Today is the first player interview conducted here at Show-Me Strength. Throughout the off-season I will begin to profile and interview minor and major league players- asking questions on all topics baseball and otherwise….
This is an interview with Indian’s prospect Will Krasne. Will, a Washington, D.C. native, played college baseball at Stanford and Rollins before signging as a free-agent with the Cleveland Indians in 2010. In his first season, he played with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Short Season A) of the New York/Penn League. You can click here for his minor league statistics and follow him on twitter (@pinkpoloshorts).
MK: This was your first year of professional baseball in the Indians organization. You had a more interesting path than most in getting to the minor league ranks, including overcoming an injury, and some extra schooling after graduating early from Stanford. Tell me more about your path.
WK: I really decided to take the circuitous route into professional baseball. Out of high school I accepted a partial (very, very, very partial) scholarship to Stanford University. It’d been my dream to go there ever since I saw them in the 2000 College World Series. They actually lost there to LSU on a walk-off single but I was absolutely drawn to them. I feel weird saying it’s my dream because it sounds like I’m a character in Gossip Girl “oh but Serena I thought Brown was your dream?” Let’s just say that it was my fervent desire to go to Stanford. Anyway, I hurt my elbow in August before my senior year of high school but really didn’t think a lot of it. Over the next year the elbow got worse and worse and my senior year was an absolute debacle. I pitched two games of summer ball after high school and couldn’t straighten my arm so I saw Dr. Lewis Yocum and he performed tommy john surgery on my elbow. I redshirted my freshman year and then pitched a grand total of twice the next two years. I actually led the nation (world perhaps?) in ERA my redshirt freshman year as I gave up a sterling 0 runs in 2/3 of an inning against the University of Nebraska. However after my third year I saw the writing on the wall and realized if I wanted to play professional baseball I had to go somewhere where I would get an opportunity to pitch. Luckily I had enough credits to graduate from Stanford early and I enrolled at Rollins College in Florida where I got my MBA with a concentration in international business and finance. I spent two years there, posted thoroughly unremarkable numbers as I attempted to chip 4 years of rust off my game, but got lucky enough to sign with the Indians after my 5th year.
MK: How did you come to get signed by the Indians?
WK: I’d hoped to get drafted and had filled out questionnaires for several teams (Indians were not among them). However I struggled the second half of the year and I ended up undrafted. I wasn’t ready to give up on baseball quite yet so I went to a MLB Scouting Bureau open tryout in Pennsylvania about 4 days after the draft. I’m sitting there watching guys rocking jean shorts and tank tops throw bullpens and I really wondered what I was doing with my life. At the tryout you got 10 pitches off the mound in the bullpen with a scout gunning you and if he liked what he saw you were asked to stay around. I was 91-92 and so I was asked to stay around. The scouts then said that they didn’t have any spots to sign anyone right away but if any teams called asking for players they said I’d be right at the top of the list. A few days later I threw for the Astros at an open workout and the same thing happened. The next day I was playing golf and I got a call from a friend of mine who said that the Indians needed a pitcher and he’d recommended me to an Indians scout. I threw at a high school for the scout the next day, which was a Wednesday. On Friday I threw for the Royals and was seriously considering running away to join the circus when the Indians scout called me and offered me a contract.
MK: What were your plans had baseball not come to fruition?
WK: I’d probably cry and watch The Notebook for about two months straight. After that I’d have pursued something in the finance industry. My parents always call me “their little capitalist” so I’d like to do something like that. Or perhaps I’d raise chinchilla’s. You never know what you’re going to be passionate about.
MK: It looks like you had a solid first season with the A level Mahoning Valley Snappers of the New York/Penn League- striking out 22 in 33.2 innings with opponents hitting just .208 against you. What were some of the highlights of your first professional season? Was minor league baseball what you expected?
WK: For me it all was a highlight. I’d dreamt of playing professional baseball for 20 years (there I go with my dreams again, seriously need to lay off Gossip Girl). Just stepping on the field every day was awesome. However I’d have to say getting my first professional win, which was a total vulture job by the way, was a big highlight. I came in and promptly made an error and walked the bases loaded but somehow escaped without giving up a run. In the 8th we scored 4 or so and took the lead and I got the win instead of our deserving starter.
