Leading the AFL in ERA and WHIP while holding opposing hitters to a .051/.098/.077 line, 2010 36th round draft pick Forrest Snow is quickly going from a minor leaguer with a cool name to a legitimate major league prospect on the cusp of making a mark at the game's highest level.
The 6-foot-6, 22-year-old right-hander with a love for biology was snubbed from the AFL Rising Stars game, but he took the opportunity over the break to talk with SeattleClubhouse's Rick Randall about growing up a Mariners fan and learning the ins-and-outs of the game he has loved since he was a child
SeattleClubhouse: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today Forrest.
Forrest Snow: No problem Rick.
SC: Being a Lakeside School and University of Washington graduate and being born and raised here, I assume you are a lifelong M's fan, correct?
FS: I am. Been a Mariners fan since the day I was born. I was a big fan of Dan Wilson--he was the reason I started catching. He came out and watched me throw once this season and I told myself, "win or lose, I got a butt-tap from Dan Wilson, so it's all good". I tried to mimic Ken Griffey, Jr.'s swing when I was younger, of course, but being right-handed I didn't really get it. But I've been loving the Mariners a long time.
SC: Since you are a local product, how has playing in Everett for the AquaSox last year and in Tacoma with the Rainiers in 2011 made the transition into professional baseball more comfortable for you?
FS: That is exactly what I tell people. When I was in Everett, I would just drive home every night after the game and get a home-cooked meal. And you can't imagine how thrilled my parents were when I told them I was coming up to Tacoma this year. Same thing, 40 minutes on I-5 and I was home with them for meals. It is a cool situation, and you know Safeco is just about 15 minutes south of my house, so hopefully I can experience that sometime soon.
SC: Do I understand correctly that you are so Seattle that you even worked at Starbucks in the past?
FS: (Laughs) Yeah, summer job in high school. So I mixed up all those mocha-latte-frappuccinos and all that stuff, so I'm Seattle through-and-through.
SC: Very cool.
SC: Your dad played College Ball at San Diego State back in the day and I hear that he helped coach you all the way through high school. Was he a pitcher as well? How did having a live-in coach help you in your early development?
FS: Yeah, San Diego State. He was a control pitcher, high-80s, filthy knuckleball--he used changing speeds and location more than velocity, but yeah, he was pretty good. Funny story about my dad and baseball at SDSU, he had a big afro--this was in the 1970s and he was a surfer--and the coach told him to cut his hair or he'd be off the team and my dad could see that college was about his ceiling, so he kept his hair and quit baseball.
SC: Right on, go dad.
FS: Yeah, he was cool. But yeah, he was my coach from little league all the way up through high school where he was an assistant--he's actually still an assistant at Liberty. Having that live-in coach was huge in my development growing up in those early years, I think.
SC: So it sounds like you were pretty immersed in the game at an early age. How old would you say you were when you really fell in love with the game?
FS: Early on I was playing all the sports--basketball, soccer--so I was kind of spread around, doing all the athletics I could. Soccer was the first to go, then I played just basketball and baseball in high school before I decided that baseball would be the route I would use for college. But even back in little league, I used to lie in my bed at night and tell myself, "I'm going to play for the Seattle Mariners one day."
SC: You even played on a Mariners Cup team back in high school, right?
FS: Yes I did. In 2006 there was a scout showcase with all of the kids from Washington and Oregon and we played the Mariners Cup teams from Southern California and Nevada, a little three-game series at Safeco and I got to pitch--I can't wait to throw off that mound again. That's like my favorite mound of all time--but I started the last game and it was a very cool experience.
SC: Did you play on any other tournament teams or collegiate leagues or anything like that during your high school or college years in Washington?
FS: I played for the Bend, Oregon team in the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League the summer after my freshman year at Washington. And after my sophomore year I played up in Alaska. Other than that, a couple of scout teams, Seattle Stars, that kind of thing.
SC: You've added some velocity since your college days, but control and command-—particularly the ability to keep the ball low in the zone—-seem to be the biggest advances. Were those improvements mechanically related, or more just understanding pitching?
FS: Definitely more of the latter. I've had just natural climbs in velocity that I think come with maturing and putting on weight, but nothing mechanically related. I think that once I got to pro ball I just started getting with more experienced pitching coaches that really understood pitching on a higher level, and they helped me to understand it better, too. Mechanically I haven't really changed much at all, I just know now how beneficial pitching low in the zone can be, how pitching inside helps and improving my off-speed pitches help, knowing when I need to throw certain pitches, etc. I'm still learning, but I'm tackling it a day at a time and trying to get a little better each time out.
