TigsTown: What's the off-season been like this year?
Thad Weber: I've been extremely busy since I've gotten home from the fall league. I've not only been preparing myself for the upcoming year by working out and throwing, but I've been working a lot as well so I can keep providing for my family. I'm also spending a lot of time with my wife and daughter as well. So it's been really busy, without much down time.
TT: Having played in the fall league that obviously shortens your off-season a bit. How has that impacted your preparation for the 2010 season?
TW: It impacted it a little bit. I think last year I started throwing in mid-December, so I had to adjust some things. I talked to a few guys that had played in the fall league before, Zach Simons and Rudy Darrow, just to gauge how they went about it. I took probably about a month off then got back to working out, and started throwing probably around early January. I had to adjust a few things, but I was never really too worried about being ready on time. It was just a matter of getting all the work in.
TT: When are you getting ready to head to Lakeland?
TW: I'm going to be heading down there a little later this month [January]. I want to get there a little early and start working out a couple weeks earlier than when we have to report for spring training.
TT: We talked a little bit last fall about the arm trouble that you had last year, and the time you missed going on the disabled list. Can you update us on how the arm is feeling now?
TW: It feels really good! At the end of the year up in Erie, it was kind of a weird thing. It was something I thought might have been serious, but it really wasn't. I got through that and got down to Arizona expecting to be good to go, and then had that little flare up that might have been some fatigue or something like that. Once I got healthy down in the fall league, my arm felt just as good as it had all year. It was almost more of a mental thing, getting over that and reassuring myself that my arm was okay. In all the throwing I've done so far this off-season, its felt fine.
TT: You had quite the year last year, starting out in Lakeland and then earning a promotion to Erie; did it ever feel like you were being rushed?
TW: No, it really didn't. With the expectations I had for myself going into the year, I kind of figured after starting at West Michigan the year before, that I would get a chance to establish myself and just have a good year in Lakeland. I was fortunate enough to throw well down in Lakeland and then get to go to the All-Star game and enjoy that. Obviously, going to Double-A during your first full year is nothing to complain about. It felt good. I was obviously very fortunate and blessed to be given that opportunity to move up there and pitch at that level.
TT: A lot of times, you will hear that that jump from A-ball to Double-A is the toughest in the minor leagues. Did you struggle with that at all?
TW: Maybe just a little bit early on. Anytime you go to a new level, you can talk to pretty much any guy there and they'll say that when you get there you're going to try to do a little too much. I think I may have done that just a little bit. My first start in Double-A went really well, and then I went through that adjustment period, and that period where I had to look at myself, and I had to look at myself and realize where I was and get that confidence back. After about two or three starts in Double-A, I kind of settled into who I was. Once I was confident with who I was and what I had to deal with, things just really started to roll from there.
TT: One of the highlights of last season had to be the no-hitter against Akron. Did you feel different in any way as you were preparing for that game, maybe a little more focused, a little better stuff, something like that?
TW: I really didn't prepare for that game any different. Everything that happened that day was much the same as it always was. My pre-game routine and bullpen were good, but nothing out of the ordinary. The focus was there from start to finish, but as the game progressed, I think my stuff picked up a little bit, especially in the later innings.
TT: The third inning error ended any hopes of a perfect game, but at what point did you start to think about what might be happening?
TW: When I got through the heart of their order (3-4-5) in the 7th inning without any trouble, I knew the possibility was there but you just never know. I had a really good feeling just because Jeff Kunkel and I were on the same page the whole night.
TT: You always hear of the superstitions of players, things like not talking to a pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter, were all of those traditions alive in the dugout that day?
TW: They were alive and well in the dugout, but I really didn't want them to be. Even when I'm pitching, I like to talk and interact with the guys in between innings. Around the 4th to 5th inning is when everyone was starting to ignore me. As the innings went on, I kept trying to talk to guys to keep myself relaxed, but they just would nod their head and get away from me.
TT: Take me through the ninth inning of that game...a line-out to Danny Worth to start the inning, and two strikeouts to finish it off. Tell me about those three hitters and what was going through your mind.
TW: To be honest, the 9th inning went so fast and the adrenaline was pumping so hard that I had to go back after the game and remember what happened. The last hitter I'll never forget. I went two curveballs for strikes (probably the best of the day) and then Jeff called for a fastball off the plate away. I honestly threw it as hard as I could and it was up and kind of out over the plate and he swung through it. The next thing I know, everyone is mobbing me and celebrating. The whole experience was very memorable because of the coaches and teammates that I had in Erie. Jeff played a huge part as well, and I was very grateful for that. It was definitely something I'll never forget.
