|"Orange and green, great color combo." -Nobody|
After being drafted, Conley made a few appearances out of the bullpen in rookie ball before the season ended. A strong Spring Training sent Adam to the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the Marlins Class A affiliate, where he has been working out of the starting rotation.
Through his four starts to date, Conley has a 2-0 record and 20 innings of work. Through those 20 innings he has a 0.90 ERA, only allowing nine hits while striking out 23 and issuing five walks. Opposing batter are only hitting .132 off Conley, he's having quite an incredible start to the season.
Just a few days ago I caught up with Adam, having a great 17 minute interview with him over the phone while sitting in the stands at Bailey-Brayton.
Adam was a great pitcher while he was here and an even better person. I always remember him as being one of my favorite interviews on the team because of how humble and polite he was. I was glad to find out he hasn't changed one bit; he's a kid with his head on straight who's definitely going places in life, be it one the diamond or elsewhere.
Anyways, after the jump is my conversation with Adam. There's a lot of words down there, so get ready for a ton of reading, I think it's worth it.
If people show an interest, I'll try and get ahold of a few other ex-Cougar baseball players who are currently trying their luck in the professional ranks. If there's someone you want me to try and catch up with, leave me a message in the comments!
One last thing before I throw you into the interview; if you want to track Conley throughout the season and see if he can keep up this early success, here's a link to his MiLB player page where you can see all his stats. It updates basically right after every start.
Sports Minds: So you've had quite a bit of success this year out of the rotation, with that success in mind, would you say leaving school when you did was the right choice?
Adam Conley: "Yeah. A lot of times the transition to professional baseball can be kind of strange. The first few leagues you get into down here, a lot of the talent is underdeveloped and things like that, but when I went through the process I was really focused on where I was at in life as far as maturity goes. I needed to do that to determine whether or not I was ready to handle the workload and the time on the road and the responsibilities of professional baseball. So far it's worked out really well for me. The spot I'm in in Greensboro is really great. Luckily, a lot of times it can be harder, the transition went really smooth and really easy."
SM: What has been the hardest part for you in that transition?
AC: "That's a tough question, everything has been really great. Before I got selected it was really stressful because I didn't know where I was going, I mean I literally could've ended up anywhere. I didn't know what team was going to select me, so the first thing I felt when I heard my name called was relief because I had an idea of where I might be going."
"After I learned that I got selected by the Marlins it was probably similar. You know, in Spring Training they kind of give you an idea of where they plan on sending you and you're always trying to give them evidence of why you belong in the next level up. It wasn't really a hard thing, I just think that's difficult, that time of year you're always trying to push the envelope on the coordinators and all those guys to trust in you. It's not a bad thing, just because my career is in my own hands it's motivating, definitely. Some people might feel pressure and things like that, but not me. I was really excited, I had a great spring and they sent me to Greensboro and I couldn't be happier."
|Courtesy: Kendall Conley|
AC: "Yeah, when I first signed they told me I was going to be a starter. I got drafted as a starter. They want me to throw my secondary pitches more often to find some consistency and just really perfect my use of them. So far I've done that and it's been really smooth."
"We have a great rotation and our bullpen is awesome, the defense behind us is awesome, the hitters are putting up runs. When all those things are going for you and you've got good camaraderie on the team, it gets easier to pitch. I've been really fortunate in that sense."
"I've heard people say that down the road I might be out of the bullpen, but we'll have to cross that bridge when we get to it and until then I'm in the rotation, I'm starting and I love it. It's been great waking up every day and realizing I have the greatest job in the world, it's really cool."
SM: Again, a lot of success for you early in this season. Great strikeout to walk ratio, throwing some pretty good games. What specifically has been working for you?
AC: "The biggest thing I think would be my mentality out there. Also my routine and my pitching regimen, those things are just establish the strike zone and as the game progresses, expand that strike zone. If I do that, if I can throw my fastball to both sides of the plate and throw my slider in different counts and throw my changeup in different counts and kind of set guys up. You're not only beating them physically but you can kind of, I don't want to say out smart them because I'm not trying to out smart anyone, but if I can locate my pitches where I want them and do it when I want to, then I'm kind of setting those guys up. In doing that you can kind of beat guys twice, you fooled them on the pitch and on the pitch itself, the quality of the pitch."
"For me I've just been in that cycle of really working on what pitches I'm going to throw and to what locations and working pretty heavily with my catchers. Everything has worked out to this point really well, and I think the biggest thing that I've done is focused more on what I'm doing out there and worried less about the hitter. I've stuck to my plan, and up to now I've had a lot of success doing that."
SM: Do you have any goals for yourself, regarding where you would like to be in the organization at certain times?
AC: "I think at the beginning of Spring Training I really had it in my mind that everything I was fighting for was to be on the High A team so I didn't have to move. I haven't been married that long and my wife and I didn't want to move. I kind of had it in my mind to work to stay in High A with Jupiter."
"The pitching coordinator that I had been working with in Spring Training, at the end of Spring Training him and the other guys got together and decided that the best thing for my career was to go to Greensboro."
"I think if I would've known that at the beginning of Spring Training I would've been upset that I wasn't making it to Jupiter. But some of the maturity and ways that I've grown in this short time has been to understand that I shouldn't expect to be on any certain team at any certain time. I'm so blessed that they gave me the opportunity to pitch at any level, and that's kind of the approach that I've taken these past couple of weeks. Ever since I've gotten down here I've just embraced it and I've been really happy to be where I'm at. I'm completely trusting on their decision to put me on the A-ball team and so far I've had success doing it, it's just been really cool."
|Courtesy: Kendall Conley|
AC: "We've got a group of pretty easy going guys, I guess just being a stereotypical guy it's got everything you want. I mean, you get to sleep in because most the games are at night, you get to travel a lot and see a ton of really cool things."
