The time to ask is not when they're discussing a trade, or assessing an injury in the trainer's room or 10 minutes before the first pitch. Oklahomans can be found in many facets of professional baseball. This includes in the front office, the clubhouse and on the field as coaches and players. The knowledge they have going in and then add to with each season is incredible. During the season, their time can be in high demand. So why not take advantage of the slower pace of winter to ask their input on various aspects of the game?
That's what The Oklahoman is doing in an occasional winter series, providing insight for players, coaches and/or fans.
The series begins with former Putnam City and Oklahoma State pitcher Andrew Heaney.
Last season with OSU, Heaney was an All-American, finishing as the NCAA Division I leader in strikeouts with 140.
In June, Heaney was selected in the first round by the Miami Marlins as the ninth overall pick in the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
In this segment of the series with Oklahomans, Heaney talks about what he tries to accomplish in between starts and in certain game situations.
Q: Please give me an idea of what you want to accomplish physically and mentally in a bullpen between starts.
A: “I can only speak for me. I have certain things. I have my stride length, which is one thing that I really focus on, pushing off my back leg, finishing out front, just things that you hear since you were little and it sounds simple but those are things that you have to repeat over and over and over and can so easily get overlooked or get pushed to the side. Your side session in the middle of the week is really when you work on the simple little things that you can't think about in the game.”
When you come out of the bullpen just before a start, do you have a pretty good feel of what's working for you that day?
“You get into the game and in that first or second inning sometimes you kind of have to get a feel for the umpire's strike zone, how you're feeling, what's working for you, what they're swinging at, what their approach is. So it takes you a couple of innings. After that I feel like I can get settled in and start figuring out what my approach can be that day or what is working for me.”
You had some complete games. Please talk about the mindset that comes with that.
“When you pitch, I've always heard, ‘Don't save bullets.' Whatever you've got in the tank, throw it. You never know what's going to be your last pitch. You never know what the situation is. So never hold anything back and if you're lucky enough to get the eighth or ninth inning, same thing, you just go until you don't have anything left.
“The only approach that I ever had changed was, early in games I might be trying to look for a punchout, trying not to let guys on. Later in the games when I'm trying to maybe conserve pitches, I'm trying to get some contact, get some early counts, get outs. But at the same time, late in games if you have a crucial situation, you can't just lay it in there.
“You have to treat every at-bat like it's the last one you're going to have.”