Q&A with Yanks 16th Round Pick Derek Callahan

Callahan has some lofty goals

We sat down with Yankees' 16th round pick, Derek Callahan, for a Draft Day Q&A session. Find out what the left-handed pitcher from Gonzaga University says about his game, how he feels being drafted by the Yankees, what he'll bring to the Yankees organization, and much more.

PinstripesPlus.com: Tell us what is going through your mind after being selected by a team like the Yankees.

Derek Callahan: It wasn't a shock, but it's honestly unbelievable. It's a dream come true. The Yankees are the team that every kid dreams about. In a big situation in the World Series, you know, you're pitching in Yankees Stadium; the crazy fans and the atmosphere is just amazing in New York and it's the team to be drafted by. It's a big deal. So I was pumped and I was excited, and hopefully the contract works out. I had all my family around me. I kinda had an idea there was like four or five teams that were really interested in me. So I kinda had an idea. I was watching those picks going, and when the Yankees came up, my brother actually filmed it on his computer and I was just going insane. My mom was hugging me. It's such an honor to be drafted by the Yankees.

PinstripesPlus.com: So you weren't surprised it was the Yankees that selected you? Had you and the Yankees talked much before the draft?

Callahan: No, I wasn't really surprised. I went down for actually a pre-draft workout last weekend down in Tampa at the Yankees Spring training place. And I performed pretty well down there in front of the scouting director and a couple of important names down there. So I wasn't too surprised that it was the team that called me, you know, that the Yankees drafted me. Also, [Saturday] morning, Mike Thurman, the area scout for the Yankees, actually woke me up at 7:45 with a phone call saying that they wanted to take me. And the Yankees asked something about the money it would take to sign me. They called me actually in the 15th round right after their selection and they let me know that they wanted to take me within the next three or four rounds. And they asked, again, about the money, and then they picked me 16th round. So it was kind of a shock when I heard my name just ‘cause it's been my dream since I picked up a baseball when I was five years old. So it's my dream to be drafted by the Yankees. It was a shock at that, but [Saturday] it wasn't really a shock because I've already been in contact with them.

PinstripesPlus.com: Do you have any idea what the Yankees' organization or farm system is like?

Callahan: Yeah, actually my best friend from first grade -- we played little league together and high school baseball — is Bubba Jones. He got drafted by the Yankees out of high school in the seventh round. I think it was three years back. He played in Staten Island last year, and he's probably gonna play there again this summer. That would be exciting, knowing the fact that I could be on the field with him really soon, in the same organization with him.

PinstripesPlus.com: What type of pitches do you throw and at what speeds? What are your strengths and what do you think you need to work on the most?

Callahan: I throw four pitches: fastball, curveball, slider, changeup. My fastball usually sits 89-91. I have been up to 94 miles per hour before, earlier this year. My slider, I think it's about 70 to 80 miles an hour. My curveball is like 74-75, and my changeup is 80 to 82. I think my strength is my maturity. Obviously, going to college really matured me as a baseball player, on and off the field, and just as a person. So, my maturity and my mound presence, I think, are my strengths, and I like, also, attacking hitters with my fastball as far as the baseball side. And then, stuff I need to work on, I would say to just trusting my stuff, and not getting too fine with pitches. I've already talked to a couple of my former teammates from college that got drafted. They said to just trust your stuff. You were drafted for a reason; these hitters aren't better than you at all and so just go attack them, and you'll get people out. So, that's what I need to work on and just that kind of mindset of becoming a pro pitcher.

PinstripesPlus.com: Did you have a favorite team growing up or a favorite player?

Callahan: Yeah, I'd say, you're probably not going to like this, but I like to model myself after Jon Lester from the Red Sox because he played on the same summer team as me back home in Seattle just earlier. So, I try modeling myself after him, and my coaches said I have a lot of the same stuff as him that he had out of high school. I try to model myself after him, and then I also follow Clayton Kershaw really, really closely. I'd say my favorite team growing up was probably the Mariners ‘cause they were good in the 90s, and they had A-Rod and Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez.

PinstripesPlus.com: Who would you compare your stuff to at the Major League level so Yankees' fans can get an idea of what you're like on the mound? Would it be Lester? And why?

Callahan: I compare well with Jon Lester. We're both the same body types, left-handed pitcher. He's 6-foot-4; I'm 6-foot-4. He has better stuff than me, but we have the same kind of repertoire in the fastball, low 90 fastball, and a good slider, and that's just the kind of guy that I look up to and I try to emulate myself after I watch his motions and so I can try to mimic it as much as possible.

PinstripesPlus.com: What would you say is your best moment in baseball and why?

Callahan: Can I say getting drafted by the Yankees? That's pretty cool. That's been my best day in life so far, pretty much, besides being born.

PinstripesPlus.com: After posting a 4.26 ERA your sophomore year, you had some struggles this season. What would you say led to those struggles, and what have you learned from this experience?

Callahan: I would say that this year it was just the same kind of thing that I'm trying to work on, just not being too fine with my pitches, and just trying to attack the hitters. I think I was taking too much, a little bit, at the corners and not attacking the zone, and also I think my confidence wavered a little but this year, and I've had success all through high school. College was a big learning curve for me. I'm thankful that I've gotten a chance to go through and I've gotten a chance to fail and error, and experience failure and come back from it. I've learned a lot in college over the last three years for sure.

PinstripesPlus.com: Are you looking to sign quickly and get your professional career started right away?

Callahan: Yeah, that's kinda gonna be between my advisor and the Yankees. They're still trying to figure out a contract, but hopefully we can get a deal done within the next week or so. I would love to start my professional career right away and get going in the minor leagues and hopefully move quickly. It's everyone's goal to spend as least time in the minor leagues as you can and get up to the big team and help them out. So that's my goal right now.

PinstripesPlus.com: Do you think the pressures of pitching in New York might be a problem? Do you think it will be difficult to adjust to the New York City lifestyle? And why?

Callahan: It'd be tough for any 21-year-old kid to pitch in front of 40,000 people, especially in New York, but I would say that's what the minor leagues are for. That's what I've been playing summer ball the last couple years, and we've had crowds in the Northwoods League of 6000 plus, so I'm not too worried about that. Once it gets to be so many people in the crowd it just kind of fades out. You just have to focus on the mitt. So, I don't see it being a problem at all. I think I'd enjoy the moment and kinda soak it in. I know that a lot of greats have been on the same mound as I have, so it's pretty cool.

PinstripesPlus.com: What is your biggest career goal?

Callahan: My biggest career goal is to become a major league All-Star, to be the best of the best. This [being drafted] was one of my goals, and part of my dream, but not my entire dream. My entire dream was to play in the Major League, and not only that but to be the best in the Major Leagues and be an all-star, so that's my goal.

PinstripesPlus.com: What advice would you give to kids who are aspiring to become a Major League Baseball player?

Callahan: I would tell them to stick with it. There's been a lot of people that have doubted me in my life, and teachers have asked me what do I want to do when I grow up, and I've told them to be a professional baseball player, and they kinda laughed and said not many people get to do that, and you should choose something else or go after something else. But I've had a good support system here with my family. They've always supported me, and I would just tell them [kids] to stick with it and keep playing baseball, and do it for the right reasons. Play because you love the game, and not because you're being forced to by anyone, or anything like that. Just play to have fun and you'll go far.

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