2010 MLB Draft Q&A: Cayle Shambaugh

A talented lefty with a desire to leave it all out on the field every game, Cayle Shambaugh has made a national name for himself out of tiny Jay, Oklahoma. We sat down to discuss his stuff, his passion for sports, and how he dealt with a serious injury that he sustained in the fall.

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Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Are you still 6'0", 185 lbs?

Cayle Shambaugh: I'm actually getting a little heavier. I've been hitting the weights a bit more since I got released, and I'm pretty close to 190 lbs.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What do you mean you got released?

Cayle Shambaugh: I broke my arm in our first football game this past year on September 5th, the radius bone in my right arm, and ended up having surgery on it to put in a six inch plate with six screws. It kind of worried us for a while - I was in a removable splint until December. My rehab was getting it out of the splint three times a day to work on getting the flexibility back, but I was able to do it six times a day because I had little to no pain. When January 14th came around the doctor said I was clear to do everything again, just start out with light weights and progress from there. Weights, hitting, whatever, he released me to do it.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Usually when I speak to pitchers they're working out to put weight on in their legs. Is that the case with you?

Cayle Shambaugh: I'm doing it for my whole body because right now I'm committed to Oklahoma University and they have me as a two-way player, so I'm doing both upper and lower body, and abs. I'm really focusing on abs because you have to have a strong core to do anything in baseball.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What position would you be playing in the field?

Cayle Shambaugh : Outfield – I play centerfield at our high school, but I can play anywhere out there. If you can play one, you can play them all in the outfield, it's not too complicated. (laughs)

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Before we really dive into baseball, what more can you tell us about you and football?

Cayle Shambaugh: Well, I played football this season, and I wasn't going to play this year, my senior year, but I was receiving letters from OU and other big D-1 schools for it. Football was my favorite sport, and I didn't want to play because I didn't want to get hurt, but what if something good happened and I could go to OU, OSU, or Texas A&M? I was getting these letters and it was just really neat deal, so that's why I decided to go ahead and play.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So you were getting these letters to play football at those schools, not baseball? What position do you play?

Cayle Shambaugh: Yeah, to play football. I'm a free safety.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So even though football is your favorite sport, you would rather take the baseball path?

Cayle Shambaugh: Yeah, I've come to realize that I have a better chance of a longer career in baseball than in football. Football is a really rough sport and you have to be pretty freakishly big to play it.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So what is that like for you having to say goodbye to playing the sport that is your first love?

Cayle Shambaugh: It's just part of life. You've just got to realize sometimes that you're not meant to play certain sports, and if the greater being wants you to play something else you just have to recognize it, suck it up, and go out there to do what you're made to do.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: When was it that you knew you were pretty good at baseball?

Cayle Shambaugh: I was never the worst kid, but I was never the top one. When we were little I was always the guy that was average height and average weight. It was around high school, my freshman year actually when I was playing varsity football, when this opposing running back who was about 6'1", 220 lbs and could run like a 4.5 40 just absolutely truck-sticked me. That's when I realized I had to hit the weights a little bit because I was 5'8" or 5'9", 140 lbs and he just ran over me like I was nothing. After that it was just weights, weights, weights for me, and in between my freshman and sophomore years I think I hit 92 MPH off the mound at a showcase. That made me think that if I ever matured, learned how to pitch instead of just throw hard, I could be good, and my sophomore year really was a big difference from my freshman year on the mound.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So what was it like that first time you hit 90 MPH?

Cayle Shambaugh: Well, I figured I was throwing hard because the radar guns started multiplying. We always had that one gun, then I threw a pitch and then there's three guns, then another pitch and there's six guns, and it just got bigger an bigger. So I figured I was throwing hard and I didn't know how hard, but I knew my arm felt really good and it was about 95 degrees that day – a hot summer day. My dad came up to me and asked how my arm felt, and I said "pretty good," and he said "well, you hit 92 MPH." I was really ecstatic, and it was almost unbelievable because I never thought I could hit 92 MPH, but it was just crazy.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How is being from a Midwest state made it more difficult to keep up with the guys from the warm weather places like Florida and California?