"I've been fortunate, she's not with me on this trip, but there's going to be quite a few trips that my wife will be able to come to and watch me play and watch all us guys develop relationships together. There's girlfriends and fiances and they'll all get to know each other, everyone she'll get to meet it's just really cool. It's just been a really cool experience; you know a lot of people they go to work or they have to move for work and it can be really hard on the wives or family members, but we're just really fortunate she gets to come to work with me and watch me work."
"Off the top of my head I don't know if I have any great stories for you, but my typical day is just set up really well to be productive at what I do. I couldn't ask for anything more."
SM: You touched on it a little bit earlier, but what was the draft experience like? Hearing your name called, the contract portion and actually signing the contract. What was that like for you?
AC: "As I said earlier, the first thing was relief to hear my name called. I was just happy I had some idea of where I was going. I mean I knew my name was going to get called, I just didn't know by what team and where I was going the be headed."
"As far as the contract and everything goes, I was fortunate enough to be working with an agent. So I really didn't have to do a whole lot. There was some time during that process after I had been (picked) that we were kind of talking about some numbers and trying to figure out my contract and work out all the details. That only lasted for a few weeks before I just told my agent 'Look, let's sign the papers. You're my agent, you can handle this stuff. It's part of the services I want you to do for me.' So there was only a period of about a couple weeks where I was personally talking with the front office guys with the Marlins. After that two week period I pretty much just told my agent 'You know what man, here's the reigns. Take over and let's get it done so I can get out there and start throwing.'"
"So I signed on the 12th I think, it was later than most but I finally made it out there. I was just really excited, I mean I was getting married and was just in a really good place in life. I couldn't believe it was happening to me but I was excited."
SM: Going back a little bit to college, do you think that playing in a conference as tough as the Pac-10/12 helped you in your development, maybe more so than other kids coming out of lesser conferences?
AC: "Yeah, absolutely. I mean you hear of a lot of high school guys that are getting drafted and they have so much leverage because they have so many options. They can go to a community college or they can play a different sport at a college or they can play two sports at a college or they can go to a big baseball school or do all kinds of things. They have so much leverage with these teams that are overpaying them. Last years draft you can go back and look through the selections, just in the first two rounds how many high school guys got selected."
"For me, going to college, not only did the quality of the league and facing metal bats with all these big name guys, not only did the competition really elevate my game but I think the atmosphere of college, being on my own, still going to school, having a schedule, being disciplined when you screw up; all those things I think much more importantly helped me off the field. It helped me grow, it helped me become a man."
"But as far as the conference goes, I mean any time you get an offer to go play at a school like Washington State, or even other schools in the Pac 12, I think you need to look at it as a great opportunity to grow as a person, on the field and off the field. I just think the progression a player can go through going to a big school is going to be really beneficial. I've heard that smaller schools or community colleges, a lot of their schedule and their regimen is less up to the players and I've heard if you do you work you play well and if you don't then you don't really make it. So I would say it's a huge advantage any time a player has an opportunity to go to a school that's in a good league."
SM: What about WSU, have you been following the team at all this year?
AC: "A little bit, not so much the record and things like that. I did have a chance to talk with Gregg Swenson (WSU pitching coach) for just a few minutes yesterday, I had to run to a meeting so the call got cut short."
"But there are a couple other younger guys like Jason Monda and J.D. Leckenby and some of the younger guys that I tried working with while I was there. And then of course the older guys like Kyle Johnson and Spencer Jackson and all those guys. But obviously the guys in my class I try and keep up with them as best I can. It's just been tough, I'm on the east coast and the time zone change is tough, our schedules have been pretty conflicting. So in an ideal world it'd be easier and our schedules would match up, but I try and keep up with the guys that I was supposed to or the guys that I tried helping out."
SM: What do you think about Derek Jones breaking the all-time HR record here this year, coming back for his senior year and just succeeding to the level he has?
AC: "I've been following his season a little bit and I'll tell ya, Derek Jones is a true Coug. He is a prime example of what I was talking about earlier about showing up. He's basically started every game, unless he was hurt, he's been available for since he showed up there. He's a guy who had a lot to learn, he had nothing but success in high school, showed up and the second he got on campus it was clear to everyone he wanted to be great."
"Since then, now he's a senior, he's a captain and I've seen it firsthand the way that he carries himself around those guys. The fact that he did break the career HR record and everything, it's just nothing short of awesome. I'm really happy for him. Any opportunity he gets after this year it's going to be, he's going to be so deserving of that."
"He's just done a great job, I've heard from a lot of the guys that he's doing a really great job of leading, not only by example but just verbally. He lets guys know what they do wrong, he praises them when they do things right. It's just been a really cool experience getting to know him and growing up with him a little bit."
"It's especially interesting because he's from Snohomish so my last high school game ever was actually played against him. Then I met him at school and grew up with him and everything, so it was pretty cool."
SM: One last question for you and then I'll let you go. Do you have any goals for yourself for the rest of this season? Would you like to be moved up at some point, stay where you are, any personal goals performance wise?
AC: "I think that the biggest thing that I want to do and the biggest thing that I've been focusing on all year is to just make quality pitches in quality locations. I think if I continue to do that then I should have success. If I make the pitches I want to make I should get a lot of guys out."
"If the Marlins decide that promoting me and moving me to High A or another team is beneficial to my career and is better for me in the long run then I'll be happy to go. And if they choose to keep me in Greensboro then I'm going to do everything I can to continue throwing quality pitches, getting guys out. If that means I'm here until September and we snag another championship in the South Atlantic league then I'm alright with that too. Anything they decide to do I'm putting it in their hands and trusting in them and just appreciating any situation that comes my way."