MK: How would you describe your pitching style?
WK: I’m a lower slot guy with a low 3/4 delivery. I throw a lot of two-seam fastballs and a breaking ball which sometimes is a curveball, other times a slider. I love pitching inside to righties. I try to induce early contact (I love saying that, it makes me feel like a doctor) and get the ball in play on the ground. When I’m going well you’ll see a lot of groundballs.
MK: What are your main goals for this offseason from a strength and baseball perspective? How about personally? What are the teams goals for you for the off-season and next year?
WK: I’ve always been sort of a fat kid. Baseball really appealed to me because I didn’t have to run very much and I could just stand around. However this year going to the field every day really took a lot out of me. My velocity didn’t really fluctuate but I felt like a grandpa running around out there. This offseason I want to lean out and hopefully gain some good weight. Also I’m mostly 88-92 which is fairly unremarkable. If I could turn that into 91-93 I wouldn’t exactly complain. Baseball-wise I have very erratic command. Before this year I hadn’t pitched regularly since high school and my mechanics really showed that. I was inconsistent with my timing and with my arm stroke so this offseason I’d love to clean all that up and become a human metronome out there. As for team goals I just want to win. My high school coach told me once that team chemistry is winning and I think he’s right for the most part. It’s a lot easier to take the bus rides, fast food, and weird hours when you’re winning.
MK: How did you end up training at Cressey Performance and how has your experience there been thus far?
WK: I actually trained up here for 2 months in the summer of 2009 while I played in the NECBL. I walked in the door and Eric played on all my childhood insecurities as a fat kid and made me cry (kidding! Sort of. Not really actually). In those two months I made a lot of progress and after this season I felt CP would give me the best opportunity to maximize my potential as a baseball player. There are a lot of facilities out there but I think for the most part they are ok to maintain what you have. I’m not nearly good enough right now and Eric (Cressey) makes a point of getting you better so that was appealing.
MK: What has your training been like in the past and what is different, if anything, about training at Cressey Performance?
WK: I’d worked out since high school and had a trainer and he was great but it wasn’t quite as baseball specific and personalized as this training. I have certain areas where I struggle, such as ankle mobility and anterior core stability and Eric has honed in on those and forced me to improve on them. The great thing about CP is that it forces you to come out of your comfort zone. You do things that make you want to vomit. The weird thing is though that because of the enthusiasm of the staff and of the other athletes, you look forward to those exercises the most because you know you’ll get the most out of them. That’s the highest compliment I can pay, that the CP staff makes me want to do things that will make me throw up in a trash can.
MK: So we have all heard about the so called “Smartest Man in Sports” in A’s reliever Craig Breslow who graduated with a biochemistry degree from Yale. I’d argue that you actually should have that title, having graduated early from Stanford and completing your Masters in Business Administration (MBA) on a fast track, all before being signed by the Indians. If not the “smartest man” you definitely have to be the “most educated” in all of professional baseball. How did your Indians teammates respond to this? Did they harass you because of it? What were some of the most ridiculous questions you had to answer as the most “educated” on the team?
WK:You hear a lot about Breslow and Ross Ohlendorf and both those guys are really smart. Breslow famously calculated how many rotations a baseball takes on the way to home plate and Ohlendorf wrote a thesis analyzing the economics of the Major League baseball draft. However I’m pretty sure I beat both of them on the SAT (my composite score was a 1580), just saying. I actually just googled “smart athletes” and the Sporting News put out a list of the 20 smartest athletes so I’m seeing how I stack up right now. My teammates didn’t treat me any different, we had two University of Virginia grads, one of whom graduated in 3 years so there were plenty of smart guys in our clubhouse. It is true that as a “smart” guy you become a clubhouse resource, I’m sure you’ve dealt with that as well. I didn’t have anything too weird to answer but I did try to set some people straight about President Obama (I’m a bleeding heart liberal and love him). As for the most educated I regret my major at Stanford a little bit because I felt I took the path of least resistance and should have challenged myself a little more, but then again I can’t really complain because I was really lucky that everything worked out and that I got to get both my BA and my MBA in 5 years. On a related note in future chats please address me as Master since I really am a Master of Business Administration.