Cayle Shambaugh: I think our season starts March 5th, and there are a lot of times at the beginning of the season where it's like 28 degrees, too cold to play baseball, I mean it's just freezing. We usually get a good week of that stuff to start the year, where you'll have on three Under Armour Cold Gear shirts, standing there shaking think "man, this is crazy," but if you want to play baseball, you've got to play somehow. It does make things a little more difficult at times, and in Oklahoma you know the weather is just stupid [laughs]. I mean, it was 75 degrees here two weeks ago and then last week we got a big snowstorm, so we got to be outside for three days, and now we're stuck inside for two weeks. So you never really know what you're going to get in Oklahoma, and of course it never hurts when it's in the 80s year round in Cali or Florida.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What was it like going to showcases?

Cayle Shambaugh: Well at first it was really nervous, you go out and see all these scouts and think "oh my goodness," because when you're from a small town like Jay which has a total population of maybe 2,000-2,500, it's crazy to see 500 kids at some of the showcases you go to. I guess it's a reality check, of how small your town is when you grow up thinking it's big, and just to get out and experience the real world. Showcases like that are really an eye opener coming from a small town.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Has it been difficult to stay involved in the national scene when most of the major showcases are held far away from you?

Cayle Shambaugh: I went to tryouts in Arkansas for the Under Armour game, but I mainly stayed in Oklahoma for showcases. We've had the chance to go to Jupiter, but that's a lot of time, energy, and money making the trip from Oklahoma, and a lot of scouts told me that my name was already out there, that my area guys will come to see me, and it was alright to stay close to home.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What was It like going to Wrigley for the UA game?

Cayle Shambaugh: Oh man, that was indescribable. I can still tell this story like it was yesterday: I got to talk to Cal Ripken, Jr. up there, and that to me was almost as nerve-racking as the actual game! It really was, I mean the guy is Hall of Famer and I got to sit down and talk to him for probably 15 minutes, and I was almost on the verge of shaking because it was so nerve-racking. Under Armour really did a good job with giving us all the gear that we needed - they just spoiled us. Then to actually get to play on the field, it was just…you know the dream that you have when you're a little kid to play on a Major League field? It was coming true. It was just awesome, and it makes you really want to work hard, get drafted, and play on one for good one day.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How did you decide on the Sooners? What other schools were you considering?

Cayle Shambaugh: I thought it was the best fit. We had a lot of coaches saying "hey, you're our #1," but when it came down to giving me a scholarship that's when you know how bad they really want you. Of course they're all going to say they want you badly because you're a lefty and all that, but when it comes down to the money, the scholarship offer, that's when you know how serious they really are. It was really between OU and Wichita State, and OU ended up being free and I really like the coaches there. Nothing against the coaches at Wichita State, I just had a better fit at OU and it was my home state. I just really enjoyed being down there and think it's going to be fun going to college there.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How much have you thought about the draft?

Cayle Shambaugh: It goes in and out. Some days you think "man, it's really cool that I could be drafted," but you can't really live in that – the "what-ifs?" For me, right now I think "you're still just a kid from Jay, Oklahoma. You've proven nothing to no one yet on that level." So I try not to think about it too much, but then when I'm working out, or it comes time to hit, I try to keep that intensity. When I'm feeling slow or tired I just try to think "hey, you've got a chance to get drafted, you've got a chance to do some things, so suck it up for an hour or however long, and then you can go back to being sleepy." When I think about the draft I use it as a self-motivator, but I don't sit around thinking about it because you don't know that you're going to get drafted, and you don't know how your senior year is going to go, I mean you wish for the best, but you don't know how it's going to turn out.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: When you do allow yourself to dream about playing baseball for a living, what do you picture?

Cayle Shambaugh: Well, right now it's a split dream. I love to pitch, but man, I also love to hit. I guess if I had to pick one I would love to play every day, play the field, because, well, you get to play every day! I just think it would be so cool to wake up and have your job as playing a game. When it comes down to it, it's a game, you know? It would be so cool to love your job and have baseball as your career, and not many people get to say that.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Most of the scouting services are recognizing you only as a LHP, so if it comes down to it and a team wanted you to be a full-time pitcher, how much of a role would that factor into your decision to take a contract or not?

