of horizontal throwing I need to get up and down. The one thing that's going to help my breaking ball, my change up, to my location is all of this is going to bring it together. Guy's been working with me and me and Guy have built a special relationship. I'm out here at 8:30 in the morning – me and Guy. We've been working at it, and it's not going to be easy. We're going to try to break some bad habits.

SHANKS: Do you feel this is a year (2004) where you can make a tremendous impression?
MEYER: Double A is the level…there are a lot of guys that go straight from AA to the big leagues as far as pitching. It's starting to creep in my mind a little bit that I might be a little close. But you can't let that ever take you, cause you've still got to work. I could easily have a great year and be in the big leagues, but I could have a bad year and be in Double A and that's it. Well I don't want that, you know. Right now it's one step at a time. Do I think about it? Of course. But you got to win the battle before you win the war.

SHANKS: Does it cross your mind that the Glavine, Smoltz, Maddux era is coming to a close. When we look ahead to 2005 and 2006 and beyond, there's going to be a new cast of characters over there. Do you want to be apart of that?
MEYER: That's something I would love to be apart of. That's what I'm working for. When you were growing up you were thinking you were Tom Glavine or John Smoltz. Yea I want to be apart of that. I came into the Braves organization at the perfect time. You know Maddux and Smoltzie are still at the top of their game. Smoltz will always pitch; he's a hell of a pitcher. They've developed me in the two years they've had me and now you know Maddux is gone, and Glavine, and Smoltzie's still dealing, but this is the time for maybe me to creep up there and open some eyes.

SHANKS: A year from now (2005), you could easily be over there going for a job in Atlanta. They are so big on first impressions. So you're twelve months away from knocking on that door.
MEYER: Yea and you know you can only make one first impression. No matter what you do I'm going to go out there and work hard. I want the shot. I think if they can give me a shot, I think I can take care of business.

SHANKS: What all pitches are you throwing now and what is your velocity?
MEYER: You know fastball, slider, change up. I can be anywhere from 88 or 89 to 94 depending on the day.

SHANKS: Are they letting you throw that slider?
MEYER: Yea. They're letting me throw that slider, and actually they've helped me develop it. My college slider wasn't very good at all, and I hardly ever threw it. Working with Alvy (Mike Alvarez), Rick Adair, and Kent Willis, and DC, and now Guy my slider has actually developed into a pretty dang good pitch.

SHANKS: The pitching instruction you get around here. Could it get any better than this?
MEYER: I think all the teams are getting ripped off. All the best pitching coordinators and instructors are over here. Everyone I've talked to knows exactly what they're talking about. I trust the Braves and what they've done and if they've hired these guys, they know what they're talking about. Listening to these guys talk is amazing. It's amazing what these guys know. They're unbelievable. Me and Macay will just sit and just listen to them. We get along great and we come out here and pick their minds and just try to listen and try to learn.

Bill Shanks can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com

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