Troy Cate: "I Always Knew I'd Make It"

Nobody has higher expectations of himself than San Antonio southpaw Troy Cate, a late-bloomer who has proven people wrong time and time again throughout his baseball career. InsidethePark's Joe Weiss caught up with Cate recently to get an update on the season and life as a dad.

Although San Antonio Missions starter Troy Cate is a Mormon, a member of a Western-based faith so relatively new that it antedates the Industrial Revolution, the story of his life is more illustrative of an ancient, Eastern truism: what you see on the outside is but an illusion, and all current states are temporary ones.

In the paraphrased words of a famous philosopher who never knew the game but would have enjoyed its great potential for metaphor: you never step onto the same pitcher's mound twice.

"I was never flagged by any of the scouts in high school," Cate told in an interview yesterday.

Not only did he not look the part, he admits, but his pitch speed topped out at 82 MPH, a mark considered low in the radar-gun-scrutinizing eyes of baseball's gatekeepers. Meanwhile, Cate's bigger, brawnier peers were hotly pursued.

"They had the talent, the build, everything," he said, reflecting back.

Fast forward to the present day, and the self-described "short, fat kid" from the ages of eight to sixteen now stands tall and slender, the ace of the Missions' staff. Meanwhile, Cate's boyhood chums are conspicuous in their anonymity; if Cate still remembers their names, he didn't let on.

Last year in particular was a time of flux for the California-native. In April of 2003, Cate's wife Holly gave birth to their first child, Olivia, and the creation of a new life sent shockwaves through his own. Suddenly, the daily grind wasn't just about taking in air and having a good time, but providing for others.

Ideas were reevaluated, as well.

"I found a new meaning of love," he said. "I mean, [fatherhood] makes you mature in a lot of ways… Now I want to pursue my dream [of pitching in the Majors] even harder because I look and see that I have a wife and child to support."

And they seem to make a good team, their own little "Troy to Holly to Olivia / Happiest of possible words" combination of familial support. Not only does Holly attend the Missions' games (even the ones Troy's not starting), but in her own way she helps make sure her husband maintains his Glavine-like strikeout-to-walk ratio (153:37 in 160 innings for Inland Empire in 2003).

"My wife and I have a little game where, before I go and pitch, she'll set goals for me for the night," he said. "Like, she'll say, ‘no walks [on the night].'"

What happens on the rare occasions that Cate does surrender a free pass?

"If I gave up a walk, after the game, she'll say, ‘ONE WALK!,'" said Cate, raising his voice to imitate what happens, his facial expression showing a sort of wide-eyed ferocity.

The faux wifely recriminations are working: this season; the only Missions starter with a comparable number of innings pitched is Juan Done (43.2 to Cate's 42.1). Troy, though, has thrown less than half as many base-on-balls (11 to Done's 23). Perhaps, then, Holly might have a career as a pitching coach or, if nothing else, an inspirational speaker for at-risk youth.

Those attending a game at the Wolff fortunate enough to land a seat in the rows behind home plate might catch a glimpse of little Olivia, now 13 months old, as she scampers from caretaker to mother to caretaker. She's a teeny mascot of sorts patrolling a small area, but she's making a big impact with her beaming smile and bright eyes.

And every so often, her father will take to the mound, a completely different mound than last start, plying his craft and building for her with every strike tossed a future she's too young to concern herself with by taking part in an institution she doesn't yet understand.

"I always knew I'd make it," Cate said. "That might sound like a cocky way of looking at things, but it's true."

If Cate, his family, the Mariners and their fans have their way, the truth will out very soon, and the only changes in the life and career of this budding prospect will be improvements.

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