Cayle Shambaugh: Probably not at all to be honest. If I feel I'm mature enough as a pitcher or a position player when the draft comes, then I'm going to go, but if I don't feel like I'm ready then obviously I'll go to college and get better, gain that maturity, or whatever they feel I need to improve on.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Have you retained an advisor?

Cayle Shambaugh: No. My parents had one, but after they talked to some people they didn't feel the need for one right now. They can't get you drafted any higher, it's your abilities that will get you drafted, and while it's neat to say "my parents have an advisor," it's no big loss not to have one at this point.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Have you heard from a lot of teams to this point?

Cayle Shambaugh: I would say close to 20 right now.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Any contact from the Yankees?

Cayle Shambaugh: No I haven't, but I'm still hoping. I'm a really big Yankees fan and it kind of makes me sad, but that's alright [laughs]. I love the Yankees, man.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Give me a detailed description of your stuff and your approach on the mound.

Cayle Shambaugh: I like to establish the fastball. That's my main goal because if you can do that then the tone of the game is a lot different. When I'm on the mound I like to have a presence, even between innings I want people to think "oh God, Shambaugh's throwing," you know? I like to work inside because a good inside fastball is really hard to hit - I know from a hitting standpoint that you need to do a lot to even have a chance of hitting it correctly, and there's just not that many people at this level, and even in college, that can get to that good inside fastball on the hands. I just recently got a really good feel for my changeup, it's a circle change, within the past year I've got that down, and I think that's one of my better off-speed pitches now. Most of the time it's a straight change, but when I get that roll off my last three fingers just right it moves a little bit, but I don't get that all that often.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How hard are you throwing your fastball now? Do you thrown more than one?

Cayle Shambaugh: It would be safe to say my fastball is in the low 90s now. This summer someone said it hit 96 MPH, but I know I've been at 94 MPH a couple of times. When I hit that 92 MPH a couple of years ago it let me know that I could do it, but now I've matured, gotten bigger and stronger, and I'm staying in the low 90s. This summer I started experimenting with another fastball, and plan to throw it in the spring. Usually I was just throwing a two-seam, and everyone said that the four-seam was supposed to go harder, but if you've never thrown it before it's kind of uncomfortable. So I had to get used to throwing a four-seam, and I did that this past summer, to where now it feels as comfortable as my two-seam.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What breaking pitches do you throw?

Cayle Shambaugh: I have a slider, and it's weird how it came about. We were trying to work on a cut-fastball, dealing with finger pressure and all that different stuff. So I'm trying to throw the cut-fastball, move my hand over a little bit, change my grip up, and throw it, and it ends up being a late-breaking slider. My dad said, "what was that?" and I said "I don't know…" So he said, "throw it again!" I did, and to the point that I was throwing that as my go-to pitch this summer.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is your mindset on the mound?

Cayle Shambaugh: I like to pitch with a lot of intensity. I have a serious face, and like to get to where I don't hear anything – get into a zone. I don't mind walking out there, not strutting, but letting people know that I'm not scared. Not cocky, but having a presence and letting everyone know that you're not scared at all. That's important to me because people can pick up on that. If a guy steps in the box and looks scared you can tell – his bat is moving around a bit or something, and I like to be tuned in to all of that, to stay in my zone where people know that I have my A-game. I might not even have it that day, but it's good for people to think that. I'm not scared of hitters. I have respect for good hitters, but I'm not scared of them, and I'm not afraid to throw the fastball.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So how did you end up a Yankee fan being from Oklahoma?

Cayle Shambaugh: I have family members that are Yankee fans. I was brought up that way, even before you're old enough to realize that there are actually professional baseball teams, or even what their names are, I was always all about blue and white pinstripes. It's funny because my traveling team when we were 13 and 14 won state and nationals, and we actually had the replica Yankees grays, and go-lly they were sweet looking! People would always ask us "are you guys from New York?" and sometimes we would say "yeah, we're from New York," just to mess with people. I mean, we had the replica Yankees jerseys, the hats, and it was pretty sharp looking. When you're that young it made you kind of feel like you were playing for the Yankees, and that felt cool.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I heard you met CC Sabathia in the past week or two, is that true?

