Binghamton Mets pitcher Collin McHugh was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions for me. Since being drafted in the 18th round of the 2008 draft, Collin has a combined record of 24-14 in the minors, including a 9-4 campaign in 2011 between St. Lucie and Binghamton. Here you go.
Q: Describe your repertoire. Working on anything new?
A: I’m a 4 pitch guy (although I throw both, nobody should really count a 4 seam and 2 seam fastball separately). FB, overhand curve (12/6 for the visual learners), circle change up, and cut fastball. I don’t think I’m alone in the pitching community when I say that I’m always working on something new. Refining my cutter, cleaning up and repeating my mechanics, and most importantly working on FB command.
Q: What are your strengths and weaknesses on the mound?
A: I like to think that I’m a strike thrower. I’ve learned giving hitters free passes and getting behind in the count hinder me most from being effective. I want to do a better job of working the percentages in my favor. Get ahead, stay ahead, go for the punch out when you need it, but don’t be afraid to pitch into contact. I did a pretty good job of that towards the end of last season, and I hope to carry it into Spring training this year.
Q: You have been rising through the system rather quickly, with a big league debut not too far away. What do you attribute your recent success to?
A: Firstly, the big leagues are never “too far away”, but they’re never that close either. I’ve been in the system for 4 years now, with my first taste of real success this past season in Binghamton. I’ve seen struggles in my career and gone through slumps, but perseverance is a key ingredient for success in professional baseball. Things haven’t always be great on or off the field, but through my faith in God and the support of my wife, family and friends I’m able to view each day as a gift. In Bingo this past year, I was reminded of how much fun baseball is, not just winning, but simply having the opportunity to play the game. I had more fun in the few months during that summer than I had since little league. Fun doesn’t always translate into success, but you’d be surprised how often it does.
Q: How do you feel you have progressed since being drafted in 2008?
A: Step by step. I haven’t made too many big jumps or big breakthroughs, but each time out on the hill I try to build on something. Whether it’s being more consistent with my fastball early in counts or not giving up 0-2 hits, I look for one practical thing I can improve on each outing. After a while you realize that all the small victories have actually made you a much better player. I think that’s kinda the point of development.
Q: What has been your most memorable moment so far in the minors?
A: Fenway Park. I started the annual minor league game that takes place between a Red Sox affiliate and their opponent. I was fortunate enough to throw 6 shutout innings at one of the oldest parks in the world, in front of 25,000 people (including my dad and wife), and get a “W”. It was something i’ll be able to tell my grandkids one day.
Q: How was your experience in the Arizona Fall League this year?
A: It was pretty humbling, but one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had in baseball. I didn’t put up the numbers I had hoped for (insert cliche excuse about altitude or thin air or whatever) and started off slowly. In the end, however, I was able to string together a few really good outings that gave me confidence and assurance that there isn’t a player in baseball that I can’t get out. Also, I made some great friends and enjoyed some BEAUTIFUL scenery.
Q: You have been talked and written about a ton, especially this year. How do you feel the pressure or being a top prospect has affected you, if at all?
A: Trust me when I say that I mean no offense by this, but there is no such thing as a top prospect. It is a word made up by writers (throwing myself in that category too) to try and build a hierarchy where there is none. We are all minor leaguers until we aren’t. I understand trying to rank players based on ability and success, but that is for the fans, not us. I am focused on being as good as I can possibly be, then expanding my capacity and being better. Whether that ranks me in someone’s top 5 or not even on the list, the results are the only thing that matters to me.
Q: How do you feel coming into this season both physically and mentally?
A: During the offseason I always work to be game ready by the time games start. That means being ready to throw bullpens day 1 of Spring training, being able to complete the conditioning, and being able to recover to do it again the next day. Physically I feel very close to that point. Mentally, I am working harder than ever to start off the season strong. I am a notoriously fast finisher (meaning I am also a typically slow starter). I plan to change that this season. We’re coming out of the blocks running, and don’t plan on stopping til October.
Q: As far as your playing career is concerned, what role do you see yourself playing in five years?
I hope to be a staple on a Mets staff that is leading their team into the playoffs perennially. We have the talent to do it from within the organization, it’s just a matter of staying healthy and getting more consistent. We aren’t that far away, I promise.
A: One last question. If you could see any player from any era play one game, who would you see?
I would have loved to see Satchel Page throw in his prime. He had the perfect balance of flash and talent. I think I could learn a thing or two from him.
Thanks for doing this, by the way. I’ve never done a Q&A with a player before.
Thanks for taking the time and interest to interview me. Keep up the writing and don’t be afraid to take the high road.
I’d like to thank Collin for taking time to answer each question in detail. He is clearly a very interesting guy. You can follow his journey in his blog: A Day Older A Day Wiser.
I hope you enjoyed my first player interview. Remember that you can follow me on Twitter (@UpAlongFirst) and you can like my Facebook page here.