An Interview with Jake Brigham
This interview was conducted by the SDI Staff.
Jake Brigham is a 24-year old, right-handed pitcher in the Texas Rangers minor league system. He was drafted by the Rangers out of Central Florida Christian Academy in the 6th round in 2006, and he spent all of 2011 with the Rangers AA affiliate, the Frisco RoughRiders.
Thank you so much for agreeing to sit down and complete this interview with us. We are greatly looking forward to tracking your progress through the Rangers system, especially after your strong finish to the 2011 season.
First question: give us a general idea of your schedule in a calendar year. When do you begin your offseason workouts, when does your season start/end, etc.?
Jake: In the past, Spring Training usually starts first week of March (Minor league camp). For me this year, I am going out first of February (Big League camp starts February 22). Season usually ends around the second week of September, but hopefully this year I will be in the playoffs in the Major league club and play much longer! I like starting earlier than most probably, because I like being able to go through any soreness or dead arm before camp starts. I start around early October just light throwing, and more of a cardio program then.
SDI: You had Tommy John surgery in 2008. How difficult is the rehabilitation process to return from that surgery? Did it feel unnatural once you were allowed to throw a baseball again?
Jake: It was a hard thing to go through, not being able to do what you love for so long. I was very blessed to be in an organization that has one of the best rehab staffs in the game. I trusted them thoroughly and knew that if I just followed the program they had for me, I would be okay. Picking up a baseball after 4 months was pretty weird, and trusting that my arm was strong enough to throw was a hard thing to get over mentally.
SDI: Your statistics demonstrate that you transitioned really well to pitching out of the bullpen, instead of starting, for Frisco in 2011. What was that switch like for you, and are you enjoying working out of the bullpen?
Jake: It is a whole different ballgame coming out of the pen! Not being able to take your time warming up and preparing was hard to get used to. Once I trained my arm and learned how to get loose faster it was much easier to get prepared to go into the game. I love both in different ways. I enjoy pitching in any opportunity that I get to and will try to do my best in every situation.
SDI: Do you get the opportunity to talk to players in the minor league systems for other organizations? Do you feel there is any major difference between the Rangers’ system compared to the rest of the league?
Jake: I do have friends in other organizations that I have been able to talk to. I feel that the Texas Rangers are a first class organization. I believe that it shows from top to bottom how well they develop their players, and how committed they are to winning. The coaches that they get to teach us the game, I believe are some of the best in the business. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this organization.
SDI: It seems like you and your wife enjoy interacting with fans together on Twitter. What is it like to be a married man in the minor leagues? Is your wife able to travel with you?
Jake: HAHA…Yes I lost the battle to my wife of getting a twitter about a month ago. She wants me to interact with fans and be nice (her words.) Well…first year of marriage we moved 5 times in 7 months in 3 different states, so it was definitely a challenge! I couldn’t imagine going through it without her and I am very grateful to have her support. She goes to wherever I’m assigned, but has not been able to go on many road trips because she has to work, which is shocking to some I know because of the millions $$ we make in the minor leagues. HA.
SDI: Is it correct that your uncle is Ron Karkovice, former catcher for the Chicago White Sox? How much of an influence was he in your decision to play pro ball as well?
Jake: Yes, he is…As a kid we used to go see his spring training games. I knew that I wanted to sign and get my career started as fast as possible.
SDI: What has been your favorite place to travel to in the minors? Even more interestingly, what has been the worst location you have ever been to, and why?
Jake: Favorite place would have to be Frisco. It is a beautiful ballpark, great town, fans are awesome. I really enjoyed my time playing there! Worst if you ask anybody that has ever played in the Cal league we would all answer the same with Bakersfield.
SDI: What in particular makes Bakersfield the worst? Any specific stories you can share?
Jake: It is an old stadium, the sun sets in dead center field so as the summer goes on the games don’t start until later, and not a lot of fans. Also, being from Florida, it was really hard for my family to get to me.
SDI: In April of last year, there was an altercation after a game between the Frisco RoughRiders and San Antonio Missions, which resulted in the RoughRiders’ Engel Beltre receiving a 10-game suspension. Can you give us your perspective of the events of that day?
Jake: It was a very weird situation that I hope to never be a part of again. It happened very fast, and the police had control of the situation, and had us in our clubhouse pretty quick.
SDI: Can you expand on how it unfolded? Most of us have only heard third-party accounts, and it would be very interesting to get your firsthand account.
Jake: To be honest, I’d rather not answer. It is something we all learned from, and we have all moved on.
SDI: We completely respect you not wanting to answer, but we had to ask.
When you are in the minors, it seems as though you are competing with your own teammates for each job at the next level. Do you feel the pressure of that competition on a day-to-day basis, and if so, how do you balance having success as a team with achieving your individual career aspirations?
Jake: Of course it is a competition on a day to day basis, but at the end of the day we all want to win and if you can do your best to compete day in and day out and help the team win, the rest will take care of itself. One of the main things that you have to learn in the minor leagues is knowing what you can control, and what you can’t. You can’t allow the things that are out of your control to affect you. Play hard and play to win as a team everyday!
SDI: How much do you pay attention to scouts and baseball writers who analyze your abilities? Is it difficult to avoid worrying too much about how others are evaluating your talent, makeup, career projection, etc.?
Jake: You really can’t watch those things. You just have to take your God-given ability and maximize it with a skill level that can match that. It doesn’t matter good or bad someone will always have something to say about it. Our coaches help us out a lot with their analyzing and that’s what I try to stay up with.
SDI: Amongst the teammates you have had in the Rangers system over the past 5 years, give us an idea of who would win the following awards:
Best clubhouse leader?
Most underrated talent?
Most likely to stop and help you change a flat tire?
Best facial hair?
Best prankster – Ben Harrison
Best clubhouse leader – Corey Ragsdale
Most underrated talent – Erik Morrison
Best dressed – the ex-Ranger Joe Weiland
Most likely to stop and help you change a flat tire – Michael Schlact
Best facial hair – Me of course the beard of 2011
Best story-teller – Kasey Kiker
SDI: And, finally, what goals do you have for yourself in 2012?
Jake: Get to the big leagues, and stay there. Attack the zone more with all of the pitches, and be the best teammate that I can possibly be.
SDI: What are all of the pitches you throw, and which ones do you hope to improve the most this year? How do you go about improving – change technique? Get advice?
Jake: Fastball, change-up, curveball, and slider. Fastball command is always a priority, and I am working on commanding my change-up. Talking to coaches, and other players to see how they throw different pitches and their mindset, and lots of practice.
SDI: Thanks again for taking the time to allow us to get a glimpse into the life of a minor leaguer in the Texas Rangers organization. We wish you the best in your career, and hope to see you in Arlington soon!
Jake Brigham is on Twitter (http://twitter.com/jbrigham49), and is a great account to follow for Rangers fans and baseball fans alike.