MK: I hear there are some epic video gaming at your off-season house. What have been the games of choice and how do you stack up against the roommates?
WK: Well if it were up to me we would play FIFA and only FIFA. I love soccer and think FIFA is one of humanity’s highest achievements. However we have two guys in the house from Pennsylvania and they’re big hockey fans so we end up playing a lot of NHL. I’d never played before and you have to aim when you shoot which is quite tricky so I struggled at the beginning but I have begun to hold my own and dangle some people’s faces off. Max Perlman is definitely the best at NHl though. I’d like to say I’m the best at FIFA but we don’t play enough to really have bragging rights in that.
MK: How do you spend your free time in the off-season?
WK: I like to read and watch TV so mainly that. It sounds boring but then again I’m a boring guy. I feel bad for people reading this in fact. I did recently get hired as a freshman basketball coach at Gann Academy so that’s going to take up a lot of my time. I’ve been watching Coach Carter on loop since I got the job so that’s been time consuming as well.
MK: I hear you recently ventured to England. What was the nature of your trip? Did you become a knight of the round table?
WK: I am actually writing in the Virgin America lounge at Heathrow Airport so your blog has gone worldwide! Like I said earlier I’m a huge soccer fan but more specifically I’m a diehard supporter of Liverpool Football Club. I started following them in 2005 during their quest in the Champions League. It was really dramatic, they needed a goal vs. Olympiakos in extra time just to advance out of the group stages (which they got courtesy of this play which still gives me chills: ) they then were down 3-0 at halftime of the final to a stacked AC Milan team but managed to come back and win in penalty shots. I was hooked.
MK: Your twitter account, @pinkpoloshorts, is always entertaining. What have you enjoyed most about interacting in this social medium? Have you had any interactions with so-called celebrities?
WK: Thank you! I try really hard to be entertaining. It’s a nice outlet for me to be a little creative and out there and since I’m far too lazy to write a novel or something like that I’ve just got my twitter account. I think the best thing is writing something that you think is funny and then having people retweet it or respond. It’s a great way to remember funny trends or obscure movies from the past and it helps you find others who appreciate the same things that you do. I did ask Barry Zito one time for advice when we played USC (his alma mater) and he wrote back “pray”. I also went to a party over new year’s last year and celebrity DJ Sky Nellor was spinning and I tweeted that I thought she did a fantastic job and was a lovely woman (and that I loved her episode of Millionaire Matchmaker but that’s neither here nor there) and she responded that I was a sweetheart, so I’ve got that going for me.
MK: If you had any advice for aspiring professional baseball players, what would you say?
WK: If you’re going to go to college go somewhere you’re going to play, you don’t get better sitting on the bench. The other thing would be to find a routine that works for you and don’t let anyone change it. A lot of people are going to try to change you just for the sake of change but you know yourself better than anyone else so make sure you’re comfortable with what you’re doing.
MK: What is the meaning of life?
WK: I’m gonna get a little deep here (that’s what she said) if that’s ok. I’ve had several close family members die in the past couple of years so I’ve spent some time thinking about this. I think that the meaning of life is to accumulate experiences, both good and bad, and to share your talents and love with other people so that on your death bed you can look back on your life and smile while you are surrounded by loved ones. That is the sign of a life well-lived in my opinion and I hope that I’m lucky enough to have my loved ones with me when it’s my time to kick the bucket. Oh also In-N-Out burger. 4 by 4 animal style. It chills hard.
MK: Do you have any hidden talents?
WK: I can always tell when someone gets a haircut, no matter how slight the difference is. I also guarantee that I know more lines from the movie American Psycho than anyone on earth. No one else can touch me. Oh and I can clap one handed.
MK: What is your favorite quote?
WK: I’d have to say it’s by Scott Rolen, “the difference between a 3-1 fastball hammered to center and fouled straight back is who has more confidence”.
MK: Thanks for taking the time during your busy off-season. Anything else we forgot to ask?
WK: Yes, you forgot to ask how all eligible ladies can get in touch with me. Please tweet me @pinkpoloshorts. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Also I have some TV and book recommendations! For TV please go watch Terriers, it’s a quirky show but fantastic. For books I just read The Art of Fielding and Good to Great, I think they both are worth a look. Thanks for the great questions Matt, happy to do it!