Travis Ballew was drafted by the Astros in the 23rd round in 2012 out of Texas State. In his first full season of pro ball, he took over the closer’s role for the Lancaster JetHawks, recording 21 saves this year. He showed vast improvement this season, specifically in his strikeout rate, which was a ridiculous 13 per 9 innings. Recently, Travis agreed to do an interview with me. Hope you enjoy it!
Q: Tell me about your pitching repertoire. What would you consider your best pitch?
A: My pitching repertoire consists of a 4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball, slider, and a rarely used change-up. I would definitely have to say my best pitch is my slider. I’ve had to spend a lot of time working on my fastball to make it just as good as my slider.
Q: You pitched at Texas State for 3 years. What was the most influential thing you learned during your time there?
A: The most influential thing I learned at Texas State is definitely learning how to throw my slider. I went to Texas State throwing a 12-6 curveball. Our pitching coach Derek Matlock had me try out throwing the slider and it turned out to be, what I consider, a career changer on the mound. I also learned how to go out there and truly “pitch.” In high school I was more over powering and could just throw fastballs by people. College was definitely a big step for me.
Q: What’s a talent or hobby that you have that most people don’t know about?
A: I guess you could call this a hobby, but I spend a lot of time just sitting in front of my computer listening to music. I could listen to music 24/7. You would not think this but I love rap and hip-hop music, but I’m always down to listen to good music.
Q: What was going through your head on Draft Day? Did you know the Astros were going to take you? How did it feel to know that you could be playing just a few hours from your hometown of Rockwall?
A: Draft day was a big stress. I-Phone was just blowing up from friends, family, etc. I really didn’t know that I was going to get picked on the last day so that also made it stressful because then I was worried that I was going to have to go back to school. If you know me you know that I do not really enjoy going to class and doing school work. It’s pretty nice knowing that I could end up in the future playing in Houston. As people know Rockwall is Ranger territory so all of my friends are always saying, “Come on man, the Astros really?!” I’ve definitely been trying to convert some of them over to the “good side.”
Q: Last year, in 23 games in the New York Penn League, you posted a 1.62 ERA and struck out 10 hitters per 9 innings. What adjustments did you make coming out of college in order to find that kind of success?
A: Coming out of college I did not really know what to expect of pro ball. I knew I was up against some of the best players out of college and so I tried to think of it as just pitching at Texas State. Nothing really changes — it is still the same game you are just playing different competition. A big thing I would say that I learned was to throw more inside because of the wood bats. In college you typically throw away to hitters and go inside sometimes. Now I’ve gone more to throwing inside and occasionally going away.
Q: You spent the 2013 season in Lancaster, where pitching is notoriously hard. Your ERA jumped to 4.42, but your strikeout numbers were great, at 13.2 K/9. What did the coaching staff have you work on, and what would you say improved the most in your game this year?
A: The main thing I worked on this year was my fastball command. Sometimes it would tend to be erratic. I’ve made some positive jumps with my fastball command and I think that will greatly improve my pitching here this next year. Best pitch in baseball is a well located fastball.
Q: The Lancaster JetHawks had some pretty awesome promotions this year. What was your favorite?
A: My favorite promotion was definitely the Jethawks Snuggies. I did not actually get my hands on one but they sure did look nice and warm for the winter, maybe even use one of those in the bullpen. High fashion.
Q: What will you be up to this offseason? Where do you hope you’re at by the time next season starts?
A: This offseason I’ll be giving pitching lessons. To any of you readers out there that want to learn; I’m only one tweet away! Besides the lessons I’ll just continue working to get bigger and stronger because I’m kind of small and scrawny. Kind of depressing ha. I’m hoping to start in Corpus Christi with the Hooks. It would be nice to stay and play in the great state of Texas close to all my friends and family.
Thanks again to Travis for doing this interview. You can follow Travis on twitter HERE. Best of luck next season!