Joe Bateman: Cool Under Pressure

Giants prospect Joe Bateman talks about his All-Star success in the Giants system, the former Giants pitcher who has had an indelible effect on his career, and how it feels to have had a piece of clothing auctioned off on Ebay.

There's a certain level of disbelief when one finds out that an autographed piece of clothing has sold on Ebay. Hagerstown Suns reliever summed it up nicely, simply saying "That's just crazy, man."

But that's the way for the soft-spoken, easy going young pitcher from Pittsfield Massachusetts. Even when just talking over the phone, an overwhelming sense of calm emanates from the 24 year old. His pitching is the same way, but is just as effective. The self described ‘Whiffleball' pitcher has been one of the bright spots for the Hagerstown Suns in what has been a tough year. With a 1.92 ERA in 35 games in relief for Hagerstown, he has struck out 78 batters in 70.1 innings, and has allowed only 15 earned runs to cross the plate on his watch.

A lot of it comes from good coaching. In his first year in the pros at Salem-Keizer last year, he caught the eye of roving pitching instructor Trevor Wilson, a man that many Giants fans are familiar with. "He really started talking me up with the higher ups," Bateman says of his former coach. "He's a very cerebral coach. He can really see when someone has got physical talent. I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now if it wasn't for him."

Bateman has been playing for a long time, since he was 6 years old. He played little league through high school, and played in a couple of championships as a teenager. After high school, he chose to go to nearby North Adams State, known now as the Massachusetts College for the Liberal Arts. "I'm a real kind of a homebody, and it was real close, about 30 miles from my home." But he kept playing ball. "One day, the coach went out and saw me playing in the Legion, and asked me if I would like to play for them, and I said ‘I'm already going there!'"

Bateman did good for the MLAC team, picking up co-MVP honors in his senior year, and picking up first team All-MASCAC honors in both his junior and senior years, before being picked up by the Giants in the 32nd round of the 2002 draft. He went to Salem-Keizer, and split time as a starter and a reliever there in 2002.

Playing now for Hagerstown in 2004, Bateman has been superb and one of the team's only consistent performers. His ERA has been one of only two under 3 for much of the year as Hagerstown has slumped in the second half. While Hagerstown has fallen to last place in the SAL Northern Division, Bateman has stayed focused on what's important. "I can't speak for anyone else," he says, "But I just go out there and do what I can. It's important to stay focused while out there. And hopefully someone sees that and notices it."

For now, Bateman continues to stay focused on what he does, but isn't afraid to look towards the future. When asked about the role he sees himself playing on a major league team, his answer is characteristically low-key. "Oh, I don't know. I just like it when the game is close, within a couple of runs or just tied. I like coming in in the 7th or 8th innings, I think it's called setup. I'd love to do that. It's a lot of pressure, and if you give up one run it really looks bad, but I like it. I like the pressure."

Giants fans these days certainly can appreciate a pitcher with an attitude like that. And so can the Giants, who quickly promoted Bateman after this interview to the Norwich Navigators, where he has continued to enjoy the pressure.

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