The Oakland Athletics have displayed a knack for producing quality Major League pitching in recent years, with the likes of Tim Hudson, Trevor Cahill, A.J. Griffin and Sean Doolittle just to name a few. Young Nolan Sanburn is hoping he can be one of the next in line to emerge from their system.
Sanburn is a 22-year-old right hander who was a second-round draft pick in 2012 out of the University of Arkansas. He was primarily a reliever with the Razorbacks, going 6-5 with a 2.96 ERA in 46 games (four starts) with 84 strikeouts in 73 innings over two years.
Because of a polished pitch arsenal, the A’s view Sanburn as a potential starter. He got a brief taste of pro ball last summer in short-season Vermont, but missed the start of this season because of shoulder surgery. He has recently returned and is working his way back to full strength, currently pitching for Single-A Beloit. More information on his statistics is available here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=sanbur001nol.
I was able to catch up with Sanburn this past offseason to ask him some questions about his baseball career. Check out what Oakland’s pitching prospect had to say:
If you could sit down and pick the brain of any pitcher, current or former, who would that be and why?: Justin Verlander, because he is such an incredibly gifted and talent pitcher. He seems to have mastered his craft more than almost every other pitcher in baseball. Every fifth day, he goes out and gives his team an opportunity to win that day. He competes every pitch of every at bat, and he never gives in. I look up to him and respect him very much as a person and as a player because he is dominant on the field while also staying out of trouble off the field. He is a pitcher I aspire to be like.
Leading up to the 2012 MLB Draft, what kind of contact and recruiting were you getting from different teams?: Leading up to the draft, I was in contact with just about every team. But because our college team was still playing, I rarely thought about the draft because I was so focused on winning and getting to Omaha.
Can you run through what your draft experience was like?: Getting drafted was an incredible feeling! It was years of hard work, with the help of my family's support. My approach to the draft was work and play as if it all depends on you, and pray as if it all depends on God. I feel very blessed and fortunate to be a part of the Oakland A’s organization, and I cannot wait for this season to arrive.
What pitches do you throw and which one do you hope to improve the most?: Fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. I feel that I have developed all my pitches after attending Instructional League in the fall. Gil Patterson (former Oakland pitching coordinator) played a huge part in my mental and physical approach to baseball and pitching. I hope I have the opportunity to improve on my location and my percentage of quality strikes.
With the A's getting so much exposure from Moneyball, how has your reality matched or differed from how the organization is portrayed in media?: The Oakland A's organization is an incredible organization to be in. I am so thankful that the front office believed that I have what it takes to eventually pitch in the big leagues. I am not too sure how different or similar the movie is from real life, but I do know that I have been treated wonderfully and been given all the tools and opportunities to be successful.
What do you believe sets you apart from other pitching prospects in the Oakland organization?: There are many great pitchers in this organization, and I believe that all of us have an opportunity to become successful major league pitchers. But when it comes to my performance and overall success, I make sure I am doing everything that I can to put myself in the best position to be successful. I am always surrounding myself with coaches and older players who have more experience and knowledge than me. I take pre and post-injury prevention stretching very seriously, and when I throw, I make sure every throw has a purpose. I am not as physically gifted as a lot of players are, so I take it upon myself to make sure that I am giving it everything that I have on and off the field. If I don’t make it to the big leagues, it will be because I wasn’t good enough, not because I didn’t work hard enough.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you have ever been given?: Start becoming the man you want to be for the rest of your life, and becoming the man your children will look up to. I believe this is the best advice I have ever heard. Gil Patterson is an incredible man who I look up to very much, and this is who spoke these words. I believe this statement is important because it has nothing to do with baseball, but has everything to do with life. Baseball is important to me, but not as important as my relationship with Jesus Christ. If I can become more Christ-like, then I will put myself in better position to be a great husband, a great father and great friend.
Having aspirations to pitch in the major leagues, how difficult is it to put in the work and time needed to get there after being drafted?: In my opinion, I don’t see playing baseball or pitching as work. I am a 21-year-old man living an 8-year-old’s dream. My life is good! I enjoy going to work every day and playing catch and working out and running. It’s fun for me. This is an opportunity of a lifetime, so I am not gonna let it pass me up because it’s difficult. I am so blessed and fortunate to be where I am. I look forward to every chance to get on the field to play. It’s just another opportunity to be thankful for everything the Lord has given me.