Padres' Prospect Interview: Wade LeBlanc

A college lefty believed to be polished, Wade LeBlanc proved to be as advertised when he was promoted to the Fort Wayne Wizards and helped them in their playoff push with a 4-1 mark down the stretch. Having pitched with Brent Carter at Alabama, he hopes to follow the path of success his former teammate has carved in the San Diego Padres' system.

Alabama is obviously known for its tradition on the football field and its rabid fans but baseball is becoming a big part of the tradition and getting recognized for its players coming out.

Wade LeBlanc: As long as the success continues then the support that goes along with it will continue to grow. It was good that we were able to host a Super Regional, even though we didn't win. It opened a lot of people's eyes to Alabama baseball. Hopefully next year we will see more support.

As a baseball player, did you get caught up in the world of Bama football?

Wade LeBlanc: You can, you can. As they got on their unbeaten streak and got up to third in the nation, I think everyone started to catch that fever. It was fun to egg them on – it was a shame they didn't get into the National Championship.

Now you began the year with the Eugene Emeralds, did you see any difference in the competition level when you first came out?

Wade LeBlanc: No, the funny thing is the same guys we faced are the same guys we faced in college. I think it is just whoever has the ability to adjust to their surroundings, not necessarily just the people they are playing against. It is whoever has the ability to adjust to Oregon versus the south. Whoever can do that the easiest tends to have the most success.

You were drafted pretty high, was there any thought given to going back to school to finish things out?

Wade LeBlanc: Not really. I felt like we achieved a lot as a team and I did as much as I could do at Alabama and it was time to move on. I felt like I was ready as I was going to be.

Talk to me about Brent Carter, a teammate of your at one time at Alabama. He was lost for the year with his injury but you are similar pitchers.

Wade LeBlanc: We both are control, command guys with good off-speed stuff. I think it is fun to watch Brent pitch. It was a shame to see he ended the season the way he did. He was having a lot of success with a chance to end the year in Double-A. He is going to rehab as hard as he can, I know Brent, and he will be ready to go.

Do you look at your career and think how nice it would be to model it after the path he has carved, being successful everywhere he has gone?

Wade LeBlanc: It is easier said than done to copy a guy that has done it before you. You kind of like to look at what he has done and say, ‘if he has done it why can't you?' I just have to come out here and pitch my game and everything will be OK.

When you got to Eugene, you had the advantage of throwing to Alabama teammate Kody Valverde. Talk about that and continuing the relationship.

Wade LeBlanc: That is one of those blessings that doesn't come around very often, the opportunity to pitch to the same guy you have thrown to for a while. The ability for him to know what I like to throw in certain situations and the ability to think along with each other makes it a lot easier.

You talked about the off-speed pitches, what speeds are you working at and how do you compliment the changeup?

Wade LeBlanc: I throw fastball, changeup, curveball. I think my changeup is one of my more effective pitches. The ability to keep all of them down and command both sides of the plate is the biggest thing. Regardless of what kind of stuff you have, if you can command everything you throw at any point in the count it makes it hard for the hitters.

Is the curveball a pitch that is still developing at this stage?

Wade LeBlanc: No, I think I have a decent curveball. It is not really a strikeout pitch. It is one of those pitches you can throw for a strike when you need it. I think I have a good enough one to keep hitters off-balance and at this level that is all you need.

You said ‘at this level' but looking ahead to the future does that hold true or need more refinement?

Wade LeBlanc: Well, I think as you move up in the systems you have to adjust with the hitters you face. As they get better you have to get better. If they see your pitches easier than you have to develop another pitch. It is just adjusting with the game and the level of hitters you face.

At the same time it really just boils down to keeping the ball down in the zone.

Wade LeBlanc: That is the biggest thing. If you have average stuff – you don't need unbelievable stuff if you can keep it at the knees and work it in and out.

How has a guy like pitching coach Wally Whitehurst been able to help you out while you were in Eugene?

Wade LeBlanc: He is a very intense guy that likes to keep you on your game. I think that makes it easier to come out everyday and knowing he can teach you something new that might help you.

Perhaps it is ironic, but through much of your first season you have been better against righties than lefties. Any reason for that?

Wade LeBlanc: I don't know why that is. Maybe I have some work against left-handers before a lot of success can start coming my way. I don't think I need to get too much of a hurry (worrying about it).

Was it tough when you started out working as a starter and reliever before settling in?

Wade LeBlanc: It can be if you don't prepare to know what you are going to be doing. As you get into the routine, everyday you start to expect what you are doing that day and it makes it easier.

You had some time off at the end of the year before going to professional ball – but you still had a full college season and then another half-season in the Padres' system. Have you been tired?

Wade LeBlanc: Not yet. I don't want to jinx anything. I think I took two weeks off after the Super Regionals. It was a matter of getting your legs back under you and the feel for your pitches again.

When I addressed you as Wade LeBlanc, using the proper French pronunciation you looked at me funny – but you are protective of your name, is that correct?

Wade LeBlanc: It is a point of pride. It has been handed down a long time. It is one of those things that not many people can say right and when they do it is kind of surprising. They didn't say it right in Alabama.

With that said, how has your family aided you through this entire process and pursuing your dream?

Wade LeBlanc: They helped me through all the hard times. They have been there through all the easy times too, obviously. There is only a special few that can stand by you when you are not doing well. There are people who follow you when you are doing well and abandon you when you are struggling but family will always be there – they are the people who are going to support you regardless of how you are playing. I think it has been a big support for me that they continued to stand by me.

What has been a "hard" time for you?

Wade LeBlanc: Just those games where you go out and feel like you don't have anything and feel like you let your team down, your family down. They are always there to reassure you that they will be there regardless of how you do.

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