Cayle Shambaugh: Yeah, I did! He's a BIG man [laughs]. I'm pretty close to 6'1", and he's around 6'7". It was for the Warren Spahn Award, where they recognize the top five baseball players in Oklahoma, as well as the top five softball players, and the Warren Spahn Award is given to the best left-handed pitcher in the Major Leagues, and of course he won it. So he was there and was the main superstar that we were going to get to meet, and he ended up being a really nice guy. You know you have speculations about when you're going to meet people like him, whether or not they're going to "big-league" you or they're going to be down to earth, and he was just so nice. He signed autographs until his hand was probably sore, just so nice, and it was really nice to meet someone like that who took the time, sad hi, and talked to you for as long as he could before he had to go. It was a really neat deal.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is Mickey Mantle still seen as a big deal by your generation of kids in Oklahoma?

Cayle Shambaugh: Yeah, Mickey Mantle is still our claim-to-fame. Jay is about 15 minutes away from where he was born in Spavinaw, and I've had a lot of people know where Jay is just because it's near where Mickey Mantle was born.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who are the players that you look up to in terms of their skills or the way they play?

Cayle Shambaugh: I like Derek Jeter. I read that piece on him in Sports Illustrated about a month ago and he just seemed like a really great guy. Living the dream of being the best shortstop on one of the best teams, the best team now, in baseball, being a super guy, having time for fans, and working with all the charity stuff that he does. That's really cool because if I do get a chance to play professional baseball and make it to that status, I don't want to get to where I forget where I came from.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup:What about a pitcher?

Cayle Shambaugh: Pitcher-wise I love the heck out of Johan Santana, he's my boy. I like to think I can throw my changeup like him, but I really can't [laughs]. My song in-between innings is Smooth, and I actually think that's the song he warms up to.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If you could steal any one pitch from any other pitcher in your draft class, whose would you steal?

Cayle Shambaugh: Probably Stetson Allie's fastball. He said he got to 100 MPH one time, and I think I'd like to see what felt like to say I could throw 100 MPH. That's pretty intimidating!

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Have you heard scouts compare you to anybody?

Cayle Shambaugh: This summer when I was down in Dallas playing, my coach said that some scouts said I looked like Slade Heathcott. I took that as a really big compliment because he was drafted in the first round by the Yankees, and any person that gets drafted in the first round knows what they're doing.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What are the biggest things you want to focus, both as a team and individually, going into this season?

Cayle Shambaugh: As a team, if our team can stay together this year, then we have a chance to do some damage this year – and I'm talking about a chance to make a run for the state title. As an individual, I want to come every day to play. Even if I don't feel well, or we play a late game one day and have to get up early the next day and are tired, I think if I can keep the same energy and focus, stay in the zone for every at-bat, every pitch, every game that would be my goal.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You have a tattoo across your shoulders that says "LIVESTRONG." What is the significance of that to you?

Cayle Shambaugh: Well, of course it has to do with Lance Armstrong, how he had cancer and could have died, but he rehabbed and came back to win the Tour de France seven straight times. To me it means you can't live your life in fear; that you have to live it to the fullest and appreciate every day because you never know when you'll be done with sports. His story really helped me through football because after breaking my arm in that first game I was pretty depressed. The Livestrong concept made perfect sense to me because my injury was completely freak and out of the blue. I got that tattoo as a reminder that you never know when you're going to be done.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Finally, what's this whole process like for you being 19 years old and having this huge fork in the road in front of you?

Cayle Shambaugh: I guess it's a good problem to have! I've just got to thank the Lord for giving me this ability to play, because obviously without that I wouldn't be here. But again, it all comes back to not letting it get to your head. Right now I haven't proven anything to OU and I haven't proven anything to get drafted. Last year I was decent enough to get looked at by a bunch of people, and this year is about coming out and doing it again, and that's the biggest thing for me – not to get too ahead of myself thinking about college or the draft, to just focus on each day, right now. Making my swing better, getting my mechanics down, and taking it one day at a time.

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