TT: You're obviously in the upper levels of the system now, does it start to occur to you that you're getting closer to the big leagues, or do you try to keep that out of your mind?
TW: I think a little bit of both. Obviously we're in this game to play in the big leagues and to reach that top level, but a the same time I have to stay grounded and stay focused on what I'm doing right now. I have to put in my time at Double-A and Triple-A, and allow myself to develop. I have to make sure that when and if I do get the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues, that I'm 100% ready to do that.
TT: Last fall you mentioned that the keys for you were gaining consistency with your curveball and improving your ability to work to both sides of the plate. Are those still the big things you are going to focus on in spring training, or do you have some other things on your plate now?
TW: I think those are always going to be something I work on. Commanding the fastball is priority number one no matter where I'm pitching. My breaking ball has always kind of been my bread and butter, and the pitch that I love, and just getting consistent with that is a big thing. It got a lot better as the year went on, and it was a good pitch for me out in the fall league. I need to develop my change-up as well. That was one of the things I was really proud of when I got to Erie, was how much better my change-up got and how much more I was able to use that effectively to both left-handed and right-handed hitters.
TT: When you're going right, what do you think is the key to your game and what allows you to be successful?
TW: Throwing strikes and being aggressive. I'm not a guy that is terribly overpowering or anything like that. I just have a solid three-pitch mix and when I'm pounding the zone, mixing it up, and just allowing hitters to get themselves out is when I think I'm at my best.
TT: Away from the field a little bit Thad, you entered pro ball with a different situation than a lot of guys, being married and having a child already. How does that impact your interaction with your teammates, or maybe your life away from the field during the season?
TW: I mean during the year it doesn't really impact things too much, just because my wife and daughter are back here in Nebraska while I'm off playing. I think I'm probably a little bit more mature and grounded than some of the younger high school guys, and even some of the guys that are coming out of college. I'm a guy that likes to stay home and relax and kind of do my thing, and then when I get to the field, just do my work.
TT: You mentioned going to work, and that leads me into my next question. A lot of times people will talk about a player having finally started to take things a little more seriously or realize that this is their job and not just a game anymore. Is that something that has already clicked with you since you have people at home relying on you to support them?
TW: Oh yeah, there's no doubt about it. I've got what I think is the best wife in professional baseball and she's behind me 100%, and whatever I need to do here at home to get myself ready, sometimes that means I have to sacrifice time with her, and she understands that for me to get to the big leagues, the work needs to be done. That's the key, is having the family support system around me that while this is fun and I'm playing baseball for my job, it is my job.
TT: Going back a little bit, to the time right around the draft in 2008, walk me through that day and what it was like with you and your family.
TW: It was exciting! I kind of knew what it was going to be like having been drafted the previous year, but you can never replicate the excitement and the butterflies you get on draft day. It's something I will never forget!
TT: Did you know the Tigers were really on you, or did them picking you come as a surprise?
TW: It was kind of a surprise. Being a senior, I wasn't a guy that was ever a top round guy, so you just talk to everybody and they feel you out and see if you really want to play. I talked to the Tigers area guy maybe once or twice and I was lucky enough that he liked me a lot and gave me the opportunity to play professional baseball.
TT: We talked about your family a little bit and your other commitments, was there every any hesitation about signing, or any thought of heading down a different career path?
TW: No, never! There were some scouts from other teams that had floated some things about me around draft time that maybe I wasn't 100% into it and I didn't want to play, but that was never the case. I was going to play whether I went in the first round or I was signed as a free agent. This is my dream, and always what I wanted to do, and there was nothing that was going to stop me.
TT: Looking forward to the 2010 season, what are some of the goals you've set for yourself?
TW: It's probably the same mindset I had last year, and that's just go in and be myself and not try to prove anybody wrong. I need to be who I am and stay consistent. If I could do anything, I would just replicate the kind of year I had last year by starting strong and staying strong through the middle. If I could change anything, I would probably want to finish a little stronger than I did last year.
TT: The last question I've got is my staple for closing an interview. The floor is yours to pontificate on whatever you want as the last word in the interview.
TW: I don't have a whole lot, but I just want to say that I'm very fortunate and blessed by God to have the opportunity to play professional baseball. Like I said, this has always been a dream of mine and to have this opportunity has always been a once in a lifetime experience. I'll continue to work hard day in and day out to try and be a person that can help the big league ball club on a daily basis.
TigsTown would like to thank Thad for taking time out of his busy off-season and time away from his family to speak with us about his career and the upcoming season. We look forward to seeing him on the season this year, and just like him, we hope to see him helping the big league club down the line.