Before Sunday's game in Lakewood, WB2PB got the chance to talk with a couple of the Pirates top prospects playing at Class A West Virginia. Today's installment is Victor Black. Black took one on the chin the night before, telling me he "lost the game for his teammates" the night before, allowing four runs (three earned) in a 5-4 loss to the Blueclaws. He still took the time to talk about that night, his season and his future in the Pirates organization.
Height: 6-3 Weight: 185
Age: 23 Position: Pitcher
2011 statistics: 2-1, 5.14 ERA, 21 games,
Opp. BA .259, 16 BB, 23 SO
How do the pitchers currently on the team and in the organization deal with the pressure of the Pirates recent drafts being so pitching heavy?
Without a doubt you are seeing what they've been investing in for the past three years with Neal (Huntington) being the new GM and their emphasis on pitching and development there. It's bleeding through into the big leagues and you're seeing guys winning. They're enjoying it. It's fun to play baseball again. As a pitcher who has been blessed and has been invested in, there is a gratefulness there. It would be foolish to not steward the opportunity I've been given. I'm not worried about the fact that there are 40 new pitchers coming in with each draft. They took me. They invested in me and now it's my responsibility to the organization and to the people I play with to give it my all and make it my best.
Talk to me about some of the differences you've faced as a bullpen guy rather than a starter.
Nights like last night is what I really struggle with. I pretty much lost the game for us last night but they say that the best lessons are learned from the negative in life. I got up this morning, went through my workout and just try to shake it off. It's not easy but it's one of the lessons I have to learn from at this level to get better. i really need to get better at trusting in my approach and staying focused on what I'm supposed to be doing more than anything else.
The trade deadline just passed last week. Even at low-A, do the guys talk about it in the clubhouse among yourselves or do you think about it at all?
There is always the anxst about it because you understand that you aren't in college, you aren't in high school anymore. It's a business. In a shallow way of saying it, you are a property. They are looking out and they saw a glimpse of success and they are fighting to win and they were in a race and they are going to keep fighting. They look at it as "Hey, we have a shot, maybe it's the time to (trade a prospect). At this level not so much. Guys talk about it but even my buddy Aaron Baker (traded to the Orioles for Derrek Lee July 30) who I've been playing with since summer ball in high school, you see him go. I sent him a text and it's sad to see him go, but it's more of an anticipation of getting to go somewhere to maybe move up or get another opportunity. As long as other teams want you, you still have a shot at this. It's a big bragging right I guess.
What are you working on at this level? What's going well? What's not?
We've basically ditched the slider and we've taken a different approach. I have a straight fastball and a straight change. Due to the rehab last year, the changeup came about. Before I just couldn't do it and during rehab, the easest thing on your arm is a changeup. There's no stiffness, there's no tightness and you aren't trying to force anything. So I just threw it, threw it and threw it and when I came up here, we went to the straight fastball-changeup. I started to throw it and they were swinging through it and I thought 'Hey.' Now that' been the approach and it's been effective when I embrace it fully. I'm still trying to get to the point where I go for it all the way and trust it.
How's life in West Virginia compared to back home in Texas?
West Virginia and Charleston is like any other town I've been able to spend time in. It's not a small town but the people are very nice. You hold doors and greet people and go about your business. My big deal with baseball is that this is what I love to do but it's also my job. But if you get consumed in it and you make it your life ... baseball is really about beating the odds. For hitters, it's about failure and how many times you don't fail. When I get off the field, I just want to feel like a normal person. You have another life and you don't want your identity to be caught up in baseball. A career can be 15 years if you are lucky, and if you are consumed with baseball, then what do you live for? You can't live like that.
How often does your family get to see you play?
I have a different style of family where I have three sisters who all play volleyball. One plays Olympic, one is about to get married and the other is going into college this year. My parents are consumed with volleyball. My dad would drive down to see me playing college on weeknights and drive back. Neither one of them yet has gotten the chance to see me play since i signed to play with the Pirates and that just kills my Mom. I tried to get her up last week and she was moving my sister in to college. Other than that, my girlfriend has come to visit and it's been a blessing. She's super important so....
Was there anything that surprised you about pro ball that isn't as glamorous as you may have thought?
I played in the Northwest League after my freshman year of college and they were like 'OK, now we jump onto a bus for a 13-hour ride to Canada.' I thought 'Is this something I really want to do' but this is my passion and this is what I really want to do. The bus rides haven't been a shock but I still struggle with sleeping. I just try to keep myself entertained. The only thing that came as a shock was when I joined up with my first team I came in and said 'Coach, my name is Victor' and he turned to me and said 'Don't ever call me coach again, I'm your manager.'
What are you goals for where you want to be on April 1, 2012?
I just want to be a place where I eventually can give Pittsburgh the best opportunity. I want to be where they are comfortable with me to a point that wherever they need me, I'm there and ready to go.