The Rangers drafted right-handed pitcher Tanner Roark in the 25th round last Friday afternoon.
Roark is a bit of a mystery in that he was listed as not having a school on MLB.com's draft board, but he did play college baseball.
The 6-foot-2 hurler spent two seasons at the University of Illinois, where he was an All-Big 10 selection. As a freshman, he tied a team-high with four wins and finished second on the club with a 4.99 ERA in 11 appearances [10 starts].
Roark broke out in his sophomore season, going 8-2 with a 4.55 ERA. In 83 innings pitched, he surrendered 102 hits while walking 33 and fanning 46.
The righty suffered crippling news in January when he learned that he would not be back with the Illini because of academic issues.
Roark then took his game to the independent Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League. He predictably struggled, giving up 23 earned runs in 9.2 innings. The 21-year-old, who had just two years of collegiate experience, was going up against older guys who had already seen time in professional baseball.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with Roark for an interview a few days after he was drafted.
Jason Cole: What did it feel like to get drafted by the Rangers the other day?
Tanner Roark: It felt like a relief. I was excited and I can't wait to get started. I can't wait to prove myself and show the Texas Rangers what I have.
Cole: Were you picked about where you were expecting to go?
Roark: Actually, no I wasn't. I was picked 25th round, but I had heard the 8th through the 12th. So I was starting to get a little frustrated because 8th through 12th and then 25th is kind of a big difference. But I just got a little frustrated and I had to stop watching it online. My dad was watching it.
Cole: Did you talk to the Rangers much before the draft?
Roark: I just filled out a questionnaire. I had no idea that the Rangers were that interested in me.
Cole: How much have you talked to them since the draft?
Roark: I've talked to the area scout – Derek Lee. I think we're meeting today [Monday] sometime around 3:30 to finalize everything.
Cole: So you'll be signing the contract today?
Cole: Have the Rangers told you anything about where you will be reporting after you've signed?
Roark: Yeah. I think they are sending me out to Surprise, Arizona.
Cole: So you'll be there for the rookie league?
Cole: Tell me about yourself as a pitcher. Give me a little bit of a scouting report, if you can. What pitches do you throw and what speeds do you usually work around?
Roark: My fastball, it moves when I get out in front. I throw a fastball, a slider, I'm working on my curveball, and my changeup. That is coming along. The consistency of it is what I have got to work on when I get out there to Arizona. I'd say my fastball would be around 88 to 91 or 92.
Cole: What pitch do you consider to be your best?
Roark: I would say my slider.
Cole: Which would you say could use the most work?
Roark: I would say my curveball and also my changeup. Keeping those two pitches consistent.
Cole: Have you been throwing your changeup for awhile or is that something you added while you were in college?
Roark: That is something I added when I was a sophomore. I was trying to practice throwing it – getting the right grip. I've used tons of different grips. I finally found one that works for me, so I've been using that grip.
Cole: As you go out to Surprise, now that you get to work with professional coaches, what are you looking forward to working on most out there?
Roark: Just the consistency of all the pitches I have. I want to keep everything looking the same on every pitch.
Cole: You played at the University of Illinois for two seasons and you were with an independent league team this year. What is the talent level like there compared to college ball?
Roark: A lot of those guys have been through the farm systems. They have been through Double-A and Single-A and stuff like that. A lot of the hitters are a lot more patient and they don't chase any of your offspeed stuff or go after bad pitches. They're waiting to hit your pitch and not chase anything. They are very patient.
Cole: How did you end up there? Did you try out for them or did they contact you first?
Roark: Yeah, the head coach – Mike Pinto – he contacted me. He found out I wasn't in school anymore, so he contacted me and I got to go down there. I signed with them and played with them until I found out I was getting drafted by the Rangers.
Cole: So you had been with them right until the draft?
Cole: Did you have people scouting you in the independent league as well?
Roark: There were a couple of scouts there, but they just had the gun up. I didn't really talk to anybody there.
Cole: What would you say has been the best moment of your baseball career so far?
Roark: Back in high school, our team was very, very good. We won state as sophomores with 10 guys on the team. Then my junior year we got third and my senior year we won state again. We were 41-1 my senior year. Also, I was named All-Conference Big 10 Second Team in 2007.
Q&A with Rangers 25th Round Pick Tanner Roark
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