SC: You were working with (Seattle's MLB Pitching Coach) Carl Willis down in Arizona before the AFL kicked off--what bits of wisdom did he give you?
FS: He was down here until about a week and a half ago. He is a great guy and very knowledgeable, I can't wait to throw for him. But he really just told me to keep doing what I'm doing and keep working hard. I'm having a lot of success right now, so neither one of us really wants to change anything. More than anything he was just giving me words of encouragement to keep at it.
SC: Yeah, you've been having a little bit of success. You're leading the AFL in ERA (0.00) and WHIP (0.34) and posting a downright silly (.051/.098/.077) line against--would you say you understand yourself as a pitcher better now than at the begging of 2011?
FS: I would say that is it a little bit, but I've been just sticking with what has been working in my routine, whether I'm starting--like I will be again on Monday, trying to go three innings and make it all the way through the order--or coming out of the bullpen. I'm trying hard to just stay with what has been working. I'm commanding my fastball well, using both sides of the plate, mixing in the off-speed pitches at the right time. I'm hoping to keep at it and riding it out as far as it will go.
SC: So you're starting (Monday). In 2010 you pitched all out of the bullpen and in 2011 you started off only starting before jumping two more levels and doing a little of both. Where do you feel most comfortable?
FS: It's definitely a different mindset for the two, but I'm comfortable doing both. I'm just trying to show the Mariners that I can do whichever role they want me to do to the best of my abilities. I want to be versatile, so whether it is grabbing a spot in the rotation or coming out of the pen, but as long as I can show them that I'm adaptable, then I figure that my climb (to the big leagues) might be a little faster.
SC: What are the biggest differences in approach for you between the two roles?
FS: I throw a little harder out of the bullpen, but really it is more about being more aggressive and working to force contact using all of my pitches. Coming in and immediately pitching backwards. I closed in Clinton last year and that really taught me to come in and be as aggressive as possible and, late in the game, let the hitters really get themselves out. Starting, for me, is a little different since I'm trying to go seven or eight innings, facing the lineup two or three times, maybe saving some pitches for second time through the order to give the hitter something they haven't seen yet, that sort of thing. I think I really understand both routines well, so I'm just waiting to hear from the Mariners where they want me and then I'll develop a steady routine from there.
SC: You've primarily been relying on fastball/change-up thus far in the AFL. But, starting (Monday), will you be mixing the pitches up more, maybe throwing that split-finger you've been telling me about a few times?
FS: You know, I'm going to be honest: that split-finger has been pretty nasty lately. I threw it a little in the bullpen (on Saturday) and threw some on flat ground (Sunday), it's really been working. It is going to be an out pitch for me, something I throw down out of the zone with two strikes since it is a swing-and-miss pitch. I'll throw my slider or curveball, or both--whatever is working best for me. But even starting, I'm still going to be primarily a fastball/circle change-up guy. It's my bread-and-butter and it's been working for me, so for the most part I'll just keep sticking to my guns.
SC: Do you set goals for yourself year-to-year, start-to-start, day-to-day?
FS: Oh yeah, definitely.
SC: What are your goals that you want to accomplish between now and Spring Training 2012 reporting day?
FS: I want to gain some weight, get on a consistent nutrition plan, put on maybe 10 or 15 pounds so I can get up around 230-235 by Spring Training. I feel like mass helps move the ball, so with that hopefully I can get a couple more miles-per-hour on my fastball. Other than that it's just improving consistency with a breaking ball--weather that be the slider or the curveball--just get one working and go with it. I'd really like to crack the big league training camp roster; that might be my biggest goal even though that's out of my hands, but I understand that. Other than that, just crush a lot of weights down at the Safeco gym with Charlie Kenyon, our Triple-A strength coach in Tacoma, he is there full time. Get bigger, get stronger and hopefully get smarter at the same time, and everything else will take care of itself.
SC: What do you do to stay motivated in what is no doubt a year-round grind to stay on the top of your game as a professional baseball player?
FS: I really don't think that there is any outside motivation that I could need. Being from Seattle, having the chance to fulfill a dream that I've had since I was five...that right there is all the motivation I need.
SC: Alright Forrest. I thank you very much for taking the time to talk with me today. I wish you continued success and hope your dream comes true soon.
FS: Thank you Rick. Any time.