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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Jamie Callahan: Boston Red Sox Pitching Prospect About to Explode on the Scene

Fire up the presses! The Boston Red Sox have another really good pitching prospect. No, seriously, they do. His name is Jamie Callahan and he is poised to join the short list of the best young hurlers in the organization.

The right-hander grew up in South Carolina and attended Dillon High School where he went 7-1 with a 0.89 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 50 innings.

Although Callahan had a scholarship to attend the University of South Carolina, who were coming off winning the College World Series, the Red Sox took him in the second round of the 2012 draft. A healthy bonus convinced him to forego school and start his professional career.

He just dipped his toes into the minors last year, appearing in a handful of games in the Gulf Coast League. That served as a good spring board to the 2013 season, as he went 5-1 with a 3.92 ERA in 13 games (12 starts), striking out 54 in 59.2 innings.

Callahan will be 19 for most of the 2014 season, which he will spend with his first full-season team. His low-to-mid 90s fastball and starter’s arsenal make him a prospect on the rise. lists a smoother delivery and fastball command as two of the biggest things he must work on to propel his development. However, both are typical areas of concern for young pitchers.

I was able to chat with Callahan prior to one of his Lowell games this past season. Not only was he one of the nicest players I have met in a long time, he is also clearly passionate about his job and determined to continue getting better. Don’t be surprised if his name starts coming up a lot more often in the Boston area in the coming years.

Jamie Callahan Interview:

How did you first become interested in baseball?:
I started playing when I was just four-years old in T-Ball. My dad gave me a ball and glove, and started playing catch. From that, the love of the game has just always been there. I just enjoy playing it.

Did you have a favorite team or player when you were growing up?: Being from the south, and South Carolina, the closest team was the Braves. My grandparents and great grandparents were Braves fans, so I was a big Chipper Jones and Braves fan too. John Smoltz, I loved watching him, so I guess the Braves have been my team.

Is there any pitcher you would like to sit down with and pick their brain?: Any guy that has MLB experience. It’s always great when we have them come through the clubhouse. It’s always great to sit down and ask them a couple of questions about what it feels like. Just to learn how to be a professional pitcher; how to be a big leaguer so to speak. I like to pick their brains for their experience, and kind of live through them.

What was your draft experience like in 2012?: Oh man, it was amazing. Actually, when I got the call, I had a Blackberry at the time and my scroll button wasn’t working, so I couldn’t make calls.

I was on my way to my local Sprint store, which was like 30 minutes away in Florence. So I got my phone fixed, and the draft, which was on the second day started at 12. I was on my way back and stopped at a gas station and got the call. I was pumping gas with my parents when I got the call. I was on my way into the store to buy a soda and I got the call. It was just completely a surprise that I got picked.

Had Boston been in touch with you before? How did you know they were interested in you?: I knew they were kind of interested, but there wasn’t really talk. I didn’t think they were actually going to take me.

I had a couple of calls; a call from the Orioles, but couldn’t get things worked out there.

It was just kind of a surprise. Going through the draft with Quincy (Red Sox scout Quincy Boyd), my family really liked him. My mom felt really comfortable with him, and talked with him a couple of times and didn’t really think they were going to take me in the second round; maybe the later rounds. It just so happened to work out. It seems like it was meant to be.

You originally committed to play for the University of South Carolina; how difficult was it to choose between them and the Red Sox?: It was very difficult. I told my parents that if I got such-and-such money I was going to go. I got that and I felt like the time was right and I was mature enough to take on the challenge. When I got that call, I knew I was ready for pro ball.

It was really tough to turn down a great program; a great school.

Did you do anything special to celebrate after you signed with Boston?: I went out and bought me a 2012 SRT Dodge Challenger. It was my dream car and what I wanted, so I went out and bought that. I just kind of enjoy it, but know that it only lasts for so long.

What pitches do you throw, and which one are you trying to work on the most?: I throw a fastball, curveball and a changeup.

I would have to say I am working on all the pitches. Just working on developing them and being able to throw them when I want, on command.

The curveball is probably the one I am struggling with right now. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not.

I just recently started throwing a changeup a lot more, and I’m getting comfortable with that. I’ll move on and try to get comfortable with the curveball so I can have a three-pitch arsenal. I’ll pull that out whenever I need to.

I would say that all of my pitches are in development right now. Just trying to learn how to pitch.

Now two years in with the Red Sox, how has your experience been with the organization?: I love it. It’s great. They’ve got a great coaching staff, all the way up. It’s just magnificent to be able to learn from their experiences.

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