"It's crazy. It will hit me when I am at the airport about to board the plane. It hasn't hit me that I am a professional baseball player."
-Brandon Culbreth, shortly after he was announced as the 8th round pick of the Houston Astros
JAN 17th, 2012-Remember the days before TiVO?
There was a time, not so long ago, when there were no such things as DVRs or TiVO boxes. No pause button for live TV, no skipping commercials. And if you stepped away for a moment, you were gonna miss whatever happened. A bathroom break, ill-timed, and J.R. is stiff as a board, already.
If you weren't born while Gerald Ford was in office, you might not get that reference. Tough. Google it.
Most of us never had to concern ourselves with missing anything terribly important, in situations like that. Situations that changed our lives in ways slightly more meaningful than missing the new Twilight trailer. Like hearing your name announced on a live broadcast as a newly-drafted professional baseball player. But I digress. (ed. note-fortunately we have the Internet; the MLB Draft was 'live' online, and of course the Draft isn't televised) My point is, there's something to be said for being "in The Moment", "being there", "showing up" or whatever you want to call it. From time to time, The Moment has a habit of sneaking up on you, so it really is true that half of life is just showing up.
Brandon Culbreth nearly missed his Moment. Turns out Nature called before the Houston Astros.
Recently, I had a chance to sit down with Brandon and talk to him about his experiences in pro ball as a newly-drafted member of the Astros:
I'd like to start by asking you about the day of the 2011 Draft. After having sat through hours of names being called, did you nearly miss your name being called because of a “prior obligation”?
Haha yes I did, on day two of the draft Mom had asked me to stay by the computer all day just in case my name was called. I expected to hear my name in the 40th or 50th rounds so i wasn't too focused on day 2. But seconds after Greg Holts (UNC) name was called i was making a B-line for the bathroom and on my way i heard "8th round pick the Houston Astros select Brandon Culbreth 250th pick overall". Very surreal. Phone blew up after that.
-While the Astros drafted you as a pitcher, you also played third base and OF for Forsyth Country Day School in Lewisville, North Carolina. Would you have any preference as to how you are utilized by Houston, if you had final say on the matter?
Haha no sir, I can't hit. I think pitching is the right fit for me.
-You played your first three seasons at Ronald Reagan High School in Pfafftown, then transferred to FCD and played under coach Andy Partin. Both schools are part of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School District. Was there any specific reason behind the move?
Better coaching and better competition. I owe all of my accomplishments to Partin and the team of Dirtbag coaches. Some had to do with grades but i wont get into that haha. It was a better fit for me and turned out to be the best decision of my life.
-As far as learning experiences in amateur ball are concerned, what lesson would you say will serve you best, now that you're a pro?
Learned that baseball is a failure sport. Your going to fail way more than you succeed but you have (to) overcome those failures. Also, not to take anything for granted because you never know when your last game will be.
-According to Baseball America's scouting report, you were sitting in the high-80's with your fastball at the time the report was written. As of late summer 2011 you were hitting the mid-90's. Coach Partin attributes the time you devoted in the weight room to your jump in velocity. Do you feel like you were able to make changes to your mechanics or your approach in general that contributed to this increase, or would you credit your time hitting the weights most of all?
Most was the weight room but also the extra year of high school helped me mature and realize that I wanted baseball more than anything and i was going to work my ass off to become the player i wanted to be. I stopped all the partying and stayed out of trouble and it turned my life around.
-Had you not been drafted, you were planning to attend N. C. State. Do you feel your transition to pro ball will be significantly more difficult because you are making the jump straight from high school?
Tough question because I didn't attend college but it's nice not having to find that even mix of workouts, baseball, and schoolwork. Pro ball, I can strictly focus on baseball.
-Are there certain aspects of pitching that you are finding more difficult to master than others?
Throwing strikes! haha. Ask any of my coaches...I can't do it. I still have so much to learn about the game but I feel I've improved a lot since starting pro ball.
-What one experience would you say stuck with you the most from your brief time in the Gulf Coast League in 2011?
My first day in extended, (a) Dominican player walks up to me and asks if I'm "mericon". I thought he said are you American so I answer "si". All the (Dominican players) went nuts. Later learned "mericon" means gay.
-If you could pass on some advice to younger pitchers, what would that be?
Don't let anyone get in the way of your dreams. Hard work pays off.
-If, God forbid, your plans fell through and you had to become something other than a baseball player, what would that something be?
Don't jinx me. Personal Training.