Simi Valley, Calif. native and Long Beach State (No. 5) RHP Jered Weaver sat down with BP to discuss Team USA, superstitions and how he dominates hitters. Jered is a six-time 2004 National Player of the Week, seven-time Big West Player of the Week, a finalist for the Dick Howser Trophy awarded to the top player in collegiate baseball and a potential #1 overall pick in the upcoming June draft. His 2004 line:
W-L ERA IP H R ER BB SO 14-0 1.27 113.1 55 19 16 14 171
Baseball Prospectus: Coming out of high school, what made you pursue baseball over basketball?
Jered Weaver: I really like basketball. But baseball’s always been my love and I knew growing up that’s what I wanted to do. Growing up, I told my dad I wanted to do that. He never made me think I couldn’t.
BP: What was the recruiting process like at Long Beach State and at other schools and what made you choose Long Beach State?
Weaver: Because the schooling was more convenient academically and it was close to home. I have had a lot of fun and I would not have had it any other way. It was the best decision of my life. I have had great coaches and I’ve really learned a lot.
BP: What influence has your brother Jeff had your pitching career? Will he become a bigger influence now that he’s back on the West Coast?
Weaver: With Jeff, I remember a lot of phone calls and stuff that year he got drafted. He had to stay focused. Like now, you deal with stuff when the time comes. It was hard when he and I were growing up because we were six years apart. Every time I wanted to hang out with him, I was always too young and it was definitely hard, but I have always looked up to him and he has always been there. It’s awesome to have a major league player to go to for advice on pitching. He’s always been my role model, along with my father.
BP: How have you improved since arriving at Long Beach State?
Weaver: When I came to Long Beach State, it was a tremendous learning opportunity for me. I started lifting weights and started an intensive throwing program. I worked on my lower body but not much on the upper body. My velocity as a freshman was 86-89 mph. Now it is consistently 90-94 mph.
BP: Can you describe the experience of pitching for Team USA?
Weaver: This was something I’ve wanted for a long time. It’s not every day a player gets to wear USA across his chest. It’s something I really wanted to do. When they sat us down, each player in the hotel room, I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. When they said I made the team, a big smile came to my face. When they said I’d be a starter, I was even happier.
BP: What was it like to pitch in Petco Park?
Weaver: It was unbelievable. It was the first big league park I have ever pitched in in my career. The first couple of innings were breathtaking.
BP: What is your conditioning regimen during the season and during the off-season? Take us through your typical preparation in the days leading up to your starts and on game day.
Weaver: I do 90-foot sprint work several days before I pitch. I do 10 sprints forward and six to eight springs backward to get my legs loose. I also condition the muscles around my rotator cuff with tubing and light weights. The day after I pitch in a game, I do a little long-toss. But the day after that, I throw real long and stretch my arm out as far as I can. As far as bullpen work, I usually do that on Mondays and Wednesdays prior to my Friday starts.
BP: Any superstitions? How did they develop?
Weaver: Before every start I go to Hector’s Restaurant, and order a California Turkey sandwich. It was something that I came up with and it worked, so I’m sticking with it. I’ve been doing it since I became a Dirtbag in 2002.
BP: What do you consider the keys to your delivery? What do you consider your strengths on the mound?
Weaver: I had a lot of confidence going into this season after having a good summer with Team USA. I try to do everything one pitch at a time and keep my mind squarely on that thought pattern. I take a great deal of pride in being consistent. Hopefully I can keep it up the rest of the year.
BP: Do you videotape your delivery and analyze it to make sure your mechanics are sound and consistently repeated?
Weaver: I definitely look at videos of my pitching. I want to make sure I am staying over the rubber. I also try to keep my weight back until I go to the target in a straight line. I concentrate on keeping my shoulder to the front glove as long as I can.
BP: Do you consider each batter’s report (if available) when on the mound or do you just concentrate on the catcher and ignore who’s batting? Does any specific type of hitter typically give you trouble?
Weaver: I’m a mellow guy, but when I get on that mound I’m the biggest competitor in terms of trying to keep my team in the game. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing or what their record is. You pitch the same as if you’re in the College World Series. Those guys are up there with aluminum bats.
BP: You’ve averaged 108 pitches per start this season. Are you or your coaches concerned about any potential damage being done to your arm seeing as you are still only 21?
Weaver: They’ve never abused me. I have complete confidence in my coaches. I know during the playoffs I might be extended a bit. But they have never overused us. I have complete confidence in (Pitching) Coach (Troy) Buckley. He prepares all of us for the next level. If he didn’t, he would not have taken me out of games last year at Stanford. We talk about fighting through fatigue or whatever, going as deep into the game as I can.
BP: Do you ever contemplate whether or not you might be able to induce some quicker outs and thus limit your pitches?
Weaver: Strikeouts are definitely fun. You get caught in the moment and you get hyped up, but I don’t really try for strikeouts. Strikeouts happen. That’s not what my game plan is, to see how many people I can strike out in one game. But it’s fun to get them.
BP: How much time does your commitment to baseball take each week? How do you keep up with classes? Will you finish your degree?
Weaver: We’re so tired all the time so it’s hard to get motivated to do anything. I have never been a student really, but I’m trying. I told my mom I would try my hardest in school and I have done a fairly good job. Both of my parents always pushed academics over everything. It was hard for me…I was always into playing sports and doing all the other things. I have matured a little bit more and have figured out that school is very important, and I just don’t want to let it go to waste.
BP: Why are the Dirtbags legitimate contenders in Omaha this year?
Weaver: I think we can get to Omaha. There are a lot of things we didn’t have last year that we have this year. For one, the hitters are starting to come around and there’s no telling what they can do.
BP: Walk us through your ideal path to the championship–players and teams you look forward to facing and beating, game situations you would like the ball in your hands.
Weaver: Everybody’s goal is to get to Omaha and we tried the last two. We always got stomped by Stanford, and I wouldn’t mind going back there again and seeing what happens. We’ve got to get there first.
BP: After the game at Petco you had the opportunity to speak with the Padres’ Bill Gayton and Kevin Towers. Considering the Padres have openly expressed an interest in drafting you with the first pick this June, what were your thoughts going into and coming out of that meeting?
Weaver: Hopefully we’re still playing in June so I don’t have to worry it. The draft is great and it’s what I have been waiting for, but I just have to take it one step at a time. We still have a goal to get to Omaha, and that’s my first goal right now.
Thanks to Jered Weaver for his time spent speaking with BP. Also, special thanks to Gary Huckabay and Will Carroll for their contributions to this article.