Monday, September 27, 2010
New England Roots: Steve Cishek
By Brendan Hall
Former Falmouth High standout Steve Cishek had a perfect scoring line in his debut for the Florida Marlins last night, a 7-1 loss to Milwaukee. In two innings of relief, the 24-year-old allowed no hits, no walks and no runs for a perfect 0.00 ERA.
Not bad for a kid who, after getting drafted by Florida in the fifth round of the 2007 draft out of Division 2 Carson-Newman College, found his struggles in the minor leagues. After getting bumped down to high-A Jupiter, he returned to Double-A Jacksonville and helped the Suns capture their second consecutive Southern League championship.
It was on his drive back up to Falmouth last week when Cishek got the unexpected -- but, obviously, very thrilling -- call up to the bigs. Cishek talked to ESPNBoston for a few minutes last week to discuss his first week in The Show, his rise through the farm system, and why he puts up with all those Cape Cod tourists in the summertime.
Q: When you got the call, you were on your way driving all the way home from Jacksonville. You get the call, where were you and what were your immediate emotions?
A: "I was right around Savannah, Georgia. I was driving back home to Massachusetts, the season just ended in Double-A. (Laughing) At first it definitely surprised me, that was one of the last things I was expecting. As soon as I got the call, soon as they said the words ‘Big League’ I said I’m making a u-turn. I was just extremely surprised, so surreal you know? I completely wasn’t expecting it."
Q: You didn’t swerve at all, did you?
A: "Somehow I kept the car straight, yeah." (laughs)
Q: Who was the first person you called?
A: "I called my parents. I called my mom on her cell phone and had her put it on speakerphone. I told her I wasn’t going to make it home, and they sounded all bummed, they sounded real disappointed. But then I went, ‘because I’m going to the big leagues’, my father goes ‘Shutup, no you’re not,’ he’s always messing with me. But then they just went nuts."
Q: Take us through those first moments when you stepped on the field at Sun Life Stadium. What was your reaction?
A: "As soon as I walked through the dugout onto the field, I looked around a little bit. At first I thought I was late, but pitchers apparently get there really early to get an early run. I stopped for a second and looked around the stadium, then I jogged to the right field line because I thought I was late...it’s just unbelievable how enormous the stadium was. I’ve never seen anything like it."
Q: In one word, describe all of this.
A: "Again just surreal, that’s the only thing I can use for this whole situation."
Q: So just how surreal a moment is this, considering your path this summer, getting called down to High-A Jupiter then back up to Jacksonville?
A: "Absolutely, even starting out in Jupiter, I know they know I could pitch but coming off an elbow injury, seeing how it’d hold up...just starting out in Jupiter, I had one really bad month, but I was gaining the opportunity right back. I was getting work in (in Jacksonville) so I could get used to Double-A ball next year. Getting called to the big leagues was not what I was thinking."
Q: When you saw your locker next to Josh Johnson’s, what was your reaction?
A: "I mean...it’s pretty cool, walking into the locker room, my nametag wasn’t up in the locker room yet. Standing next to Josh Johnson, I was a little nervous at first. It was just me, him and someone else there, I forget who it was. I didn’t know what to say. Everyone there was unbelievable, they all came and said congratulations. We (Johnson and him) really hadn’t conversed much. I’m kind of a quiet person. Everyone else was like, ‘How you doing?’"
Q: What’s been the coolest thing so far?
A: "I don’t know if I can point one thing out…but putting on the uniform, and then right as the national anthem started; not much of crowd, but it hit me then that I had arrived. Just walking out and seeing the stadium again, my uniform on, with my nameplate on the back, that was the coolest part. Other than the winning, of course (laughs)."
Q: When did you watch your first Cape League game, and how much did that influence your childhood?
A: "Really young, don’t even remember. I didn’t go to ton of cape league games, I went to alot more before high school and Legion ball, when I couldn't make any games because of scheduling, but I'd say I was 9 or 10 years old. I've been to a bunch.
"Back then I didn’t really understand the game as much. I was just amazed at how hard they could hit and throw the ball, and I thought ‘I want to do that someday’. You’re just a kid, it’s a childhood dream, but now I’m just unbelievably happy I made it. I’m excited for this opportunity. (For influence) I’d say moreso Red Sox, I’d watch all the time on TV with my dad, he’d always be watching Red Sox. I loved to watch Mike Greenwell, Mo Vaughn was my favorite for a while until Nomar was on the team. Watching the Red Sox was my favorite thing to do."
Q: Scouting reports have generally described you as a hard thrower. What aspect of pitching game did have to work on most to get this call-up?
A: "I’d definitely say command. When I first got drafted, I was a thrower instead of a pitcher. I was just chucking the ball. You can get away with that in college if you throw low-90’s, D2 hitters aren’t going to catch up as much. I learned quick in Greensboro (Florida’s single-A affiliate) that you can’t do that. I got hit quite a bit, and that made me relax. I realized you’re going to give up home runs, just work on your command, make first-pitch strikes, keep the ball down. After a year, I clicked for a bit."
Q: This offseason, you drove four times a week from Falmouth all the way to Hudson to work out with Eric Cressey at his facility. Considering the sacrifice in drive time, what kind of work ethic did that instill in you?
A: Going through college gave me a real strong work ethic, it made me want it more than anything. The workout Eric had for us incredible, so driving out there was not a big deal. It was going to benefit me in the long run, so driving didn’t bother me. I just wanted to get stronger and better."
Q: What lessons did you learn from Falmouth coach Ken Kozens that you still hold with you in the bigs?
A: "Battling. We had a pretty good team in Falmouth, from Little League on, so just the winning mentality he gave us. Winning was pretty much everything in the program, the helped me out because I wasn’t used to losing in pro ball, but with that winning mentality, you’re not backing down. We had a pretty good group of guys."
Q: When you come back home to Falmouth, where are you going to celebrate?
A: "No idea (laughs). I’ve only got two days, because I’m going out to Arizona to play in the Fall League, so that’s a good question. I’m not sure, maybe Dino’s (in Mashpee) because they’ve had all of my games on their TV’s the past few days. A lot of family and friends were there."
Q: What’s the best beach on the Cape?
A: "Old Silver Beach (in North Falmouth). It’s the only beach I think in Falmouth where there’s no rocks, so you don’t scuff your feet up. And that’s where a lot of beautiful women go, too. It’s a good spot."
Q: I asked Mike DeVito this last week, and I’ll ask it again. Do you hate the tourists?
A: "That’s a good question (laughs). I wouldn’t say I necessarily hate them, I just hate the way they drive. Going from my house to the Wal-Mart two miles down the road takes like 20 minutes. But they also make a ton and bring a lot of money, and it fuels the economy here, so I’m thankful at the same time and I bite my lip."