Hayden Simpson Interview

Hayden Simpson was 35-2 in three seasons at Division II Southern Arkansas and earlier this week he became the Chicago Cubs' first-round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. InsideTheIvy.com caught up with the right-hander for an extensive interview.

The 21-year-old Simpson was 13-1 with a 1.81 ERA in 15 starts for the Muleriders (of the Gulf South Conference) this past season. He struck out 131 batters in 99.1 innings, an average of 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, and was a candidate for the Tino Martinez Division II Player of the Year Award.

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Q: Obviously the Cubs had some interest in you, but how surprised were you to be picked in the first round?

A: It was a little surprising, but I knew that the Cubs had a lot of interest in me. I didn't know for sure if it was first-round interest; there were some other teams that had some interest in me as well. But it was a very pleasant surprise.

Q: We've heard your fastball is anywhere from 91 to 97 mph. Which is closer?

A: I usually sit in between 93 to 94.

Q: Can you give us a full rundown of your repertoire?

A: I throw a changeup and I've yet to see anybody throw it the way I throw it. It's hard to explain, but I throw it two different ways – one way to right-handed batters where it drops straight down and another way to lefties where it runs away and goes down. And I throw a two-seam fastball that's more like a sinker; an overhand 12-6 curveball; then the four-seam fastball and then I throw a slider that's two different ways as well.

Q: Where do the Tim Lincecum and Roy Oswalt comparisons come from? You've been likened to both. In what ways are you similar to those pitchers?

A: Obviously we're similar in body build. I'd like to think that the way I think is a lot like Roy Oswalt. We've got the same bulldog mentality and we're both really competitive. Lincecum is a kind of thing where our deliveries are somewhat similar. My delivery is not as ‘wild' as his is, but we pitch a lot the same way. I like to think I throw my changeup a lot of the same way that Lincecum does. But I think a lot of the comparisons are coming from body build, fastball speed and just overall competitiveness and athleticism.

Q: One of your last starts came down in Tampa in a game against Florida Southern, and I believe you struck out 13 batters and did not allow a walk. Tim Wilken said he believed you did not even throw Ball 3. What was working for you that made that outing so dominant?

A: Everything was working. To me, I'm a good enough athlete to where if one of my pitches isn't working, usually the other three are. I can make adjustments really well during the game, during that inning and pitch to pitch. I think that's what it takes to be successful, but that night, everything was on. I felt like I could have closed my eyes and thrown a strike anywhere I wanted to.

Q: It seems like you're just glowing with confidence right now. Obviously your record in college speaks for itself.

A: I read an article one time on Dennis Eckersley, who said: "You can't fake a good fastball, but I'm sure as hell not going to let the hitter know that." Confidence is one thing where either you have it or you don't. It's a mentality with pitching. If you don't have confidence, you don't have anything if you're standing on that mound.

Q: You proved to the Cubs that you're first-round material. Do you feel now that you have to go out and prove that to the fans and the media?

A: I think that I just need to go out there and do what I've always done and the rest will take care of itself. I'm very proud and excited to be a Chicago Cub and I sure don't want to let anybody down, but I don't think I will. I just need to go do what got me here. I think that will be enough.

Q: What made you decide on a Division II school, and did you get many offers from Division I schools?

A: I was being recruited by Division I schools. They wanted to see me pitch again at the end of the spring and I more or less just wanted to get that over with because I knew we had a really good team in high school that year, and we were trying to win a state championship. I threw a one-hitter in the state championship game and got beat, 2-1. That was not good, but I felt like [going to Southern Arkansas] was the best for me and it turns out it was a very good decision and it's hard to argue with what happened. I think that was the best decision that I could have made at the time, and looking back at it now, knowing what I know, I'd have made the same decision.

Q: You were also quarterback of the football team your senior year of high school. Was baseball always your first love?

A: Baseball was my first love. It always came real natural to me. Don't get me wrong: I loved playing football and I would never change anything that happened with that, but baseball always was my first love. I knew if I had a shot, it would be in playing baseball and I put all my time and effort into chasing that goal.

Q: Tell us a little about who Hayden Simpson is. What do you do when you're not at the ballpark? What are your hobbies?

A: To be honest with you, I wake up in the morning thinking about baseball. I wake up in the morning and the first thing I do is go to the baseball field and spend a couple of hours there working out. In the fall and winter time, I love to hunt and fish. I love duck hunting and deer hunting, and I like hanging out with my friends. But my main hobby – and now my job – is playing baseball. And I love it. It's the best job in the world.

Q: In Arkansas, there are obviously a lot of Cardinals fans and Texas Rangers fans among others. Were you a Cubs fan growing up and did you watch a lot of their games on WGN and ESPN?

A: We get all of the Cubs games on WGN in Magnolia, so I always watched the Cubs. I've always been a fan of the Cubs and I liked some other teams, too. But just the history of the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field is awesome and I'm extremely proud to be a part of that organization now.

Q: Did you have a favorite Cubs player growing up?

A: I'm not sure. I always liked watching old film on Ernie Banks. I loved watching Ryne Sandberg and players like that, and I loved watching Kerry Wood pitch.

Q: The name Hayden, I think, is kind of interesting. The Cubs don't have anyone in the organization that shares your name. Why did your parents choose that name?

A: You know I'm not sure. I don't know if anybody has ever asked me that question before. [laughs] I'm not sure, but now I'm going to have to go home and ask them.

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